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Friday, June 09, 2017

Chel's incredible trip to Australia!

Chel is my new favourite blogger - she's incredibly well travelled, super cute and is amazingly honest with an endless capacity for sharing everything she knows.  Her website is a very decent read and her article on some great beaches on my home country were extremely well written and totally fun, but also really informative.  Airlie Beach is one of my favourite places in the world so I was totally touched to read about the magic she found there.

Check the link below to read about what she found:

Spoiler : It was stunningness. Stunningness is what she found.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Interview with musician Eddy Mann

We welcome Eddy Mann today who is (among many other things) a musician who brings the charm of the acoustic guitar and a message from his heart.  Thank you so much for your time today Eddy!

Eddy, I wanted to ask you first up, you write so well.  You paint a picture with your descriptions and then lead us on an emotional journey.  Have you always written so poetically or is it something you have to work hard on? 
Well first, thank you for the kind words. Writing is something I do everyday, and I’m constantly looking for new inspiration by immersing myself into all kinds of creative media. So really I’m just allowing life to happen, or flow through me, and hopefully I can share what it is I’m feeling afterwards in a lyric and or music form. Life is a work in progress for me.

Worship leading and song writing go hand in hand really well, and it’s something you do a wonderful job with… did one lead you into the other?
Yeah, I was a professional musician years before I became a worship leader. I never set out to be a worship leader, but when the opportunity to lead was presented to me I was already totally competent musically. It was an advantage to be musically ready for the challenge. It made it much easier to concentrate on the spiritual side of things, which was a new experience for me. It took a bit of time to balance those two things. I still read and study quite a bit as a lifestyle.

You released your latest album The Consequence on Election Day… was that a coincidence or were you trying to infuse an uncertain time with peace and love?
I wanted to take advantage of the release to challenge people to vote, to be a part of the process, to play their part in swaying the consequence. It wasn’t a political response as much as it was an appeal to apathetic thinking. My message is always one of love and compassion, so that was present, but underscored at the time.

Your gig calendar for May is intense!  Are you excited about playing at so many different venues?
It’s always an honour and a humbling experience to have a platform to express yourself. I never take any performance for granted. Each event is different from the last. No two are ever alike. My thinking is that the next gig is always going to be the best one, because you never know if it’s going to be your last one.

 Thank you so much for your time, where should people reach you if they want your some Eddy Mann peace in their life?
My website is the first place to look – …I can also be followed on Facebook at eddymann.musician and on twitter and Instagram at eddy_mann. Most of my catalogue is available on all the usual downloading sites.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Interview with Vicky Wu - Marketing Guru

We welcome Vicky Wu today who is marketing guru and runs an incredible blog and marketing website   Thank you so much for your time today Vicky!

First off, I wanted to ask you about your training courses, they’re all on a range of different topics, all seem to be free and can be found here. How can they all be free?  They’re so good.

I have several levels of classes on topics related to marketing and business– introductory, intermediate and advanced.  All of my introductory training courses are free.  These mini-courses span several aspects of training for marketing and business, such as social media marketing. 

What I have found is that a lot of business and entrepreneurs that I work with who need help with marketing don’t even know where or how to start.  These marketing training courses are a great way to give them an understanding of those basic concepts – where to start and how to do it – and an introduction to me and my training style.  Plus, I’ve already done all of the research for them – I only post training courses on those business marketing activities that I know produce results.  No need to weed through all of the overwhelming information about marketing on the internet when I’ve already done it for you and wrapped it up in a quick training course. 

The intermediate and advanced courses do have a price tag – but each of these are extremely reasonable.  I like to keep things down in the range of “the cost of a latte”!  These courses take a lot more of my knowledge and expertise, plus more time to film, edit, and post, so of course I need to charge, but I also focus on keeping the cost to my clients and students very affordable.

I have a couple of packaged training sequences made up of multiple training courses which are being finalized for release in May.  One is a marketing bootcamp, designed for companies that have been in business for more than one year, which walks through all of my marketing best practices I use with my own clients, in a progression that makes the most sense.  The second is our Business Startup Marketing Mastermind, designed for organizations in business for one year or less, which delves deeper into a lot of the aspects of setting up your marketing program for your business from scratch – and how to do all aspects of marketing correctly from the beginning.  

Time Chunking is a brilliant idea for a course… it’s something I really struggle with myself.  Why do you think people spend so much more time working these days than ever before?

The primary reason I resigned my last position and moved into freelance and contract work was because of overwork.  I had been working 80 hours a week for several years, and came to a point that, while I loved the people I was working with, I needed to take charge of a better work/life balance.  Probably not the first time you’ve heard a story like that!

I think there are several reasons why people spend so much time working.  One of the biggest driving factors in general that I see on the corporate side is pressure to cut costs, especially during the big recession we experienced recently.  Payroll costs are one of the biggest expenses most companies have, and because of that also one of the places where some of the biggest savings can be experienced.  What I saw though the recession at a lot of companies was that as people left jobs (voluntarily or through termination or reduction), their workload was spread among the remaining staff.  You do that too many times, or if you aren’t extremely careful with what pieces are being added and to whom, you have several cases of overworked employees on your hands.

Another very common issue is that managers tend to give work to the people who will get it done.  This can result in top performers quickly getting overloaded.

One the personal side, for a lot of people, their job provides their feeling of success or accomplishment, so they work hard.  In my case, I’m just a hard worker and driven to succeed, and that doesn’t matter whether I’m an employee on your payroll, working for myself, or I’m cleaning my house – when I start the job I’m going to do it well and finish it completely (except organizing my closet – that’s a different story that we won’t talk about!)

The great thing about time chunking is that you can regain some of that control over your schedule, and often that control is enough to ease some of your stress.  While it can’t work for some types of jobs – I think of my son who works for Amazon and it would never work for his job – anyone with some flexibility, or if you are an entrepreneur or run your own company, you can find some quick benefit into using this type of system.  There’s a lot of psychology behind the concepts, and I know from my own experience that handling my workload this way allows me to accomplish a lot in both my personal and professional life, juggle multiple clients with differing projects, and achieve that work/life balancing act that I need.

Your blog is epic, you seem to be punching out really interesting articles every few days… do you enjoy blogging and how does your own blog fit into your overall marketing strategies?

Most of my blog topics come from things being experienced in real life.  Either I’m talking to a client and a topic comes up for discussion that I know I want to share with my readers; or I see a business that is not a client doing something that I want to discuss.  So everything in my blog is real-world marketing experience.

Blogging serves two purposes for my business:  it allows me to consistently provide information of value to the people reading my blog, receiving my emails, and following me on social media; it also provides new and unique information for my website regularly, which is important to the people reading it and to search engines.

That said, I have a process I follow using a marketing and social media calendar to make this easier (which you can find on my blog by searching the word “calendar”).  My process follows a very specific path from a post on my website, which feeds to my social media, and feeds to my email list, and then is re-posted regularly at later dates to my social media.  I also regularly re-purpose my own content, perhaps by making a video this week using the information that was in a blog post a couple of months ago.

It’s important to note that while a blog can be extremely valuable to help your business be found when someone searches on Google or elsewhere, it only works in specific circumstances.  You must have expert information to share – and that information must be unique to you, not copied from another website or some other expert.  And you must update your blog regularly.  That doesn’t have to mean daily or even weekly, but if I’m a reader and I see that your most recent blog posts was two years ago, I may question how currently accurate your information is, or even if you’re still in business (and Google may do the same)!

What are your favourite kind of clients to work with?  Who really gets you excited?

I get excited about every client and every project!  I’m really a marketing geek and enjoy what I’m doing.  I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, and those can be challenging because they often do not have a large budget or staff to be able to accomplish things that bigger companies can do; but we’re able to give them results on those levels when we can get creative.  I thrive on achieving results, even if they are for other people!

I would say the most rewarding piece is a lot of my ongoing clients who we’re working with every month.  They have developed a trust level to the point where they let us do the marketing activities that we know will be best for their business, within their budget, and they are able to relax and just watch the results.  I think that says a lot about me and my team and the work we’ve done and that makes me proud.

Marketing seems so much more confusing now with all the different online presences and social media platforms, where would a person who is really brand new to marketing start do you think?

You are right – there is so much information it can be overwhelming, and sometimes what you hear contradicts what you heard somewhere else.  The easiest way to cut through all the noise is to tune it out and turn it off!

When starting out with a new client, we start by ignoring everything that everyone else is doing.  It doesn’t matter that you read someone said do this, and someone else is doing that.  We’re going to focus on you and your business and your customers, and that’s really the first place every business needs to start their marketing.  So ignore everything else, just don’t ignore me when I tell you to do that!

The place I always take my new clients first, even if they don’t realize it’s what I’m doing, is through my 3 by 3 Marketing MatrixTM.  It’s actually one of my free marketing trainings available on my website.  I use the top row of the matrix and focus on activities that they are already doing in their business and where we can incrementally improve those efforts.  While the training delves into the matrix much deeper, at its core you look at something you are already doing and make one tweak or improvement; so if I’m an entrepreneur and I already spend time on Facebook or Instagram – even if it’s all personal and not business – I would start by focusing some efforts there.  It’s much easier to get your marketing up and running quickly if you can focus this way.

Another piece, I ask “Why?” repeatedly.  This is actually one of the training lessons in the Business Startup Marketing Mastermind course I mentioned.  This can help hone in on some values about your business that can be used for storytelling (which is necessary in today’s marketing world), as well as help you get customer-focused.  I may ask “why did you start this business?  Whatever answer they give me, I ask another “why” question.  I ask why at least three times, which helps me clarify my client’s needs for their marketing and also helps clarify it in their own minds at the same time.

Thank you so much for your time, where should people reach you if they want your help?

The best way is by booking a free marketing strategy session right on my calendar using

They can also call 512-591-8295 or email

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Interview with the Lemur Fund

Today we're honoured to have Marat with us, who is the incorporator of The Lemur Fund, an organisation that is raising money to help conserve the lemurs habitat.
Marat majored in physics and computer science. He spent most of his life in gaming business, being cofounder of Wargaming game development company. The team has been struggling for survival for years, until they risked it all in 2010 to create World of Tanks online game no one believed in. WoT turned out to be a global hit and the company became one of the industry leaders. Being Chief Operating officer for several years he expanded Wargaming globally and developed few tech startups. He is particularly interested in genomics, information medicine, nanorobotics, waste management, animal protection and wild life conservation. He can be proud to be an early adopter of technologies, among other fields of interest: conquering aging and death.
Thank you so much for your time today!  We’re very excited to have you interviewing with us about your funds to help save Lemurs in Madagascar. 

How did you first realise that the Lemurs were in trouble?
I think I always liked lemurs. First time I saw them in a Zoo many years ago and was impressed by their cute look, how they groomed each other and were taking sun bath. I started to collect lemur figures and I wanted to know more about them.  I read dozens of articles and contacted some  scientists and I realised that they were in real danger and I decided to save these wonderful creatures and build my own team.  This is how MK Lemur foundation appeared.

Is it true that Madagascar is the only country in the world that Lemurs are found in the wild?
Yes,  all of the world’s lemurs are found on a single island and a single country: Madagascar. Isolated from other primate competitors for around 60 million years has allowed lemurs not only to survive here – when they were extinct elsewhere – but to evolve into an astounding variety of types and species, adapted to all sorts of habitats and foods sources.

How do you think a balance can be struck between conservation and industry?  I haven’t been to Madagascar, but I have been to Thailand… which is also an incredibly beautiful place, with an incredible environment… that the local population seems not to care for at all because they’re quite poor and have to look after their families… is it the same sort of situation in Madagascar?
I believe the balance definitely can be reached. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 90% of people live on less than $2 a day while half the country's children under five are said to suffer from malnutrition. Yet, conservationists say protecting lemurs could actually help the human population as well.

Scientists from all over the world have already created the Lemur Conservation Strategy which will help local people to increase level of life and will conduce to saving lemurs.

Among activities are: reducing illegal cut (precious rosewood which goes to China) and charcoal production, developing new technologies, subsidize and the promotion and adoption of alternative cooking fires; carry out reforestation; provide alternative protein sources (instead of eating bushmeat),developing farming and stop slash-and-burn agriculture; developing ecotourism, etc.

In 2014 scientists released an emergency tree-year-plan that they argued could save lemurs from extinction. Costing $7.6million the plan focused on setting up better protections and conservation programs in 30 lemur hotspots. But this number was never reached.

The fund's Instagram page is so incredibly cute. How do you get such incredible photos of this furry little guys and girls?
We cooperate with different photographers who love lemurs and are willing to make their input. Actually We welcome talented people who would like to help in any field: artists, programmers, marketing specialists, innovators. It’s very easy to become a part of the team, just drop a line in Facebook, Instagram or to one of our emails. There are a lot of challenges and we can brainstorm together. We are very open hearted and humble guys, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The World Lemur Festivals look like a lot of fun, have they helped your cause?
Every year MK fund supports The World Lemur Festival. The main goal of this event is educational of course. As Nelson Mandela said Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. The Carnival aims to bring together various stakeholders such as organizations, associations and schools, and also foreigners living in or visiting Madagascar. Another activity such as Conference/Debate is a good forum for promoting lemur conservation and forest habitat protection through scientific communication. The conservation message will show that lemurs have a significant economic value in Madagascar.

If readers want to donate to this cause, how is the best way?
It’s very easy. You just go to our site and click on orange Donate button on the main page. You will have different options for donation, and it’s up to you how much are you willing to give. We are happy for any amount, though we still need to raise a lot.

Thank you so much for your time, I so sincerely hope something can be done to help out little furry buddies.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Interview with Mindstir Media

Both my partner and I are veracious readers and so I feel very lucky to be able to interview J.J. Hebert, the Founder and President of Mindstir Media
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today… Straight off the bat, what does Mindstir Media do exactly?
Here at Mindstir Media, we help authors with self-publishing, book marketing and publicity. We work with authors from all walks of life. We’ve worked with medical doctors, therapists, stay at home moms and dads, and everyone in between.

At what point did you decide to do away with the Publishing Houses and self-publish yourself?
In 2009, I decided to bypass traditional publishing houses to publish my debut novel, Unconventional. I launched Mindstir Media in order to publish the novel. It went on to sell over 100,000 copies at and then I eventually used Mindstir Media to help other authors with their publishing projects.

How important is marketing do you think?  If someone writes a truly amazing novel, won’t word just get around?
Book Marketing is crucial. We offer a wide array of book marketing services to our authors. At the very least, each author needs his or her own author website. From there it’s important to also have a social media presence that is updated regularly. Facebook marketing is key for authors,  as is Twitter and Goodreads. Authors need to be aggressive with marketing. Word doesn’t just get around and you can’t count on people to just stumble upon your book.

Do you still enjoy paperback books yourself, or are you all about digital copies?  I’m still totally torn about this myself… I love how many books I can churn through on my Kindle… especially when I’m travelling... but a real book is just special to me.
I personally prefer paperback books over Kindle and other ebooks. A lot of misinformed folks out there think that ebook is more popular than print, but that’s just not the case. Many industry reports indicate that we still live in a predominantly print world. Ebook still only accounts for 30% to 35% of the book market. At Mindstir Media, we help authors publish paperback, hardcover and ebook.

How important is social media to an author?  It looks like you prefer authors to create an e-mail list instead of using social media directly… why are you such a big fan of the e-mail list?
As I mentioned earlier, social media is one of my top book marketing recommendations. I believe that you can use social media to drive traffic to an author website and get email sign ups.  Once you have a legit email list, you can email those prospective clients without a problem, and at your own discretion.

Are you happy to talk to authors who are just starting out?
Absolutely. Many Mindstir Media authors are newbies. But we also work with authors who have published numerous books. Don’t let the idea of publishing overwhelm you. We really do make this an easy process.

Thanks so much for your time… where can people reach you?
We are actually very active on social media and can also be reached on our website and via phone at 800-767-0531.

Official Website:

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Free Education University Interview Q&A

Free Education University has saved students (and their parents) tens of thousands of dollars off their education. Get more information at Save $400 using Promo Code: JKC20.


Adam: My parents actually got their university education completely for free, my university course was about $12k which I didn’t have to pay back until I was earning a decent wage… but students these days can easily finish their education with a couple of hundred thousand dollars owing… how did you first learn that you didn’t have to follow the pack in that regard?

Matthew: My perseverance and inquisitive nature is what help me learn that I did not have to follow the pack in any regard. I have always been an inquisitive person and if you ask my mother she will tell you that it all began at a very young age. It was when I first figured out a way to climb out of my crib and crawl into my parents’ bed without them ever waking up. Believe me when I tell all of you, I’m not really doing anything special and I’m not really asking unique questions either.

I can tell you however, that my inquisitive nature that I  developed as a little kid paid off for me, because now I still ask the questions but instead of stopping or ‘giving up’ after the first or second ‘no’ I continue digging deeper until I find the answers that completely satisfy me. And how do I know when I’m given an answer that satisfies me? It’s when the answer I get allows me to move closer and closer to my goal(s).

It was early in my life, when my mother presented an idea that changed my perception; which changed how I approached and looked at the world. My mother would always say, “The only thing you always know, is that you never know. That is the only thing you can really be certain of, Matthew.” I quoted this to my friend when I was 12, after he told me that his dad would not allow us to watch more than an hour of TV for the day. So just ask. I have simplified this idea shown to me into a principle which is, “IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK.” The worst case scenario is that they say no. The main difference between asking and not asking, is if you do not ask, you know the answer is no; however, if you ask there is a possibility that someone might say yes.

I was immersed in perseverance and adaptation through my mother's example. I developed and really focused my perseverance to finding funding/resources for school. Even today, as I write this answer, I am reminded that I do not like to be indebted to anyone. In essence, securing funding was the aftermath my experience of my childhood, because of my upbringing and interaction with it.

Adam: A close friend of mine joined the workforce straight out of high school and never went to college, but now at the age of 26 she’s risen as high as she can on the corporate ladder without a degree.  What would be your advice to her?

Matthew: I would first like to say that these days it is becoming increasingly hard to climb to the top of the corporate ladder without having at least a degree. We have saturated the market with high school diploma’s, which has forced the job market to up their standards. I can easily see in the future where every job will require at least a bachelor’s degree. It is crazy to say, but I can see it.

Now, as it pertains to my funding dance I would tell this person to have her job pay for her education. Most places have funds set aside to pay for continuing education and/or training of their employees. The only hiccup to this is that some places will limit how much money they give for education. If they cannot pay for all of your education, then I would ask them to pay $1595 for my program. If they can at least do that, then I will show you how to find all the money you will need to go earn a bachelor’s and even a master’s degree. Now, my program is originally $1995, but if you use the promo code JKC20 then you will receive a $400 scholarship.

Adam: I know this is probably a super hard question, but why do you think education is so expensive these days?  

Matthew: This is a great question that has multiple answers and layers to it. My immediate thought is that everything increases in cost over time.  Gasoline is a great example. This product cost under $1.30/gallon in 1999, but now it is over $3 and sometime over $4 per gallon now. Like everything in this country, it usually increases over time because of inflation.

Another answer I can give is the fact that we don’t put enough money into the education bucket to keep state schools even lower than what they are now. State school’s tuition has doubled over the last decade because they keep getting less over the years, and there are more and more high school students graduating from high school wanting to go to college. The other layer to this fact of less spending as a nation in education is the fact that we spend more in the military than the next 7 countries combined. Now, I do not see the whole picture that goes into how we spend money or how we choose one over the other, but these are facts.

Adam: You work in the academic arena… are you going to get into trouble from your peers for helping people get around the hefty price tags of courses?

Matthew: No I do not see me getting in trouble with showing people this program. This program will allow more students the ability to afford college. This will help the academic arena more. Also, most of my resources come from outside of the institution, so they will not lose money. Actually, they will receive more money from this because we are also in a unique time where students are defaulting on their loans. When this happens no one gets paid. I am sure institutions lose money when someone does not pay back their loans.

The University of Texas chancellor came out about a year ago with many statements on the future of education. One of these statements made the claim that we need to provide resources so that no student leaves or doesn’t start college because of finances. You see they even get that having tools that will help students break the financial barrier, then more will come, stay, and complete. The tool can be used by colleges and universities to help recruit.

The more interesting question is, what will Universities and colleges’ do when being the cheapest institution does not matter anymore? What will they do when a student picks a college solely based on who they are connecting with the institution?

Adam: Thank you so much for your time Matthew, this is brilliant, are you happy for our readers to contact you directly?

Matthew: Yes. Absolutely. They can call, text or email.

To get more information, go to

To save $400 off the curriculum, use Promo Code JKC20.

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Nicole Russin-McFarland Interview

Nicole is a woman of many talents, her website is a treasure trove of style tips, recipes, life advice, music, and interviews with fascinating people. The thing that I found unusual and what I really wanted to delve into much deeper, was her classical film score style covers. I’ve known a lot of musicians, but I’ve literally never met anyone who can do this.

Hi Nicole, thanks so much for your time today!  Straight off the bat, how did you realise you have this amazing talent of covering songs in a classical film score style?  It’s such a great idea, I love film scores so much, but I’d never think in a million years to create my own…

I used to do it for fun as a kid, playing popular songs on my keyboard and flute, or using it to learn how to compose on paper like old school powdered wig people I felt wore Benjamin Franklin man leggings and ugly shoes. The Midwest is cheery but honestly, one really boring place to live. Beyond ice skating, movies and our Michigan Avenue shopping district, in Illinois, you're doomed. You become intellectual and skilled for the fun of it. We don't have distractions like a beach or the stuff California kids have. Or the big celebrity party scene in Manhattan you'll see high school girls attending. Therefore, my bored mind learned how to do music for the fun of it.

My dad on a few occasions now and then took me to his workplace at the hospital after school if plans fell through, and then, I'd play ridiculous songs like N*SYNC and what was on the radio for the poor nurses I had been doing at home on my flute for them. Their poor ears. Titanic's theme. Anything torturous. They definitely have a boost of confidence though because none of them appeared to be knowledgeable about music, therefore I could've squeaked my flute like a sick dog to an impressed audience. When I showed my music teachers, I had one really positive music teacher who was impressed with my flute efforts whenever kids wanted to learn on their own, this film score lover guy, and he thought it was cool. Positive reinforcement! Because I sure messed up a lot. I had another teacher where he made us play songs on a keyboard for music class. He was really intrigued when I told him nobody taught me how to play a James Horner score I did on the keyboard as my homework assignment. He told me to "keep up the good work!"

Have you always been insane? Haha, jokes, jokes. I loved that you explained on your website that you don’t have to be insane or an incredible musician to be a good composer, but that said, I’ve always been in awe of composers… there’s so many elements to it all…

A music teacher taught me a while back, well, taught us, but the other kids weren't listening, a good idea is to treat music like a foreign language. Always listen to music a good bit before you start working on it because your brain will begin thinking in that language. I take it a step further and totally silence everything out. I'll listen to music ten to thirty minutes before I start working on something. It could or could not be a sample demo of what I'm trying to improve. It could be anything on the radio. You need your brain to stop thinking in words. You want your brain to go crazy. And when you do finally get to that point, thinking in words again and having conversations aloud feels so weird.

In the moment, I'd definitely say doing music is freedom to be legally insane. Because you don't care about harming people, bothering people, being a dangerous to yourself. I mean, I could care less about doing actual insane things to myself or anyone else on any day of the year. My sole motivation is finding work, period, and I'm only insane about work or when I get a chance to do my work. The insanity with music work is a good insane. I get my most insane with music, for sure. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel slightly crazy when I do it because reality is all about filing paperwork and all this boring stuff in other work I've done. Newspaper freelance reporting is about chatting to people about issues like women's rights in New York financially in situations. So confined.

You're so hyper focused on whatever task you're trying to complete with music to where, oh, it's like nothing else exists. My favourite thing is being blasted by some really evil sounding minor chords. And this is the oddest thing, when I feel like I've done a really good job at something after hard work and not thinking in words, I feel this amazing joy of what it feels like to feel powerful, sexy, smart, fearless all at once, and, I hate to say, like if you know you are the hottest girl in the world type feeling, like I'm Beyoncé at the SuperBowl. The same natural high I get when I work out on a good exercise day or, on a far lesser level, enjoy a really good chef worthy lunch or fancy hotel breakfast. "You just got a new job" feeling. But magnified. Like, I don't know, an orgasm for your mind and soul. You don't have it happen all the time. When it does happen, when I've done a good job on my work and know it, it is something no artificial happiness could ever replicate. I don't understand why people do those hardcore drugs when real moments of happiness feel so good and are fully attainable.

This is by no means bipolar disorder. Please don't take my description as that because when you mention natural high, I feel like that's what people are going to assume. My health sciences teacher in eighth grade used to tell us kids how you need to have things in life that give you a natural high similar to you after a good workout. He was very anti-drug because he went to college in the 1960's during the big American drug use explosion and saw people get hurt because of the hardcore drugs they were using. Therefore, he pushed it on us, find what you enjoy. Do small and big things that make you naturally happy so you never need a false high. When I think of things I enjoy giving me that in certain moments, I always remember his advice.

Thinking about it today, I hope to have this same feeling one day with making a live action film knowing I just pulled it off, like, wrapping up something iconic like The Godfather and knowing I'm the queen. Knowing that I'm gonna win an Oscar before the movie ever comes out. A total life goal. One of many goals.

Why involve popular music? Why not do your style on old classical music?

As an adult, my choice of cover songs done film score style really has two purposes.

One, it gets my name out there if people discover my work. These songs are amazing samples for anyone who can hire me as a film score composer. People feel most comfortable with songs already familiar to them. The reason itself is the exact science of why songs like Taylor Swift's do well on the charts. People love the familiar and attach a song to when they first kissed a boyfriend or had a job promotion that afternoon. Good things. They're more likely to be searching for familiar songs and say, "Wow! I didn't know this song could be done like that."

Secondly, I always wanted to be the first person to take film score and classical music mainstream. Guys like John Williams have only done it to an extent. You'll hear his Harry Potter theme in a Universal Studios commercial but not see John Williams on the cover of Rolling Stone riding a motorcycle. Kids don't want to be John Williams. The youth today will admire the wrong crowds. Musically, the most artistic person they might go for or be able to find if any is Ariana Grande. They don't have a male personality making film score music cool and relatable to them. Certainly not a female personality doing it. As time goes on, being good at something matters less as long as your claim to fame is having a Brazilian butt lift — and I'd love to change that. Every human being wants to have people find them attractive. What you should do is back up your fame with a talent. A lot of celebrities out now don't have a talent.

Do you have a musical family?

My family is very un-musical with the exception of my grandpa's cousin, Babe Russin, who did some film music work like Judy Garland's A Star Is Born. A distant relative to me and probably useless because in this age, people would only care if my grandpa were Gigi Hadid's cousin. My mom and dad had what society sees as adult "real jobs." Both were really these straight A, academic students when they went to high school and throughout higher education. My mom has a Georgetown degree. My dad was a finalist in a medical student contest to develop the first artificial heart prototype. Imagine their likely tragic surprise when their only child came out as a less hyperactive Dory the fish from Finding Nemo.

Dory? Really?

Dory is really forgetful. I'm like that; if my brain gets bored, it shuts down. Nothing I can do will reboot the computer that is my brain. I remember being frustrated when I'd study a whole bunch only to forget it the next day during the big test. Dory in the second movie is clueless for a lot of things and remembers some really important information. I'll be burned out reading a big textbook about a subject I dislike. However, talk to me. I'll remember that. Me, watching a movie. I'll remember. A song on the radio? I'll get the words down hearing it enough times. My brain is very science-y. I like things that are a combo of art and science. Science has to be somehow involved. A horrible thing when you study liberal arts for your university degree. Also bad for doing well on English essays in regular junior high school. Dory's parents seem to be really attentive to her so she doesn't steer off the wrong way, often literally. Probably how my parents felt.

What path lead you to composing your own music?

Definitely, I wanted to be a film score composer-filmmaker when I was 12. Thinking about it at 11 and knowing without a doubt when I was 12 going on 13, I have to do film music and filmmaking both. Aside from music teachers, people from my own teachers to total strangers were unsupportive of it or laughed when I said I wanted to do. Part of me thinks had I been male, they would've thought music and film doubling up was a great life goal. Being female, you hear stuff like, "You'd make a great actress one day!" as if everything you told them went out the other ear. Or worse, being told to be in some corporate world profession because "you write good school newspaper articles."

My path evolved from telling my parents how much I loved music as a kid from watching all these Disney shows and enrolling in lessons, plus taking music at school. When I was 7, I had my first live orchestra experience. Our class attended a concert in which the city orchestra performed the score from The Lion King. I was already familiar with pieces of the score because they stood out to me when I had seen the movie twice the summer before. When you're a little kid, you don't know what to do with your brain. Your brain is like a computer. Without knowing how to run a laptop, you have no use for it. My brain was picking up all these little pieces of light bulbs going off like those cartoon characters, getting ideas. I didn't understand what to do with them for a long time, nor that composing was a real occupation you could do. I thought dead guys like Beethoven were composers. And certainly not girls. Not women of any age.

I started going from small lessons and little summer classes offered around to me being more serious about it. Learning flute. Enrolling in day classes at my school taking band in the mornings. Private lessons. Getting a piano book and playing around with it on my keyboard. All on my own terms. The quickest way to get someone not to do something is by forcing them to do it. Everything was free flowing. My parents didn't care if I didn't rehearse my flute homework as much as getting good grades in my "real world" classes. Which helped tremendously.

Were you always interested in composing?

When I was 11, I went to a bookstore chain on a typical weekend St. Louis trip and bought a sheet music notebook. I was going to learn how to compose for the fun of it! Because I was really bored with my life at the time. I got sick a lot with diabetes, catching every stupid cold and flu going around with a weakened immune system, getting any infection of the day and not wanting to explain to people at school why I got sick a lot. And I was spending all this time on weekends in Chicago or other areas and being forced, on weekdays, to be in these dull downstate Illinois towns where my dad worked. I wanted to be near culture and good food, which as much as I love down home Midwestern fried food, I wanted to eat sushi, delicious baked goods, all these very Pixar's Ratatouille feelings within me of wanting to be around foodie culture, actual culture like museums and feeling out of place in other communities. All of what I craved was not in downstate Illinois. My mind was so bored. I felt like I didn't fit in with the towns. The only town I like in downstate Illinois is Springfield because it's so welcoming, and I have good memories of Champaign-Urbana because I used to go see my great aunt and great uncle there a lot, sleeping over. My great aunt took me ice skating, bought me Hayao Miyazaki movies, introduced me to the Japanese language, Japanese culture, origami, true Asian food, listened to me play the piano and my flute, all this stuff I still love today.

I loved playing on my computers I had and recording stuff off my keyboard. I learned how to do layering on my own, which is this pop music trick you do to make people's voices sound fuller, yet you can do it for classical music instruments as well. All these skills. I had amazing music teachers. One who early taught kids more than they cared to know, including little composing tidbits. I the other day flipped through the University of Texas at Austin music theory degree class schedule. Almost all of what they teach there, my music teachers taught me. The little bit of other stuff in the classwork, I learned on my own for fun.

Why did you pause your career path in becoming a film composer?

I gave up for a bit when I was 20. I'd graduated from my university at 19 wondering how to be a composer and had, age 20, a film director steal my theme only to have his own composer work with it. The curse came back to murder his own movie. It flopped! I didn't try again until I was 27 going on 28 and saw I had to hire myself. I couldn't stand the direction my life was heading in. From 19 to about 27 near 28, I did journalism and modelling, mostly. Modelling is get more of a say in what you want, though usually not much!


Yes, it's a joke, but only half a joke, by pure chance. People who don't hire me after a job interview or discussion and toss me out in a mean spirited way always end up having something horrible happen to them. The profession itself doesn't matter. Journalism. Film music. Anything. A person was hit by a bus. A person was killed in a crime by her own family member and chopped up in the woods. Someone's house had everything go wrong and a slew of things go on in his life nonstop ever since, big and small. So many stories. I'll eventually find out about it and know, wow, karma is a real thing. Because people who are mean to me aren't doing it exclusively. They do it to lots of people in situations you don't know about. Eventually, bad stuff happens to them. But yeah, I did notice the people directly doing it to me suffer the consequences. No, I'm not a magician, nor a witch. If I were, I'd do all sorts of good witchy things like the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. All happening through fate! The important point is the person has to be mean in how they don't hire me.

Nothing bad happens to people I have nothing to do with in business relationships, or those who are kind about not hiring me. Back when I spoke with people everywhere for newspaper jobs, The New York Daily News took me. I was the paper's youngest freelancer at 21. In the same building as the paper moved since, I met with the Associated Press staff and had the loveliest tour of the offices. I wished so badly I could've worked there because they are the most professional newspaper staff I've ever met. You dream of working there. It's the only newspaper service in the world with that old time journalism feel and zero sell out journalism like fake news. They ended up cutting the budget during the big recession of 2008-2010, and I didn't get a part time job I badly wanted that got cancelled at the AP. Nothing bad happened to them because they were nice!

What advice do you have for people based on your life experiences and those of your best mates in music?

My advice to young people is, yes, you may get pestered by society and all you know and don't know. Please, don't give in. You may think you're going to begin a path in which you'll meet people or do something until you get where you need to go. Don't. Please stop down that path right now. You will be really depressed whenever you're at the workplace. Sad. Angry. Ill, physically, because stress gets to you if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Quit right now. Don't go to that college. Don't go to a university at all if you feel, like me, like the most out of place person there pretending you care to fit in. Figure out a way to do something positive for yourself. Film school. Culinary school. Being an apprentice for someone. Notice I say apprentice and not intern, because interning, you mainly do tasks that don't teach you much.

To parents whose kids are in this situation and ask me for advice all the time, I ask them, do you want your son or daughter to be happy, or do you want your son to eventually be suicidal one day and go on a drug binge because he never got to be in a rock band? Do you want your daughter to see her illness worsen because she's so sad all the time at school and work for years and having this fake persona she creates to separate her real self from the work self? Or do you want your son or daughter to have to meet you in the middle in some kind of compromise? That he or she does something for now but pursues his or her goal at the same time? People resort to substance abuse or suffer somehow when they don't get to do what they love. Or anything. It doesn't have to be an entertainment career. I've met too many people whose lives are affected by another's suicide.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a score?

With my first one, which I collaborated on called The Eyes of Old Texas, it had lots of elements of old school westerns on most of the sections I was responsible for. My follow up score is going to be on my own as far as the non-verbal music and have a lot more drama. I have areas where I climb up and down the notes in minor chords and jump octaves like Mariah Carey but for instruments.

One music teacher told us we need to be like Olympic athletes where they make it look easy until you try diving into the pool and fall on your stomach. People are so critical of me, it's downright bizarre. The criticism I've gotten is, yeah, your work isn't original because you borrow existing material on your cover songs, those cover songs I use to get work interest. Which to that I want to reply, number one, I developed those tunes into new melodies that didn't always exist. Number two, since it's so easy to you, why don't you do too, come back later and show me how your work is better? Oh, right, you can't, looking at you one specific guy but wondering how many others feel that way. Because you can't do what I do. Perhaps Alexandre Desplat could confront me and we can draw it out, arguing whose work is better. You can't. Because you never cared to learn, and the mere fact of learning to do this involves a lot skill and time. The whole scenario reminds me of what my music teacher said. A few critics have been haters with me and snarky, intentionally or not, like how men yell at the NFL about Tom Brady being untalented, or World Cup soccer saying some team's striker sucks, and would be slaughtered on that grass field. Shut up until you can bring it.

Therefore, to shut people up a lot, I'm going to stray away from borrowing an existing tune on my second score, Emoji Motel, for the majority of it.

I have no doubt in my mind, every score is going to make me slightly nervous. Every cover song. Everything I ever do. Whenever I don't get nervous about something, it's a bad sign. Meaning, I don't care about it without nerves attached.

I'm always growing. When I say I think I'm good at it, I don't mean perfect. No one human being is perfect. Someone whose work we think sounds perfect is because of his time and the people involved in that recording, if any, because Trent Reznor was nominated for an Oscar for an electronic score with The Social Network. Years of learning and also, learning on the job. I hope to continue growing with my work abilities as time goes on until I'm the best person in the industry.

Do you have a favourite composer?

I'm familiar with the work of most people currently at the top of the film music business. Their sounds inspire me for obvious reasons. Whether or not they're into their jobs, it sure sounds from my standpoint like they love what they do, and I mean, sound. On the second tier, you have people who compose mostly clicks, bangs, jingles and barely there film music who don't really seem to care about their art. The pay keeps them happy. How they get paid being so miserably depressing in their sound, I will never know other than probably once you get hired for one mainstream movie, people hire you on repeat.

I love hearing Russian composers. The whole "Peter and the Wolf" saga is great. Russian composers made up much of my childhood homework along with film scores. Rachmaninov, he was my homework. The Russian music style uses a lot of minor chords, whether it's happy or sad — and my style has plenty of that. Mozart and the mainstream people of past times are too pleasant noted for me. Most of my serious music taste beyond Russian music lies in film scores, actually. Call it glamour. I find anything related to movie music so sexy.

Career wise, I love people who were not graduates of some stuffy music theory doctorate program. Often, someone thinks to be good, a filmmaker out of the know, reads a resume and hires someone based on his paper resume, and yes his as no women are in the picture. Oh, he went to this school. He's hired. Without hearing their work! Being a female applicant, you're done for. Women are assumed to immediately suck. I'd love to change that.

Therefore, I'll look at Pharrell Williams and think he's the coolest because he is so mainstream and does stuff outside music, much like I want to do. He went from up and coming hip hop producer to N.E.R.D. to Oscar nominee to composing scores to now a film producer nominated for an Oscar as a filmmaker. I'll look at Clint Mansell, Hans Zimmer, Jay Z with his Great Gatsby work, anyone who does film music at all who's ever been in a rock band or anything far from the standard accepted academic background. Looking at them gives me hope I can have gone a different route to getting to the end destination and find that my being driven and, hopefully perceived as good, leads me there to composing major studio film scores.

Another thing itself: working with a huge film studio orchestra and recording tools, your work is going to sound all that much better. If my work sounds moderately good now, it'll be that much more amazing with the expensive talent and equipment. People need to take this into consideration. You are as good as your recording method is. And yeah, I'm really talking to people who can hire me...I will be awesome if given the chance, and, hey, honesty is the best policy. I don't hide my goals.

Also, who would you say has influenced your style of film making?  I’m sure you get these questions every time you talk to someone new.. but it’s so interesting, literally everyone loves film.

Pedro Almodóvar. Not because I want to make his exact movies. Because I love how his work doesn't define itself to one genre. You never know what is going to happen in the next scene. He gets away with so much because he's established with Oscar notice and, secondly, due to not being part of the Hollywood scene. All his work is done out in Spain. Whether it's cartoons or in the future, live action, my goal is to always do my own thing and not care to fit into a checkbox. My big dream movie I want to make is divided into three different stories set in different time periods, and thus, at times, be an action film, funny, serious, sad, a western, a bit of a musical. Nothing has to be, "This person is making a musical!" Hollywood functions in that a studio doesn't give you money unless the film is a clear cut horror film, romantic comedy, musical if you're lucky as few are made, you get it. Think of one movie in the past year. La La Land is only a musical. Fast and the Furious keeps coming out with the same car based action films. We don't see Michelle Rodriguez fall in love with attention to detail during the film. All of these movies out are one thing only. Real life isn't one thing. Who's to say I can't have a movie act like real life or a crazy, out there, genre hopping film?

I'm a fan of the big usual people and definitely a big Peter Jackson fan because he is the last person to have a really good trilogy and has gotten into cartoons also. I was watching his movies again the other day and catching how little CGI is in them compared to now. In this part where Frodo gets the ring at the start of the first movie, a 2017 CGI heavy Disney film might have all these quick takes between the scenes and filling it up on every CGI known ever. Frodo is out with Gandalf the wizard in his little house chatting. Closeup of the ring. Chat. No CGI circus. When it happens, the CGI is relevant to the story in Lord of the Rings. And, the backdrops are real in appearance as they are real mountains. Watch any movie made now. Everything is about looking at the pretty sight and little story. Compare this to Peter Jackson's work, or older science fiction, and you'll find real set pieces, real costumes, makeup, puppetry for monsters, mock spaceships, fake moon terrain. It's fun for the viewers and good for bringing out better performances from the actors.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

Probably my cover song of "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)," originally by Fall Our Boy. The song builds gradually until it is screaming at the top of its lungs. My heart wants to brag, "This song sounds like it could be in a real movie, maybe an adventure movie." I added so much that wasn't there in the original song to build momentum.

What should our readers definitely check out?

I've done some voice acting. The narration for audiobooks, so far. One is by Chad Westbrook called Ninja Cat Volume 1. There's going to be a part two, and I'll record it soon. You have no idea how exhausting it is on your voice to speak so much. After an hour or two, you almost get a semi foreign accent syndrome because your tongue is going over and under, your teeth chattering! You stop saying words the way they should be. And, if like me, you have to tone it done into a more non-regional dialect to be more appealing to a broader audience, your brain gets so confused. But I survived. Did it and do it! Proudly. The audiobook is really fun and the longest one of the bunch I've done. Ninja Cat Volume 1 is on Amazon in the USA and UK, Google Play, Jay Z's Tidal company, iTunes and Audible.

I myself have had actors record audiobooks of my own writing. Creative literary writing is specific; it doesn't come naturally to me. You can be a good screenwriter or other writer and a struggling creative writer. You need to have a specific brain, probably, to be good at it. I try my best because I want to have books out I can eventually turn into animated movies. You'll find actors doing audiobooks for some of my material. Ranging from The Big Bad Wolf Strikes It Rich! a children's novel about the wolf being like a sweet Donald Trump in fairy tales, Ingrid Has Two Dads, which covers growing up with two male parents and is a modern bullying issue.

Because I'm so irked from my whole life being told about acting over my filmmaking and music goals by strangers, I am kind of iffy, yet would love to act in a movie if it's a mean girl taking people's boyfriends or a strong female character. Something like an action movie. Fast and the Furious. Mad Max: Fury Road. By the way, many action movies aren't good. Anything like Action Film 9, that many sequels out, it almost always sucks. Only some are standouts for fun times and strong women appearing in them. Strong doesn't have to mean army girl in a buzzcut. To me, it's more like a girl who doesn't have it all together but manages to do well in moments of chaos. Physically fit but not too thin or too muscular. I'd be really good at it because I don't look like I could be blown away by the wind. I'm very curvy but fit, and I could work on being a lot more into an exercise routine if given an action movie job. The truth is, all the actual living, breathing female moviegoers I meet tell me they're ready for that. A girl who looks like a regular sized woman if she were slightly more in shape. All this time, we've had waifs hitting men triple their size. Doesn't make sense, really. I could be that female action actress women I meet describe in a dream action flick girl. And I'm great with computers in real life. You won't have to have some bimbo actress scrambling around, "OK, Mr. Director, what do I do now?" I'll tell the director how to use the computer in the scene! It would be a good compromise. I'd be following in Barbara Streisand's steps. She became a singer to become an actress. I can be a good actress on my own terms.

Thank you again Nicole.  This is brilliant.  If other filmmakers are interested in getting you to compose for their projects, what is the best way for them to contact you?

I'd love that. Social media! I prefer that someone sends me a public message. The private DM (Direct Message) inbox is a house of horrors because it gets spam and legitimate notes in there. Or directly. The contact form on my website will always be up to date. My goal is to work with a big film studio orchestra and be giving them all the attention in the world until a project is perfect. Please, I beg, hire me! I'll be so happy and make your studio proud. Holla at your girl, DreamWorks Animation.