Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As a pop/rap singer, Tenaj was a bit of a rap pioneer in her native Switzeland.  She now resides and performes in Los Angeles, not only as a musician, but also as a prominent model.  Her new single, "Special Queen" can be found at www.tenaj.us

Big Bang DBT

This is a refreshingly unique sounding hip-hop band from the great hip-hop state of ... Iowa.  Their songs are a nice break from the cookie cutter music found in more traditional hip-hop areas, and with song titles like "Spongebob Ready," how can you not check them out?  bigbangxl.webs.com

Featured Artist: Donna Loren

Donna Loren is a singer, songwriter, and recording artist who was popularly known in the 1960s as the “Dr. Pepper Girl,” and was prominent as a singer and actress in several popular television and radio shows of the time.   Throughout her early years, starting at the age of six, she performed in a variety of venues, ranging from radio commercials to television shows such as The Mickey Mouse Club.  Her family was very involved in her career and brought her to auditions and radio shows around the country.  In 1963, her “big break” finally came, and she was offered a position as a singing spokesperson for Dr. Pepper.  Her position with the company gave her national exposure and soon led to even greater opportunities.  She performed in ABC-TV’s Shindig, was prolific in the famed Beach Party movies, and made regular appearances on TV shows such as Batman, Dr. Kildare, and The Monkees.  She also released her own album, which was named for one of Beach Party movies, “Beach Blanket Bingo.” Donna Loren retired from the music industry in 1968 to raise a family.  She came back for a short time in the 1980s, then again left show business, this time to run a fashion business called ADASA Hawaii.  She once again began writing music again in 2009, and has since recorded a new album, "Love It Away" and is writing her autobiography.

The Indie Music Review recently interviewed Donna Loren, who is now preparing a series of live performances.
IMR:  You began your music career at a very early age, performing regularly and singing in radio commercials as a child.  What was this experience like for someone so young?
Loren:  First of all, thank you for the questions; it’s really good to talk with you and your viewers.  I was a really tiny little girl, and it was a unique situation.  I loved to sing when I was really tiny, and it was sort of like my comfort, and it became a family business.  My father was a GI and an artist, but he didn’t make a lot of money, so my parents decided at a very early age that I could sing maybe well enough to earn money for the family.  So when I began singing for a living, it was based on a family decision.  So there was a lot of pressure on me, to be totally honest.  I could do something I loved to do, but with the weight of responsibility on me.
IMR:  Do you think that pressure was helpful in the long run?
Loren:  Well, that’s an excellent question.  I’m in my 60s now, and it’s been a long, long time.  I was married, had three children, divorced, and on to a second marriage.  I am writing a book (about it) now.  There were many, many years of chaotic feelings about taking on responsibility.  And I totally realize it’s not just children in show business, it spans the whole realm of any child raised in a situation where too much is flung on their shoulders.  It can take its toll, and it’s very, very rare that you can find a well adjusted adult in a person that started out really young and had to basically go in to survival mode. 
IMR:  Throughout your career, you ventured far outside the box, and performed in a wide variety of venues, including acting in movies, recording commercials, and acting as a spokesperson for different brands.  How did you become involved in such a wide variety of media?
Loren:  To tell you the truth, I had no idea that everything I was doing then would have the lasting effect it has had.  I loved to sing, and I went on constant auditions.  I did have an agent, and because it was a family business, my father became my manager, even though he had a full time job.  It was a family effort and I was constantly going to auditions and picking up work along the way, until I was 16.  I was also recording and doing like, the whole California scene.  I was doing all the radio hotspots, like KFWB in Los Angeles and KYA in San Francisco, and everything in between.  I would get in the station wagon with the family and drive to Bakersfield and Fresno and Modesto and, you know, Sacramento and participate with DJs and do what they used to call “Record hops,” local TV shows that promoted your music.  Along the way, I would meet Sonny and Cher doing the same stuff.  Then my family got this call from my agent that Dr. Pepper was looking for a spokesperson for their newest ad campaign, and before I knew it, I was flying to Chicago for a screen test, and it was just one of those fluky things that gave me a seven year contract, which is really uncommon, to be locked in and have a sense of security.  It worked out really well for my family, because then my father could stop working and go with me full time.  Then one thing just led to another, and this wonderful opportunity of Shindig came along, which was kind of like the highlight of my life, because I was literally a senior in high school.  I had to leave high school to work for Dr. Pepper full time, and I was enrolled in a professional school, which I rarely attended.  I just sort of flailed through that (laughs) so pretty much whatever I’ve learned, I’ve learned on my own.  Anyway, it was just like one thing led to another, the audition for Batman, and then the audition for the Monkees, and then the Beach Party movies I had no idea would sustain for all these decades. 
IMR: This Versatility seems to have worked very well for you.  Do you think that is still important for musicians today? 
Loren:  I would say, you have to do what your heart tells you, especially now more than ever.  Whatever the strength of you own convictions, that’s what you have to be all about.  If someone has the good fortune of doing music and something else, hey, go for it.  Whatever it is, express yourself, and make your life worthwhile every day.  Even if there are so called compromises, like, why am I doing this, I want to be doing something else.  Be clear about where you are putting your energy and where you’re putting your faith.
IMR:   The music industry has been changing rapidly over the past few years, with the prominence of illegal downloads and the internet in general.  Do you think it will still be possible for independent musicians to make a living in the future?
Loren:  Absolutely, I see musicians coming out of the woodwork.  If music isn’t the answer right now on this planet, I don’t know what is.  It is a common language and always has been.  I know it has been getting more and more difficult, but I also believe this is the time for entrepreneurship, and it’s the time for innovation, and the internet is providing something that makes that possible if you apply yourself.  You really have to search down to your core to find where you can take this, and then you just work at it, every single day.  If it’s your passion, you just have to do it.  I’m being very idealistic, but I think of groups like Radiohead saying we’re going to be non-conformist then of course, Justin Bieber,  using the internet, that’s what it’s for.  It’s the common language, it’s accessible, and it’s liberating.  So you just have to dig deep, and do as your heart tells you, and the rewards can come, if that’s your chosen path.  I do believe it’s possible, but as always, it takes a lot of work.
IMR:  After years of raising a family and running a business, you returned to the music scene.  What made you decide to come back?
Loren:  Well, I’ve been carrying my piano, which is an old 1877 Steinway that I’ve had for many many years, and wherever I go, I’ve managed to take it with me.  In 2008, some songs started coming to me after many years of a dry spell.  So I accumulated about 8 or 10 original songs, and one thing led to another.  I met this guy where I was living in Hawaii, about 10 miles away from me who has his own studio and record label.  He’s a classical guitarist that ended up moving to Hawaii because he loved to surf, then went to the University of Hawaii, became a classical guitar professor, met some other musicians, and now 30 years later he’s got a phenomenal roster of Hawaiian artists.  He let me rent studio time and helped me get my songs in a form where I could work with them.  His name is Charles Brotman  and he ended up winning a Grammy, so I felt like I was in really good company.  Then I was staying with my daughter Katie in Los Angeles and met a guy in Silver Lake who had a home studio, his name is Maurice Gainen.    So between Charles in Hawaii and Maurice in Silver Lake, I managed to document the songs I was writing, and a few standards and rock classics to fill in the gaps, and the story I wanted to tell, and in about 3 or 4 months, I think it was, I was ready to release the second album of my career.  I made one album, Beach Blanket Bingo, in 1965, and then in 2010, I released my second album (Love It Away). 
IMR:  What advice would you offer to aspiring musicians?
Loren:  I think networking, finding the people you vibe with, playing with them, getting as much experience as you can, and connecting to people is so vital.  You get that feedback.  It seems like today, it’s really going back to that old way, not even like in rock and roll, but like when you were a traveling musician, you go as far as you can to connect with people on whatever level you can.  And, if you’re in your own little town, and you have a venue, or several venues that you can keep as your places to stretch and to connect, that’s really vital.  And then of course, you never know who you’re going to connect with.  Lots and lots of artists are playing smaller venues, and that’s what I’m doing.  I’m going to be doing my first performance in a place that only holds 49 people on May 5th in North Hollywood, Ca.  There will be a live webcast for those that can't make it (http://kulakswoodshed.com/webcast ). 
To find more on Donna Loren, visit her fan site, www.donnaloren.net, or check out her pages at www.facebook.com/DonnaLoren and www.myspace.com/donnalorenmusic