Karen Ogden on Curtis Fields: The Smartphone Guitarist

Guest Contributor: Karen Ogden. Ms. Ogden is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism. In pursuit of her goal of working for an established lifestyle or culture magazine, she writes on topics related to music, film, and pop culture.


In this day and age, we’ve all grown used to the idea that a lot of popular music is supported by electronic sounds and technological equipment. Creative DJs are in some respects the rock stars of the 2010s, consistently putting out the hottest songs on the radio and collaborating with established, major artists. Even Coldplay – on a new album being praised by many for its personal and deeply emotional undertones (a contrast to the soaring, radio-friendly singles of the band’s recent albums) – saw fit to partner with Avicii for what is quickly becoming the album’s most popular song, “A Sky Full Of Stars.”

None of this is news to modern music fans, but if you thought non-instrumental music only went as far as DJs, you may have another thing coming in rising R&B star Curtis Fields. An unknown talent just a few years ago, Fields is now the proud beneficiary of a major record deal with Epic Records. He has a widely released EP (titled Cherish The Day), he has a performance at the 2013 BET Music Awards under his belt, and he has shared the stage with artists as renowned as John Legend. Plus, he did it all with music he produced on his smartphone.

If you watch the performance from the 2013 BET Music Awards, you might not quite believe what you’re seeing. A naturally gifted singer, Fields sits confidently on stage strumming and picking at his phone. The phone, hooked up to an ordinary amplifier, puts out a pure and rich guitar sound that you would never suspect to came from an electronic source. It was almost alarming for me to watch as I began to wonder how many amateur musicians out there could already be in the process of trying to duplicate Fields’ talent.

But why use a smartphone? It sounds primarily as if the initial inspiration was financial in nature. In a Verizon Wireless post in which Fields demonstrates how he plays on his phone, the artist explains that with limited income it was simpler for him to organize and record his music via his smartphone. He used the iShred and GuitarStudio apps to avoid spending money on an actual guitar and expensive recording equipment. Though these frugal methods have no doubt alleviated his financial strain, I suspect due to the popularity they have granted him, he may continue in this fashion.

It’s quite possible there are a lot of traditional musicians out there rolling their eyes at the popularity of Curtis Fields. And, for some, it may be easy to dismiss him as something of a gimmick. Love it or hate it, however, Fields may have opened a new avenue for singer/songwriter artists. While not every amateur musician with a smartphone can obtain the kind of success Fields has, many of them might now find it easier to try.

Curtis Fields

Image courtesy of Curtis Fields’ Facebook Timeline Photo

“Slow Motion (live)” by PHOX

PHOX is a six-piece indie pop band from Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their self-titled debut LP will be released on June 24, 2014.

The band formed when Zach Johnston began writing songs while living in San Francisco. He worked with singer Monica Martin to get the band together while playing a series of shows around Madison.

The band released their EP Confetti in early 2013. The rest of 2013 brought their success to the next level with a Daytrotter session, positive press, a spot at SXSW, and a national tour opening for Blitzen Trapper. They also played Lollapalooza as a last-minute addition in August 2013. Furthermore, in September 2013, PHOX opened for The Lumineers at Apple’s iTunes Festival in London. The band is currently managed by Onto Entertainment and signed to Partisan Records.

You may view the official video on YouTube.

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“Slow Motion (live)” by PHOX


mp3 courtesy of NoiseTrade
Image courtesy of PHOX’s Facebook Profile Pictures

“Get Back Up and Walk” by The Boston Boys

Roots band, The Boston Boys released a new EP this Tuesday, May 20 entitled Idea of Love.

As its name suggests, the group was formed in Boston. Currently all band members live in Brooklyn, NY and they play all around the world. In only two years, they have performed in over a dozen countries throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Mandolinist, guitarist, and lead singer, Eric Robertson, initiated the project as a student at Berklee College of Music. He, along with multi-instrumentalist Duncan Wickel, bassist Josh Hari, and drummer Nicholas Falk deliver a new fusion of American roots music inspired by bedrock artists like Paul Simon, Ray Charles, and The Band.

You may stream and purchase the album on bandcamp.

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“Get Back Up and Walk” by The Boston Boys

Idea of Love Cover Art

Image and mp3 courtesy of Amanda Charney of Black Panda PR, LLC in New York, NY.

“When Death Should Find Us” by EdTang & The Chops

A self-titled EP was just released last Friday, May 16th by MusicArtiste veterans EdTang & The Chops.

Tang is an American songwriter with an old soul. A raspy voiced crooner with punk rock influences and rockabilly-folk tendencies. He is a product of the thriving original music scene of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Starting EdTangMusic in 2009 as a means of independently producing and publishing his music, Tang has to date released three albums. To listen or purchase the most recent album, visit bandcamp.

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“When Death Should Find Us” by EdTang & The Chops

EdTang & The Chops

Image and mp3 courtesy of Ed Tang of EdTang & The Chops

“I Won’t Follow” by Secret Someones

Lelia Broussard started a band with her best friends called Secret Someones. The band is Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, Zach Jones and Ms. Broussard herself. This project was born out of the four members touring together as solo artists. They ended up having so much fun making music together, they just didn’t want it to end there. Thus – Secret Someones was born.

Currently, Broussard is taking a break from her solo career to give all of her energy to the band. If you live close by, check out the group live on tour this summer.

You may stream and download the debut EP, I Won’t Follow, on bandcamp.

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“I Won’t Follow” by Secret Someones

SS Summer Tour

Image courtesy of Leila Broussard’s Fanbridge Campaign

“Tuesday Morning” by Tijuana Love

The house-fusion pioneers of Tijuana Love are proud to announce the world premiere of their video for the Latin funk single, “Tuesday Morning.”

Skilled in the art of fusing disco and electronica with Latin island funk. Their often campy style and unassuming lyrics make for a playful listen, softening the methodical sound of western EDM with the natural involvement of Spanish rhythms.” ~ What’s Hip¿

It is Tijuana Love’s insatiable desire to spread the language of music which has enabled their quick ascendancy through the Central American club circuit. Their retro ties to disco and involvement with DJ’s and House music make their sound all the more current. Furthermore, Tijuana Love has set their sights on bringing their music to an international audience in hopes for their message to be made clear — there are no borders in music.

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“Tuesday Morning” by Tijuana Love

Tijuana Love

Image and mp3 courtesy of Jennifer Thorington & Samuel Markus of Working Brilliantly

“West Coast (Lana Del Rey cover)” by Hana Kim

From her recent album, Exodo, L.A. gem Hana Kim will soon announce her single, “Heaven Sees Me.” To tide us over until then, Kim has released her newest cover of Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast.”

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“West Coast (Lana Del Rey cover)” by Hana Kim

Hana Kim

Image courtesy of Kim’s facebook Timeline Photos

mp3 courtesy of Kim’s Mailing List Campaign via YouTube

“Cold” by Wetwood Smokes

Stepbrothers Josh Bowman & Steven Howard and childhood friend Chrystian Cano make up the trio Wetwood Smokes.

The instruments they bought into their initial gigging flurry of fashionable LA music circles were the same ones used in the recording of their debut album Earth Tones & Red. The album’s name was, in fact, derived from the color pallet provided by their setup: wood finished Gretsch drum kit, Red Korg SV-1 with reversed color keys, Fender jazz bass with a red strap and a variety of hand-made wood stained stage props.

Check out the premiere of Wetwood Smokes’ single, “Cold” on Popdose.

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“Cold” by Wetwood Smokes

Their current modus operandi is to evolve and grow their unmistakable sound and image in hopes that it will be familiar to multiple generations, beyond the current musical trends they happen to coincide with.

Wetwood Smokes

Image and mp3 courtesy of Jennifer Thorington & Samuel Markus of Working Brilliantly

“Concorde” by Incan Abraham

A couple weeks back, creative collaborator Danny Franzese (known for playing the legendary Damian in 2004’s Mean Girls) let Teddy, Spence, Giuls and Andrew of Incan Abraham strap a GoPro camera to his head, as they set off on a maniacal day-long adventure around the greater Los Angeles-area.

Set to the Incan Abraham track “Concorde,” the end result of the sun-soaked play date premiered on the intrepid Buzzbands LA website. Have a look here.

The LP by Incan Abraham, Tolerance, is out now on White Iris.

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“Concorde” by Incan Abraham

Incan Abraham Tolerance

Image courtesy of bandcamp

“Found You” by Carrie Lane

Singer-songwriter, Carrie Lane, is currently writing and recording new material for her freshman album, set to be released this year.

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“Found You” by Carrie Lane

Lane says of her writing experience, “My favorite thing to write about is the world through my eyes. Nobody views the world through the same lens that you do and therefore you will always have a unique story to tell. One that nobody else has ever heard before.”

Carrie Lane

Image and mp3 courtesy of Presley Zierman of LaFamos, Marketing & Publicity Department