BY Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Cassandra Kubinski is an upcoming, singer/songwriter from Enfield, CT, with a voice of an angel and a heart of gold. Although, she has not released a full length record yet, she has caught the attention of many music industry insiders, including the legendary Billy Joel, co-writing a track with him for future release. In addition, her song, "Swim," was featured on the TV show, 'Dance Moms,' and received 100's of thousands of views on youtube.
Earlier this week, Cassandra made headlines in Buffalo, NY, when it was announced that she will perform at a benefit concert, 'Artists for Autism' on April 16th at Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College. This show will be headlined by the multi-platinum Buffalo, NY band, The Goo Goo Dolls. Also, Cassandra has re-recorded a track, which she wrote about a child with autism, called "Not So Different." This new version was produced by veteran music producer Armand Petri, and features John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls) and Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs). This song will be performed by all three at the end of the benefit concert on April 16th.
What follow is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with one of the brightest new stars in pop music- Cassandra Kubinski.
Rock Music Star: Cassandra, we’re pretty excited about the announcement yesterday, in regards to the benefit concert for autism featuring The Goo Goo Dolls, Mary Ramsey and yourself on April 16th at Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State.
Cassandra Kubinski: Yeah! I know, right? It’s going to be pretty amazing. The artists who are part of it are, of course, amazing and awesome. So, yeah, we’re super excited that it’s coming together.
RMS: This concert is mainly based around a song that you wrote, called, “Not So Different,” which you re-recorded with John Rzeznik, of the Goo Goo Dolls, and Mary Ramsey, of 10,000 Maniacs. Can you just give us a background on how this whole project started? Talk us through on how it happened.
CK: Sure! So, a few years ago - I have a friend named Vanessa, and she has two sons on the autism spectrum - and kind of casually, one day, she mentioned, “Hey, you should write a song for us.” She was very involved with the Autism Speaks, New Jersey Chapter. And she kind of thought, “Hey, it’d be great to have a song that we could walk to, that would be kind of an anthem for the autism community.” There didn’t seem to be a song like that out there. So, I thought about it. I think, for me, what really appealed to me about doing it was, I had an aunt that was classified as “mentally retarded,” and I was thinking of her, and I was thinking of the groups that I’ve worked with who are considered disabled (mentally), in some way, and how, if you really take the time to get to know them, they’re fascinating, beautiful, and vibrant individuals with intelligence and talent and personality, and the need and desire to be loved, just like the rest of us. So, one side really connected to it, personally. I really wanted to write the song for her, so I did. The process of writing the song involved interviewing parents of children on the spectrum. I really wanted to give a voice. The song is written from first person, as though it were written from someone on the spectrum, and I really wanted to capture it right. I didn’t want to pander, or come up with someone that was kind of like a cheerleader song for the cause that didn’t ring true. So, yeah, that was kind of how it came about - through interviews, and then taking those words, and people’s emotions, and putting them into my original version of the song, which has kind of a strong back beat - almost like a dance-oriented back beat. That was influenced by Vanessa saying that her kids were really into The Black Eyed Peas, and those kind of pop dance groups. They loved anything that they could get into the rhythm of. So, she was looking for something that kind of had that hypnotic rhythm to it. I enrolled one of my favorite producers, he’s awesome. He works out of White Water Studios in New York. He offered to produce the track, so you know, we produced the track together, and that’s the first version of the track, that came out in 2013.
RMS: From there, how did it go from the track from 2013 to the present-day re-recording of it, with the big benefit concert, stars involved - how did that all come about?
CK: Yeah! My assistant - I was working with a woman named Jessica, who I met through the Women In Music National Network - I was just trying to get a gig up in Buffalo; I wanted to play at the college. And she said, “You need to connect with my Music Business professor, Armand Petri (music producer who had worked with the Goo Goo Dolls early in their career) and let’s see if we can get you a gig.” So, she sent him some of my material, and “Not So Different” was a part of that material that she sent. He actually called me last summer, and it was his idea to create this new version of the song with the Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs, because he had worked with them kind of back in the day. But, really, it was him, because he has a son on the autism spectrum, and he really connected with the song, and he saw the opportunity to create something new that would be able to benefit the autism community locally.
RMS: It must have been a pleasant surprise - to go from just wanting to play here, to having your song recognized like that.
RMS: And, not only recognized, but having it re-recorded and having platinum artist, John Rzeznik, and Mary Ramsey from the 10,000 Maniacs involved in that. That’s quite a turn.
CK: Yeah, no question. I’ve worked with some big people in the past, including Billy Joel and Chris Botti. I’ve worked with really high-level people, but never on a song where they were singing on. I hadn’t had that - like it was going to be their song. Yeah, it was totally unexpected and really exciting, for me, particularly, because the Goo Goo Dolls were one of the first arena, big, outdoor concerts that I had ever seen as a teenager. They really helped me to want to be a rock musician; to write pop and rock music, and to basically be in this world. I told Armand this. I said, “This is a very crazy 360 for me, because this band was really influential on my decision to want to be in the music industry.” So, yes - huge honor. I’m so grateful to both John and Mary. And actually, Robby from the Goo Goo Dolls plays bass on the track, and John from 10,000 Maniacs plays guitar on the track. So, really, both bands have lent their full support to it, and I’m so grateful for that.
RMS: Where was the song recorded, and when?
CK: On the SUNY Fredonia campus, in the recording studio in September of last year.
RMS: So, 2015?
CK: Right. Well, the vocals were recorded then. The rest of the instrumentation - Armand was tracking it in, I want to say, January. So, we had done the vocals. We did it backwards - usually you want to have the track done so the singers can sing to it, but, in this case, we kind of just tracked the vocals to a very minimalist arrangement, and then worked backwards and filled in the arrangement from there.
RMS: I can’t wait to hear the track. It sounds really exciting. You have a great line of people involved on it, and I love your voice. I really think it’s going to be a great song. How different is it from the original?
CK: What’s different about it is - first of all, it’s all real instruments. There’s no electronic or digital production on this new version. There’s a beautiful string arrangement that Richie English did; he did some work with the Goo Goo Dolls on other albums, 10,000 Maniacs, Willie Nelson. So, he’s super talented, and we’re so grateful that he was able to be on board, as well. I would say that the track builds more, and it feels more like an acoustic and rock-oriented track than it does like a pop track.
RMS: How much extra confidence do you think you have now as a songwriter, knowing that one of your song has been recognized as this great song that people are going to want to spend time with, and get involved with?
CK: The one thing that I learned about the music business, after doing this for a decade, is that I never really count on anything. I hope that's what happens. I hope that the response is insane. I hope everyone freaks out, and wants to be a part of this, and it becomes a national or international song phenomenon (laughs). But, I don't know if that will happen. I'm just putting one foot in front of the other, and continue to focus on my music and finish up my EP that will come out later in the spring. But, this does add to my confidence, to be able to say that I'm working with the Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs. That automatically earns a higher level of credibility and interest. But, I don't ever assume that it’s going to be something people are going to be impressed by, because everybody has their own individual tastes; the media can be finicky. Some will be into this, and some won't. But, it certainly validates the creative effort. It validates that this is an important cause, and a song that moves and inspires people. That's why I wrote it. If it moved John Rzeznik and Mary Ramsey to be a part of it, then I can only hope that it can do that for millions of more people, as well.
RMS: You mentioned earlier that you've worked with Billy Joel in the past. What did you work with him on?
CK: Yes, I worked on a song that he started and I finished. We are working on getting a placement for it now. It's not fully produced, but, it's a duet, and we are looking for the right stars to sing it.
RMS: Wow. Why don't Billy and you sing it yourself?
CK: Well, I would love that. But, Billy is pretty busy with his Madison Square Garden concert run and other shows. He really hasn't released pop music in quite some time. So, it's not really something that he wanted to do, once the song was finished. But, maybe he will change his mind if we have a great alternate version, with some country music people, because he thinks it's a good country song. I told him that I agree and said, “Let's get some country people to sing it.”
RMS: In listening to your music, you have an ability to write just about any type of style.
CK: Well, I would say, most of what I do is in the pop-singer/songwriter type of vain. Of course, I can do a lot of different things, as well. But, I've worked on dance and country and pop. I've also worked with rap artists, being the person that sings the top line. But, that's how I envision my career expanding, in the sense of being like Sia, or Dido, or people that have their own artist identity, and also do a lot of writing and contributing on tracks with other successful artists.
RMS: So, at this point in your career, you have four releases that new fans can check out, correct?
CK: Yeah, I have four projects with my name on it that were longer projects. Then, in addition, there are a good handful of singles that I've done over the last few years. My last single, "Barcode," came out last year. I also had a song, "Swim," which came out in August of 2013, that was used on the TV show, Dance Moms. That really blew up and got 100s of thousands of views on YouTube. So, I have some singles, but I haven't released a full-length project or collection of songs since 2012. So, that's why I'm excited about this EP that I'm working on. I feel like I want these songs, and they operate as a group, and I want them to go out together.
RMS: Absolutely. I really hope that this is the song that takes you to the next level. I’ve listened to your music, and I think you have an amazing voice, and I think you have tons of potential to be big star. I really hope that this is a stepping-stone in the right direction for you; I definitely think it will be. I know a lot of people are excited about this show.
CK: Thank you. That’s so great. I cannot wait to meet your community, up in Buffalo on the 16th. We’re doing a Record Store Day signing, and then the show, of course. I’m incredibly excited to meet everybody.
RMS: You’re doing a record store signing, also?
CK: Yeah, there’s a Record Store Day signing on "Record Store Day." It looks like there’s going to be a CD that people can buy that will be signed at Record Theatre at 1800 Main Street. It looks like this may start around 11am, on Saturday, April 16th.
RMS: Wow, that’s great. That’s really going to be a big event; that’s going to be a great day.
CK: I think so! I’m optimistic; I’m just coming up there and rolling with it, but I think it’s going to be great. I’m definitely very excited to perform on that evening.
RMS: What a way to be welcomed into Buffalo, with a big in-store signing, and a big concert that’s probably going to sell out in minutes, once everybody realizes what is going on.
CK: Yeah, it’s interesting because, I thought about that - I don’t really know Rockwell Hall as a venue, but hopefully the response is going to be very big. I was wondering if we were going to end up doing something else. I feel like you’re right - it’s going to sell out, and then people are going to be all upset that they couldn’t go. I don’t now how the producers are planning to handle all of that, but, you know, we don’t even know if that’s going to happen. It’s a moot point until it happens, but who knows?
RMS: I can tell you, the history with the Goo Goo Dolls - whenever they play a smaller venue like that, it sells out instantly. There are thousands of people who are upset that they didn’t get a chance to go. Sometimes they add additional dates. The hall, itself, is beautiful. The acoustics are amazing. It may be the best sounding hall in Buffalo, NY. It’s a great place for the concert, it really is. They probably didn’t want to put it in a really big hall. You would have been able to do it in a 3,000-seater if you wanted to. But, they probably just wanted to keep it as an intimate type of thing, which I understand.
CK: Yeah, I think they did. I think, especially with what this song is, like when you guys hear the track, it’s beautiful, and it’s really intimate. The digital track release is scheduled for the day before - Friday, April 15th, because record labels drop releases on Fridays. So, that’s the plan. I don’t really know if there’s any plan for the media to preview the track before it comes out; I don’t think there is. But, I think there might be some sort of preview clips - like a teaser-type material. So, I will keep you posted on that, and I will put you on our media list.
RMS: Cassandra, I really appreciate your time, and I’m very excited about the show. I hope I can at least get a chance to say “Hi” to you during the show, as I'm really looking forward to going to this event. Have yourself a great day, and thanks again.
CK: Thanks, Thomas. You, too!
To purchase tickets for the “Artists for Autism” Benefit Concert at Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State, Buffalo, NY. Click here.
For more on Cassandra Kubinski, please visit www.cassandrakubinski.com
Big THANK YOU to Dana Kaiser.