Interview: Alexandra Franzen

Alexandra Franzen wants to live in a world where emails are short, love letters are brave and every ‘thank you’ note is scribbled by hand.

Her lessons on life, love, work and writing are enough to inspire anyone. Alexandra’s simple but extremely effective tips on creativity, productivity, writing and even a blogger’s everyday struggles of writers block will astound you. These tips and lessons have been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, The Daily Love, The Huffington Post and many other radio programs around the area. With her huge heart, Alexandra Franzen wants nothing more then to help others become better people, and better writers. Her books – 50 Ways To Say You’re Awesome and Our Q+A A Day: A 3-Year Journal For 2 People have inspired thousands of people to do the simple things, such as say ‘thank you’ more often. Her blog posts, such as one titled 88 pieces of fill-in-the-blank blog inspiration are so very creative and definitely the best place to go to discover your next blog ideas. Alexandra writes her blog posts and books to help others to communicate, understand and get to the point with their writing all while doing it with love. Here is what she had to say in our recent interview:

    C: Where did the idea of starting a blog come from and how did you begin? Was it something that you thought of overnight or was there a process behind it all?

    A: In my early twenties – while working at a radio station – part of my job was to write (and sometimes, edit) little snippets of language for the DJ’s and hosts to read. Messages from sponsors, announcements about upcoming concerts, things like that. Pretty simple stuff, but those little 15-second snippets of language had to go through (literally) three levels of ‘approval’ before they ever made it onto the airwaves! I understood the reasons behind the process, but at times, it frustrated me. I was craving a space where I could write freely – no need to acquire multiple people’s approval. Just me, my ideas, my words, and a big PUBLISH button. My current blog was born out of that simple desire:
    To write freely about topics that interest me. With no limitations.

    C: What do you hope to achieve with your blog, and what do you want your readers to get out of it?

    A: Over the years, my blog has evolved from a more ‘personal’ place (muffin recipes, outfit recaps, TV show reviews and whatnot) into a more focused and purposeful place. These days, it’s become a destination for writers, artists, entrepreneurs and other creative souls who want to make the world a better place, but need a dose of motivation, some writing tips, or just a bit of love and encouragement to keep marching. The greatest ‘achievement’ for me, right now, is when somebody writes to me and says: “Reading your blog made _________ feel so much simpler. I can do this! Or, even better: “Reading your blog made me feel like I matter, and my dream is possible.”

    C: What is the key to building such a strong blog with plenty of readers?

    A: Be helpful. Be humble. Be generous with your ideas.
    That is all.

    C: What is your writing process like and for you, how does a small idea turn into a complete blog post?

    A: My process is pretty simple:
    I get an idea in my head (usually, it’s a story that contains some kind of ‘lesson’ or ‘reminder.’ And it’s usually inspired bu something I’ve seen, or experienced, or a recent conversation I’ve had). Then I decide, “OK, what IS the lesson here, exactly? What do I want people to remember after reading this piece?” Then I start writing the piece, being extra-super-careful to make sure that the ‘lesson’ is extremely clear and obvious. So obvious, a six year old could understand it. Then I look at the piece. Then I make it even simpler. Then I publish it. The end.

    C: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in life so far?

    A: Helping people makes you feel proud of yourself. Feeling proud of yourself makes you want to keep helping. This is a beautiful thing.

    C: Who is your inspiration and/or idol and why?

    A: The children’s TV host, Fred Rogers. Because he fully embodies the “big lesson” that I just described. Plus, he has awesome cardigan sweaters.

Visit Alexandra’s website here:http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/
Start with love. Keep it simple. You are not confused.

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Interview: Rachael Leahcar

One of my most successful interviews on my previous blog was with The Voice 2012 finalist Rachael Leahcar. Rachael was kind enough to share the interview on her Twitter page which meant some of her most dedicated fans read my blog and gave me a record number of views! Here is what they lovely Rachael Leahcar had to say:
 

    C: Rachael, you recently finished third on The Voice Australia! How did you find your experience on the show?

    R: The Voice was one of the best experiences of my life. It taught me so much about myself as an artist and life itself. It taught me that along with positive feedback, you will also get negative and have to learn to deal with this in a healthy way. It also taught me that I should be who I am because if I try to be something I’m not, it will be fake and meaningless. It was extremely hard work but in the end, very rewarding as I received the the recording contract I’ve always dreamed of getting.
    C: If you had the chance to sing with anyone in the world, who would it be?
    R: That’s a very hard question! Since I’ve already sung with Delta Goodrem, I’m going to have to say either Andrea Bocelli or the modern artist James Morrison.
    C: What was it that inspired you to audition for The Voice?

    R: Believe it or not, I just wanted to fill in some time in my gap year! I never expected to get as far as I did but that’s what I allocated this year for anyway, for music. If not for The Voice, I don’t think I would’ve made my dream come true so I’m definitely glad I took the risk.
    C: What are your plans for the not so distant future, in regard to your music?

    R: Well my album Shooting Star debuted at number #5 on the ARIA charts so I’m happy that all the work the Universal team and I did to promote it has paid off! Now that that’s done, I will try to perform as many places as possible and write more songs for the next album. I intend the next one to be a mix of covers and originals but all with much more artistic input on my behalf so very excited for that!
    C: Who has been your idol and/or inspiration and why?
    R: I have admired the late Eva Cassidy for quite some time. Unfortunately her talent was not recognised by the world before she passed but she inspires me because no matter how hard it was, she always stuck to what she loved, music. And believe me, music is a very hard industry to get into. Not to mention her voice is the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.
    C: Do you have any advice for other people out there who want to be successful and follow their dreams like yourself one day?
    R: Perfect your art, whatever it may be. Always be ready for greatness because one day, it might be thrust upon you and you have to be ready to catch it with both hands. But as long as you follow your dream, you will be successful because that dream is what makes you happy… and happiness is the key to success, not money or fame.

Thanks for your time Rachael!

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Interview: Martin Garrix

17 year-old DJ/producer Martin Garrix is taking the music industry by storm after being signed to Spinnin’ Records in 2012. His best known track ‘Animals’ was a top 10 hit in over 10 countries and reached number 1 in Ireland, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Fellow blogger and my best friend Ellie Simpson (www.teenageperks.wordpress.com) and I, read an article about Martin Garrix and contacted him straight away. I always enjoy reading about upcoming stars so interviewing someone that is vastly making himself known to the world is something that we both love to do. We talked to Martin about his hit song ‘Animals,’ what inspired him to begin his career and what we can expect in the near future. Enjoy!

    Cassidy: What sparked your interest in music and how did your career develop from there?

    Dj Tiesto was my first inspiration, I heard him playing at the Olympics in 2004, from that moment on I knew I wanted to make music and become a Dj. I made a bootleg of a track by Enrique Iglesias called ‘Tonight’. This was picked up by a couple of Dutch DJs… After that I got discovered by Spinnin Records, produced ‘Animals’ and that’s where it all exploded! I also released ‘Wizard’ together with Jay Hardway, which turned out huge too! Got signed by Scooter Braun for their new EDM project. And I just announced my US tour dates, playing at Coachella, it still feels unreal sometimes!

    Ellie: Who or what inspires the music you produce?
    I get inspired by a lot, not just one type of music or so. I listen to a lot of different music, and love a lot of artists. So I can get inspired by anything.

    Cassidy: You’re still at such a young age, but what has been the best moment in your career so far?
    Really hard to say, I guess that has to be the great success of Animals, and everything that this track brought me. And all the amazing venues I played last year, alongside my favourite DJ colleagues. My first time in Ibiza was really memorable too.

    Ellie: What’s your favourite song so far that you have produced and what can we see from you in the upcoming months?

    For now that’s ‘Animals’, but there’s a lot to come! 6 collabs on their way, so stay tuned! 😉

    Cassidy: Who is your idol/inspiration and why?

    That still is Tiesto. He became a good friend of mine, but I still have a lot of respect for him! Of course there are a lot more artists I look up to, DJs like Hardwell, Porter Robinson, Alesso.

    Ellie: Do you feel there’s competition around the globe with artists such as Flume and the Stafford Brothers beaming their way up the charts?

    There’s always competition, especially in the EDM scene, but that keeps me motivated and focused. Everybody is really friendly though, I always enjoy seeing other guys at gigs or festivals. So yeah, there is competition but there are also lots of good vibes!

Thanks Martin, and happy reading!

Interview: Monica&Nellie – Monica Yates

I was recently lucky enough to chat with Monica Yates, the head designer and owner of Monica & Nellie. Monica & Nellie produce hand made, high quality garments that are all one of a kind. They are simple, natural designs with a hint of indie and these are all made with top quality materials. Monica’s designs have been featured as a part of the Expression Fashion Gala, Apex Awards, Melbourne Show and other private events. I read a small article about Monica in DOLLY magazine, contacted her straight away, and she kindly replied very quickly. Here is what Monica Yates had to say:

1. What made you want to start Monica and Nellie and how has it grown since day one?
 I firstly wanted to start Monica and Nellie basically because of my love of fashion and design. Also I realised that there was a bit of a gap in the market for dresses for formals (school, other events) and no reasonably priced made-to-measure options out there besides the average dress maker however she/he is not a designer as well. Due to there not being many options for formal wear for young girls I thought it was appropriate and necessary for Monica and Nellie to have this vision. I am very much a person who prefers to make one off garments rather than 50 of the same thing and therefore that’s why Monica and Nellie is based around the idea of every dress being different and there only being one of each kind

 
2. Is fashion something you’ve always been interested in? When did it begin and why?
YES! I have loved fashion from a VERY young age and I’ve been influenced from my Mum mostly, because she loves fashion! It probably started when I was living in New York and would have to wear a different outfit each day for school and therefore I became aware of clothes and my appearance. I would change my outfit at least twice, if not three times in the morning before leaving the house! I think fashion is just a way of life, I can’t walk out of the house without being happy with my outfit and how I look. Even though I have my trackie days and stay-in-pjs-all-day days, I am still aware of my appearance. Although every designer says this, fashion IS really about expressing who you are.
 
3. All of your garments are one of a kind and made from high-quality materials. Why is it important to you that your clothes are made of a high standard?
Yes that’s correct, and I make them all myself. To some people this isn’t really of an importance but due to my clothes being worn for more formal and special events I think that its very important that each garment is made with love and attention. It also makes it more special for the client as the garment fits them perfectly and thus they feel more confident and special. It also means that there is zero chance of anyone wearing the same dress to the same event! High quality clothes also will last much longer and therefore my garments can be worn more than once. Cheap clothes will tend to show their age very rapidly whereas my dresses don’t. 
 
4. How would you describe your designs and why is it that you love this style of clothing?
My designs are a modern, sophisticated and clean look with hints of bohemian and indie to give it a little character and edge. All the designs and ideas and fresh and up to date with trend that are loved by young women. 
 
5. Who is your fashion icon?
Ooooo this is a hard one! Well I love Olivia Palermo, her sense of style is just incredible and her outfits ALWAYS amaze me. I also love Mira Duma, her clothes and fashion sense is always so fresh and original. I just adore Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, their style is super cool and easy going which I love. I honestly don’t have a specific ‘icon’ as such. I dress for myself and use inspiration from so many sources, not just one ‘icon.’ If someone is walking down the street in an incredible outfit, then they too are my icon.
 
6. What would your advice be to people out there wanting to follow their dreams and be successful?
Don’t ever stop trying and never ever doubt yourself. Also try and get as much support as possible because this is the best help to pushing yourself. Just believe in yourself and do whatever it takes.
 
Thanks for your time Monica!
All readers can also look forward to an interview coming up soon with DJ/producer Martin Garrix!

Interview: Timomatic.

Last year I was lucky enough to get a very short, but special interview with singing and dancing superstar Timomatic. 

Tim Omaji – who is better known as Timomatic, is a Nigerian born Australian singer, songwriter and dancer. Timomatic’s rise to fame was as a contestant on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia on which he placed 7th. In 2011, Timomatic appeared as a contestant on the fifth series of Australia’s Got Talent and placed 3rd. Later that year Timomatic signed with Sony Music Australia and released his debut single ‘Set It Off.’ The single reached number two on the ARIA Singles Charts and went triple platinum. Since then, singles ‘If Looks Could Kill,’ ‘Can You Feel It’ and ‘Parachute’ have been extremely successful. Timomatic is currently a judge on the 2013 series of Australia’s Got Talent.

1. How do you stay so focused and determined to follow your dreams?
I keep myself inspired by listening to excellent classic music or live performances. It keeps me hungry seeing other people living their dreams and making memorable moments.

2. What has been the biggest achievement of your career so far?
I would have to say seeing ‘Set It Off’ going triple platinum. For a debut single it’s a dream come true.

3. 5 years ago, would you have ever imagined yourself to be where you are today?
Yeah, I’ve always been very focused on my goals and to see it become a reality is a confirmation of hardwork and dedication to my craft. 

4. How has life changed for you after entering So You Think You Can Dance and Australia’s Got Talent?
I guess I get noticed a lot more when I’m out, and I’ve never flown so much in my life! It’s awesome!

5. Who is your idol/inspiration and why?
I really look up to the work of Michael Jackson, he is the blueprint for all entertainers. He made people stop and stare every time he hit the stage and he loved giving back to the needy.

6. Do you have any advice for other people out there who want to follow their dreams and be successful?
I would say two things. Hunger and humility. Stay hungry and focused on your craft and work hard until you see results, then keep working! And be humble, I really believe that if you are kind and appreciative of your talents, not only will you enjoy yourself more, you will make a lot more friends than enemies.