Crazy About Kidfetti

Ocala is going Hollywood! For two full days this month, our city will host some of the music scene’s brightest young stars during the Kidfetti extravaganza. Dionne Warwick kicks off the festivities Feb. 22 with a Parents Night Out concert, followed by a full day of live music, food, and fun activities for the whole family. The open-air event is all for a worthy cause, too. Kidfetti’s proceeds will benefit the local behavioral health and substance abuse organization, The Centers. Ocala Style talked to three of the young performers about their lives as recording artists, their musical influences, and their plans for the future. Here’s what they had to say.

Paula DeAnda’s hit single “Walk Away” has been certified gold.

Breakout pop/R&B star Paula DeAnda may only be 18 years old, but she’s already made a name for herself in the music world with a string of radio hits from her debut album, including “Walk Away” and “Doing Too Much.” Her sophomore album is slated for release later this year. The Corpus Christi resident dishes about performing onstage, loving Mariah Carey, and one very important meeting with music mogul Clive Davis.

When did you first know you wanted to be a singer?
When I was really young. I think I was about six when I started singing, which is when I realized that I wanted to do it.

Were your parents supportive?
Yeah, they were. My mom still travels with me. My dad does whenever he can.

Do you play any instruments?
When I was younger, I used to play the piano and that’s the reason why I started singing. I just stuck with singing.

Clive Davis signed you on the spot when you auditioned for him. How did that meeting come about?
I was in New York, and actually I was flown out there by Atlantic Records. It just so happened that J Records [Clive’s label] was out there, too. My manager called a couple people and was like, “We can get her to audition for them.” Later that day, Clive wanted to hear me himself, so I came in and did another audition. It was exciting for me, but I didn’t know at the time how big Clive was, so I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited and ready to go in there.

What’s your favorite part of performing now?
I like performing songs that everybody knows. It’s really fun to see how excited they get just to see you up there. I never thought I would be that big of an inspiration to people.

You wrote a few of the songs on your debut album.
Yes. That’s a big to-do for me. I didn’t always just want to sing; I wanted to grow in my music.

Who inspires you musically?
My inspirations come from a lot of different singers, but growing up I listened to Mariah Carey 24 hours a day. I really love her and Christina Aguilera, even Beyoncé. I’ve always looked up to her because I was actually in a girl group before I got signed. I see how she’s doing her own thing right now, but also staying true to her group.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
It’s hard because there are so many new artists that are really great. I think I would like to work with Alicia Keys. She’s actually a labelmate of mine, so I’m going to try to get that to happen.

What was it like to hear yourself on the radio for the first time?
I was in the car with my mom. They told me that they were going to play it, but I didn’t know when exactly. It was just like, “Yes! I’m finally on the radio.” The big one was “Doing Too Much.” That one went everywhere, and it was crazy how many people knew the song. We’d hear it on the radio in every city. It was overwhelming.

Have you done any acting?
Yes, an MTV-produced movie called Super Sweet Sixteen. Everybody was trying out for this huge movie, so I auditioned. It was fun because I brought my own personality into it.

Do you want to pursue an acting career?
I do. I’ve tried out for other things, but right now I think I’m just focusing on music. I’m really excited because I’ve been behind closed doors for a little bit, working on my album. I’m ready to get back out.

Any rituals before you go out on stage?
Oh, yeah. There is a tea that I drink called Throat Coat. I do little exercises, things I did in opera choir when I was little. I remember those. And we always pray before we get on stage.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to shop—a lot. I never did growing up. I was always a tomboy and didn’t care, and now I care. I also like bowling when I can; my grandma always used to take me bowling.

What advice would you give to an aspiring singer/musician?
Follow your dreams. Get your own exposure going because that’s what we did. Even before I got signed, we went on a little mini tour. We rented a van and just went to every radio station we could.

How do you keep in touch with your fans?
I have a MySpace page. It’s gotten pretty crazy since that single’s gone out.

What are you looking forward to with the Kidfetti concert?
I’m excited because I’ve been in the studio, so I haven’t been doing too many shows. This is going to be a nice performance for me.

Teddy Geiger’s debut single, “For You I Will (Confidence),” was nominated
for the “Best Love Song” award at the 2006 Teen Choice Awards.

This 19-year-old musician is making a name for himself, and his following of die-hard “TedHeads” is quickly growing. Teddy Geiger’s debut album, Underage Thinking, spawned the hit singles “For You I Will (Confidence)” and “These Walls.” His much-anticipated next album, The March, is set to be released later this year. And to think it all started with an audition he didn’t even want to attend!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
I was always interested in music and played it growing up. My grandparents are in music, so they started teaching me piano from the time I was really little. I guess whenever I had the chance to do something in music, I would jump on it. Over time I got closer and closer to being an actual musician in terms of a career.

Tell me a little about the VH1 Partridge Family audition.
That was an odd experience. I didn’t even really want to do the show, but my mom ended up convincing me it was a good idea. Not really convincing me, but rather telling me I had to do it. She said, “If you want to do music, this is a huge chance for you.” I ended up getting it. While I was on the show, I met my producer, Billy Mann, and he helped me get signed to Columbia Records.

You should thank your mom for making you go to that audition!
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Now when she tells me to do stuff, if I’m like, “Mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” she’s like, “Remember the last time you said I didn’t know what I was talking about?”

Tell me a little about your musical influences.
Ben Folds was the first artist I really got into. I also really like Weezer. I went through this phase in like fifth grade when all I listened to was Dean Martin. And then I guess growing up I would get into one or two songs here and there for about a week until I over-listened to it and would find a new one to listen to.

What’s the current song you listen to over and over?
“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

How would you describe your music?
It’s all over the place. Stuff on my album is kind of pop-rock. I’m coming out with another album pretty soon and it’s similar to the first, but with a few extra elements. Since I’ve done an album before, I’m able to get a little more experimental now.

Do you play any instruments?
I play drums, guitar, bass, and piano.

If you could collaborate with any musician, who would you choose and why?
That’s such a tough question. The other day I was listening to a Weezer song and I was thinking, I could produce River Cuomos’ solo album. I don’t know if that would ever happen. It probably never would happen, but I’d want to do it.

What’s the one single piece of advice you would give to other young people interested in a career in the entertainment business?
Don’t be afraid to take every opportunity that you have. For me, if I hadn’t done the Partridge Family audition, who knows if I would have ended up where I am now.

What was it like the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
It was weird because it almost felt like somebody put the CD in the player and hit “play.” It’s hard to have your brain think, This is my song and it’s being played on the radio right now. I was in the car with my dad and it was right before I was playing a show in my hometown of Rochester. It was very exciting.

I’m familiar with your acting abilities from the television show Love Monkey. Is acting something you’d like to pursue in your future?
Yes. I actually just finished shooting a movie called The Rocker with Rainn Wilson from The Office. It’s another one with me as a musician playing a musician. But I think I’d like to try something a little different so I can really get into it.

If you weren’t in the music business right now, where do you think you’d be?
I don’t even know. I’d probably still be trying to do what I’m doing right now! I feel like no matter what, I’d always try to be involved in music in some way. When I was little I wanted to be an electrical engineer because that’s what my dad is.

When you’re not performing, what do you enjoy in your down time?
I really am just making music for the most part. I have a home studio set up, so I hang out in there a lot. I like to watch movies, too.

What was the last movie you saw?
No Country For Old Men.

What are you looking forward to most with the Kidfetti show?
It’s always cool to be involved with a show where there’s more than one artist. When there are several bands you get to meet more people and see what there take is on things. It will be fun, especially performing for a young, excited crowd.

Do you have any rituals before each show?
I make sure my wallet is in my pocket before I go out on stage. It’s more like a superstition—I need to have my wallet so I can perform the show.

Hunter Hayes is scheduled to perform at 1pm.

Five albums, numerous tours, performances with Hank Williams Jr., an acting job with Robert Duvall—the list of Hunter Hayes’ accomplishments is lengthy and impressive, especially considering his age. The 16-year-old Louisiana native is already 12 years into his career, but, as he explains, he’s really just getting started.

When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?
I can’t give you a date or time, but it’s always been a part of me. Before I could even talk, I was picking up things and pretending that they were musical instruments. It was instinct for me to play music. It felt natural. Of course everybody around me noticed this, so my grandmother gave me an accordion for my second birthday.

How did you go from playing the accordion at home to performing onstage?
I would go around to some of the local bands and some of the local performances around the area, and I’d play it [the accordion]. They’d see that and bring me up on stage, and I’d sit in with them and this became a habit. It kind of evolved from there.

Tell me about your first band, the Lil’ Cajun Band.
It was a group of young musicians, and I was the youngest at four. It was a really cool group. We ended up taking it on the road. We did a record together and everything. Eventually we all kind of re-formed and I had my own band.

What’s the name of your band now?
Hunter Hayes and the Louisiana H.O.T.

What instruments do you play?
I play guitar, my primary instrument now, and accordion. Bass, drums, piano, mandolin, dobro, banjo, harmonica, all within that range.

Who are your musical influences?
Right now I’m influenced by anyone I hear. But definitely Rascal Flatts, John Mayer, MercyMe, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley.

What advice would you give to an aspiring singer/musician?
I have this quote on MySpace: “For the love of music and for the glory of God.” And that’s what I firmly believe. You really gotta love what you’re doing in order to be successful at it to your fullest extent. And you gotta be doing it for all the right reasons.

If you could pick anyone to collaborate with, who would it be?
It goes back to that list: Rascal Flatts, John Mayer, and MercyMe. Those are my top three. I’d love to collaborate with any one of those.

Do you write your own music?
Yes. Currently the CD we’re working on is called Songs About Nothing. It’s all songs that I wrote. I write a lot—for others, for myself.

What was it like the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
That was exciting. You start looking up to these artists because they’re on the radio, and now all of a sudden you’re like, “Wow! It sounds like everything else!” That was definitely cool.

How old were you when that happened?
I really don’t remember because I was around four or five when I cut the record with the Lil’ Cajun Band. I put out my first debut solo album when I was eight, and that’s when my first real single (“Six Years Old”) made it to the radio station.

Have you ever been to Ocala before?
No, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the area, so I’m definitely pumped.

Any rituals before you go on stage?
Pray. That’s one of those things that just comes naturally to anybody that’s fixin’ to go on stage, I guess. I drink a Mountain Dew. Other than that, there’s nothing odd.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Well, I’m sitting in the studio in my house right now, so that tells you a little bit. I spend more time in my studio than I do in my bedroom or the living room or the dining room. I write and record here. I’ll go into the studio with one of my buddies and help them produce a record or edit movies. We do that all the time.

(Click on Kidfetti Planner below for website.)

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