Ian Axel / Matt Duke / Joey Ryan
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Matt Duke looks super-young—almost teenage—in photographs, but the sound of his voice and the gravity of his lyrical content make you believe he is an old soul who has been through a lot. "That's exactly the image I am hoping to project," says Duke, who incorporates pop, folk, jazz, and rock into his repertoire. His stadium-ready Vedderesque voice may have mass appeal, but for now you are more likely to see him in a coffeehouse setting, following in the footsteps of some of his heroes, such as Ani DiFranco and Conor Oberst. Although he dropped out of college after "15 minutes," he has used many great novels as a jumping-off point for many of his finest tunes.
As a toddler in Fair Lawn, NJ, Ian Axel would pick out his favorite songs by ear on his grandmother's upright piano ("Tequila" being the first). While writing perpetually from his very first time in front of the piano, it was not until college that Ian started to sing. The encouragement came from Chad Vaccarino, whom he met in a class at New York University. Chad happened to hear a song in-progress that Axel was humming and was so inspired, he forced Axel to take voice lessons and even paid for them. "Everything in my life changed," Axel says. "Even my hair turned curly." Chad co-penned most of Axel's early songs, and his vocals make up an integral part in the title track, "This Is the New Year."
Joey Ryan was able to independently finance his current EP, "Kenter Canyon," by licensing his music to various media outlets. His music has been featured on Private Practice, One Tree Hill, iTunes Indie Spotlight, KCRW's Weekend Becomes Eclectic, and various commercials, including two long-running ads for Wrigley's in the UK. Five of Ryan's tracks were produced by Tony Berg (Jesca Hoop, Aimee Mann) and feature performances by Sara Bareilles, Dave Rawlings, Z Berg, and Matt Chamberlain. With harmonies by Bareilles, the opening track "Broken Headlights" pays tribute to the shockingly clear Los Angeles air after it rains, gracefully likening it to the confessions of a long-hidden love. The song received its first airplay from Chris Douridas on KCRW.