Connect with us


POP INTERVIEW: Jazz Musician Al Hammerman

Almost a century after St. Louis blues were the cat’s meow in the Roaring Twenties, Al Hammerman is still up to making jazz in the city. Learn about how he has become nationally successful while remaining in the Midwest, how he embarrasses his wife and where he finds the best toasted ravioli!



Almost a century after St. Louis blues were the cat’s meow in the Roaring Twenties, Al Hammerman is still up to making jazz in the city. Learn about how he has become nationally successful while remaining in the Midwest, how he embarrasses his wife and where he finds the best toasted ravioli!

al 3

Aspiring actors and singers make a fuss about moving to LA and New York, yet your songs get featured in major Hollywood productions with you living in St. Louis. How does this work? Did you have to promote your work twice as hard in the beginning to be heard?
I still think it’s probably true that there’s an advantage to being close to “where the action is,” particularly for actors and singers, as you suggest. Fortunately, however, for a composer and lyricist, with today’s high speed and high quality internet, physical proximity is at least a little less crucial when trying to convey a true representation of one’s work.

The Internet can sometimes even be more important than just being close, in the extremely fast paced entertainment world. Very often whether or not you get your music placed can depend almost as much on its instantaneous availably, as it does on quality. That said, I still make my share of trips to the coasts as there’s nothing like “being there” when you really want to make the deal.

Of course it also helps to have great PR representation and for I thank Tom Estey Publicity & Promotions.

Would you have gone into the same musical genre in your career if your parents had played other types of music during your childhood?
That’s a tough one and I think I might need to do a bit of “Nature vs. Nurture” research before I can give a definitive answer to that. However,I am very thankful that my parents generously exposed me to the wonderful music of the great american songbook and I’m certain that it has been a factor in the development of my particular music style. In fact, I’ve often been asked if I purposely try to write in the style of the standards and always have to answer the same way: “No, that’s just what comes out.”

al 2

Does your wife get bashful when you sing the song you wrote about her?
In a word, “yes,” and I’ve been told that at many of my concerts she can be seen sinking deeper and deeper into her seat. But I do think it’s a composer’s privilege and right to be able to embarrass his wife on stage – and that goes for his kids too! Kidding aside though, she does seem to take all of my musical escapades in stride and more importantly provides me the most perfect blend of emotional support; never letting me get either too “high” in the good times and more importantly never too “low” during the dry spells.

Does she sample your songs before you release them? Has she ever convinced you to put out a well written song you didn’t feel was good at first?
I don’t think Julia would ever try to convince me to release a song that I didn’t feel “good” about, however, perhaps in a related manner she did one day convince me of something else. I had already been writing and producing songs for many years and for the most part, when a song was finished I might play it for my family and a few friends and then basically tuck it in a drawer and moved on to another. Perhaps I was getting a bit discouraged, when one day I just decided I was ready to quit writing all together as my “passion” was becoming quite expensive and I was running out of drawer space. I had been working on a new song called “Nothing But Time” which was a bit more jazzy than my others and I was just about to abandon it altogether when Julia simply explained things to me this way: “I buy shoes because that’s what I like to do. You write music because that’s what you like to do,” and she then went on to painfully convince me that I wasn’t even coming close to winning the prize on spending. Well, once finished, that song I was about to set aside, seemed to generate quite a bit of interest and enthusiasm around town and marked a true turning point in my song writing career. From that point on, I’ve continued to write songs, Julia has continued to buy shoes, and for better or for worse, neither of us have any intention of quitting.

Are all great artists only inspired by a current situation? Do you ever write about things that happened many years ago?
I guess inspiration might come form the same place that dreams do, both unexpected and unpredictable, sparked by people and events that are important in our lives. Often it’s related to something that’s currently happened in my life but not always.

I’m sure the song writing process is a little different for everyone, but when I write, I sort of “play around” at the piano till I hear something I like– some sort of musical phrase that catches my ear. I can’t force it to happen and more often than not, it’s accidental. I then build on that phrase till I have a complete song. The lyrics usually come after that and often depend on the mood of the music as well as my own. In finding just the “right words” I try to expand on an interesting or meaningful phrase that I might have heard and written down, thinking that it may one day make for a good song concept. In that manner, one recent song was inspired many years ago by my daughter Rachel (now all grown up) when she was just five years old. We were driving in the car when she noticed the moon up above and asked, “Dad, is the moon following us or are we following it?” I was captivated by the question and wrote it down, but not till many years latter did it become the basis for my song “Mr. Moon.”

When you write your first musical, what will it be about?
I have played with the idea of writing a musical for many years, always keeping my eyes and ears open for an original storyline or existing work that might be suitable for musical adaptation. I’m quite certain that my entire family is sick of hearing the words “that would make a good musical” come from my mouth. I actually have several different outlines for musicals already in the works, however the story lines for them all tend to adhere to the old writers adage “write what you know.” So there’s no doubt that whatever musical I eventually put forth will at least in some part relate to my own life experiences – which only means that it will be a musical comedy, of course!

al 1

What song styles will you write for the characters? How will they vary?
It’s hard to answer that question without actually having a given storyline in mind, however, I can say that my preference for musical songs might be a little out of step with the currently “accepted” way of thinking. Rogers and Hammerstein are given credit for re-working the musical theater genre. They wrote songs (which I love) that conveyed both plot and character rather than simply acting as a diversion from the story, such as the songs that might have been written with Roger’s former collaborator, Lorenz Hart. But the fact is that its those earlier songs have become a large part of the Great American Songbook ( i.e. Manhattan; Bewitched,Bothered and Bewildered; Where or When; My Funny Valentine) , while the later show tunes have a harder time “standing alone”. As much as possible, my hope is to write songs that can be meaningful and enjoyed both in and outside the context of the show.

Had to ask. Where is your favorite spot to grab St. Louis style toasted ravioli? Schnucks at the Frontenac location was my pick for a while.
I actually live just down the street from that Schnucks (which also makes great sushi) and while I think I can honestly say that I have never met a toasted ravioli I didn’t like, my current favorite spot is the great old St. Louis stand-by, Rich & Charlie’s.

Continue Reading


What’s Brian Tryin’? The Crispy Sandwich Maker by Apod!



This weekend I tried out a new product that’s been crowdsourcing on IndieGogo. (The link is here.)

It’s called a Crispy Sandwich Maker, made by Apod.

I always love trying out a new gadget, so it was fun to see how this one would play out.  What makes this one a bit different than most sandwich makers is that this only requires just one single slice of bread to make a compact, easy to eat snack that can be sweet or savory. It can be used over a gas stove flame, or, with caution, a campfire, although the design’s arm length better lends itself to a smaller flame like a home kitchen stove.

Because I love a s’more, I decided to do an interpretation of that using  nutella spread and marshmallow spread. My friend John and I were happily making these little sandwiches in the kitchen while I friends taste tested the results along the way.

While the product description says that it requires no oil, we did decide to butter the bread to give a nice brown color to the sandwich, although it could easily be done without it.

The results of the nutella and marshmallow spread crispy sandwiches were consistent and delicious. After about two minutes per side, sandwiches were golden brown and the inside filling was oozy and delicious.

Then it was on to make a savory snack in the form of a crispy ham and cheese with dijon. Again, about two minutes on each side over the flame was just enough to brown the bread and warm up the savory fillings.

This was a fun gadget to play with, and the results were delicious. All in all, everyone gave the results a thumbs up!

To be part of this indiegogo campaign, visit this link!

Continue Reading


Get The Look! A Buyer’s Guide To Brian Balthazar’s Philadelphia Home Redesign



As the world was forced to spend more time at home, Brian Balthazar found himself in a position where he had sold a house before the lockdown and had to find a new one.

“We sold our home with all the furniture in it, so not only did we find ourselves struggling to find a new place, once we found one we didn’t have any furniture to put in it.”

And so, Brian and partner Dennis got resourceful, turning to refurbishing and buying store floor models. They were inspired to make bold, fun choices in color and style when they started shopping around for wallpaper.

Below is the segment as it appeared on the Today Show, and further down, a rundown of where you can find the pieces or ones with a similar look!


Let’s start with the Dining Room!

Move the slider dividing the image to see all of the before or all of the after!

Brian saysThe dining room was the first space we wanted to do. I haven’t had a true dining room since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted a big table for dinner parties! There were no tables within the price range we wanted, so we found a floor model at one of our favorite go-to stores, Arhaus. We easily saved 75 percent on this table by getting the one that they weren’t going to carry anymore. The chairs are from Wayfair.  On each side of the fireplace (not seen in the photo, but visible in the Today Show video) are two black tall lanterns flanking the fireplace. I got them at Target. I can’t currently find them on their app, but similar versions pop up every year. Get thee to Homegoods! Homegoods and Homesense (same parent company) are my go-to spots for home accessories for virtually every room in the house. You never know what you’re going to find, which is part of the fun.

But let’s focus on the real WOW element to this room – the wallpaper! This pattern is called Bellewood, by RebelWalls.   As you will soon see, I’m sort of obsessed with their patterns. To me, this room is magical with the added whimsy of this forest pattern. (They also have a more muted version with grays and even one with blues.) I also love that by hanging the paper from the chair rail up, you almost get the feeling that you’re standing on a balcony overlooking the forest. I surrounded the whole room with this paper, which I love, but you could easily add the same magical feeling by just doing one feature wall. Their website shows how it can translate to a bedroom or office. You might be intimidated by hanging wallpaper but don’t be! This pattern has so much going on that it really looks perfect when it goes up!



Brian says: The guest bedroom is on the top floor of the house, so it’s got roof lines on two sides that make it a tricky space to navigate if you’re not careful. The planning of this space alone resulted in a few bonked heads. On the upside, the wall where the bed goes is tall, so it was an obvious place to create some visual pop. Again, the wallpaper takes the spotlight.  Called “Nude Roses,” also by RebelWalls, I love this design. Floral wallpaper was ‘big’ in popularity back in the 1920s when this house was built, but the patterns at that time were smaller, repeated more often, and were often really bold in color. This interpretation is so fun to me! Gone are the small roses in favor of oversized blooms, and the bold colors are more subdued pink and gray hues, with touches of dark green and creamy whites.

While roses can inherently feel feminine, the plaid bedding (30 dollars for a queen set from Target) are a surprising complement that keeps everything from feeling a little stereotypical. The side tables are mismatched – partly because we didn’t want to go too “matchy=matchy” – but also to save some money – the one on the left side (hard to catch here) was from West Elm. Normally $199, we got it for half off as the floor model. The one on the right we found in the trash. It was perfectly fine, clearly someone had just gotten tired of it! Nothing some disinfectant can’t fix. That gave us some extra money to spend – To reduce the softeness we went with industrial lamps and edison bulbs. The lamps  are called “Ginyard,” from Wayfair. The headboard was on sale at Arhaus. The dark gray takes balances out the pink hues well. The pillows are from Target and Homegoods.

For the 360 degree view of this room, watch the Instagram reel below!  You’ll see the dresser, on sale for $599 from Arhaus, a lamp from Homegoods, and mobiles from Amazon which we fashioned into a ‘piece of art’ that keeps you from hitting your head on the angled wall opposite the bed. Watch the video to check it out!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Brian Balthazar (@brianbalthazar)



Brian says: The idea for the basement game room was to create a space that feels like a lounge you might find if you went out with friends. When you go into this basement it definitely feels like you’ve gone someplace unique! Believe it or not, I found out the Today Show had invited me to to record my house tour just a few days in advance, and so we turned around this spot in just THREE days! There was literally no pool table at the time, (although it had already been scheduled to come on Friday, the wallpaper came on Saturday, (as well as the floor tiles!) and by Sunday we were covered in paint and glue and drinking wine to celebrate it’s completion! I recorded the final video that Monday.

Some people might not think to take a bright basement and make it dark, but that was our first instinct. Clubs are dark and moody, and we wanted this to feel like that. We painted the walls Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore, which is a very dark gray that seems to take on different hues based on where you paint it and the light that shines on it. We painted the ceiling black. This was Thursday night! Then Friday the pool table came. The floor tiles (“Tweed Indeed” in black by Flor) hadn’t arrived until the next day, so when they did arrive I meticulously trimmed four tiles to fit around the pool table legs so it looks like they were there the whole time. I had ordered the pool table online weeks before from and by sheer coincidence it was scheduled to arrive in time for me to shoot the redesign. This was the second time I have ordered a pool table from them (which was initially scary because you’re not even seeing it beforehand!) but it always arrives in perfect condition to your specific selections. I love that the felt jet black and keeps things dark and moody. In the time that has passed since this photo was taken, I’ve added more of the carpet tiles to make the carpeted floor area darker and bigger.

But once again, the wall mural steals the show in a marvelous way! This mural is called “A Priori” from Rebelwalls, and is inspired by The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power, a famous fresco by Italian artist Pietro da Cortona. Fitting, because this house is Italian in style on the outside. You can’t see it from this photo but the wallpaper runs up part of the ceiling as well. It truly gives the room a wow factor when you enter it. The lamps are from Homegoods, (we’ve since added some industrial floor lamps for extra mood lighting) and the piano was something we brought with us. The bar tables are from Amazon ($72 each) and the stools we brought with us – they were discards from someone who didn’t like their original bright colors and thought they were dated! We covered them ourselves with gray plaid fabric and they’re better than they were new!


So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the rooms and find something you like!

Continue Reading


Well Sh-t, Leslie Jordan Has Shared Three Videos Of Himself Dancing In One Week And They’re All Perfect



Doing much better now, Leslie.

If you’ve never believed that “good things come in small packages” then you’ve never seen Leslie Jordan’s instagram. The 4’11” actor known for his iconic roles in shows like Will & Grace and American Horror Story has recently developed a whole new fanbase who loves him for his viral Instagram videos. Usually starting each video by greeting fans with “Well shit, how y’all doing?”, viewers have grown to anticipate Jordan’s hilarious recounting of stories from his time in show biz or growing up in the south. This week, however, the Tennessee native has shared 3 videos of himself dancing within 5 days and honestly it’s precisely what we all need right now.

The first video was posted on August 12th and shows Jordan taking part of the “Git up and dance challenge” which swept the internet about a year ago. Even though he is a little late, the video is still perfection.

On August 13th, Jordan does a dance to “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from Hairspray a with special guest dance partner Katie Couric!

Finally, on August 15th, Jordan does an epic “tootsie roll” and challenges Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills star, Lisa Rinna, to do the tootsie roll herself. Of course Rinna commented with a big “ON IT ❤️😂.” Who could say no to the viral star?!?

The moral of the story here is that the world is going through some tough times right now but maybe, even for a few seconds, we could all feel better if we’d just dance it out. Thanks for the inspo Leslie Jordan!

Like what you read? Follow me on Instagram

Continue Reading