An Interview with viral karaoke star, Mary Halsey

Esther Watrous –Anchor Staff

West Warwick resident Mary Halsey is known for her karaoke video that went viral in summer 2018. The video reached over seven million views in only two days. Fans of the video reached out to Ellen Degeneres, asking her to have Halsey on her show. Halsey became known as “Missy’s funky white sister,” after Missy Elliot tweeted a response to Halsey’s song choice, a 2002 hit called “Work It.”

The Anchor: When did you become interested in karaoke?

Mary Halsey: The first time I ever sang karaoke was probably in 1989 and I was at a local lesbian bar that’s no longer around, and I got up and I chose to sing “The Rose,” by Bette Midler. My knees were shaking, and I was so nervous, but as I looked around and saw all the love and support I was getting from everyone in that place. It was like I got a karaoke bug.

The Anchor: So what made you start singing fun songs like “Work It?”

Mary Halsey: It was probably 2003, and I was living in Pawtucket at the time and a young woman named, Susie B, was the karaoke DJ and she was having a contest. So I decided to sing “Work It.” The reason I did that song was because of the reaction I got, it was so positive. It touched people.

The Anchor: How did you react when Missy Elliot gave you a shoutout on Twitter for your video?

Mary Halsey: That’s funny, see, I did not have Twitter or Instagram at that point. I had just Facebook. A complete stranger sent me a message on messenger and said, “Yo Mary, Missy Saw you.” And I was like, Missy saw me? What does that mean? I went and I looked at my views on that video and it was up to a million. Literally within minutes I would go and look at the views and it would be 200,000 more.

The Anchor: What was it like meeting Ellen on her show? Was it how you imagined?

Mary Halsey: Well, I didn’t meet her until I walked onto the stage. As I walked out, everybody was in standing ovation and I put my arms out like I was on the cross. I felt my butterflies and nerves just drain through me. I looked over to Ellen and I smirked at her and she smirked at me and shook her head like she couldn’t believe it.

The Anchor: Did you talk to Missy Elliot after she sang on stage with you during the show?

Mary Halsey: Well, when I got back to the dressing room, someone knocked at the door and they said, “Missy would like to see you in her dressing room,” and I was like, I’ll be right there. I asked Missy if I could show her what I call “Magic Mary,” which is this thing that I’ve been doing since I was around 13, this therapeutic touch or blessing. I had no idea that she was actually filming it, and she posted the tweet of me giving her the blessing. That was cool as heck.

The Anchor: When did you start using the shofar? And how did it become an element of your karaoke?

Mary Halsey: In 2008 I started to attend a small Messianic congregation, which is Christians and Jews together. The shofar was an element of the worship and because I used to play the trumpet and the French horn, I’m very good at it. I use it to bless people and to bring people together in unity and oneness.

The Anchor: Viral videos often get lost within the fast pace of the internet. What would you like people to remember from watching you sing? In other words, how do you want your passion to ultimately affect your viewers?

Mary Halsey: I believe that what really touched people was, it made people laugh. It brought laughter into people’s world. It just seems like a silly little video. A lot of people are like, what the heck is the big deal about this song? But I don’t think it’s really the song. I think it was them seeing me just be me. The universality of the language of laughter is the thing I want people to unite around.

An A&E Adventure: Too Many Zooz

Alec Ematrudo –A&E Editor

Around a month ago, my assistant Jonathan Weaver brought to my attention that a band called Too Many Zooz was coming to perform at the Fete Music Hall in Providence. I had no clue who they were, but he assured me that they were awesome and that I had definitely seen their viral video that made them a global sensation. I was hooked and we immediately fell down a very enjoyable YouTube hole of their music videos.

Weirdly enough, three days later I received an email from someone involved with the band or the venue, asking if the paper wanted to do a preview piece for the show and get some press passes. Long story short, we agreed and were able to interview one of the members of Too Many Zooz, Leo Pellegrino. The phone interview was a lot of fun and you can find that in our April 8 issue.

Finally, this past Thursday, after listening to their music, we were able to see Too Many Zooz in person, as well as a similar band called Moonhooch. I haven’t been to many concerts, but I have been fortunate enough to see bands such as Green Day and U2 live.

I have a bold statement to make: the nearly four hour set performed by both Too Many Zooz and Moon Hooch was one of if not the best performances I’ve seen in person. Weaver and I were fortunate enough to be as close as we could possibly get to the stage and the guys from both bands really left everything out on the stage. The bass that emitted from the speakers on the stage and around the room, was the kind that you really feel throughout your body. That, coupled with an extremely well done lightshow, amazing performances, and a really good energy in the crowd, added up to be an amazing time.

Moonhooch opened up the night with an hour and twenty five minute set that was high energy the whole time and really set the mood for the rest of the night. Then after a short break,  Too Many Zooz came out and played for another hour and a half with some amazing solos from each member. The night ended with both bands playing together in what can only be described as a symphony of awesome.

I highly recommend that if you haven’t listened to the music from either band, you definitely should. It’s such a unique sound and energy that there really isn’t anything else like it.

Music from Too Many Zooz and Moonhooch is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp.

Game of Thrones is back!

Alec Ematrudo – A&E Editor

Graphic courtesy of HBO

Last Sunday, “Game of Thrones” returned for its eighth and final season. It had nearly been a two year wait for this final season and for some fans such as myself, it did not fly by. The show had enjoyed ten episode seasons up until its seventh season, which ended with seven episodes and now this final season only has six episodes. By the time this review is published, there will only be four short weeks left until we are all left happy and broken or maybe just broken, by the series finale.

The season premiere of season eight was, in my opinion, a solid episode. It didn’t blow me away by any means, but was satisfying to watch. This episode was largely a catchup episode, but not for viewers; for the characters. We got to watch several long awaited reunions between characters and got several very important conversations between characters.

That might all sound a bit boring, but I do think it was rather smart to get most of these interactions done immediately, so that when things hit the fan in an episode or two, things won’t need to slow down again.

Without spoiling anything, I will say that the episode does have a certain feeling of dread lurking in the background. As a result, each character interaction is given more depth because as viewers, we know most of these characters will die in the coming weeks. We don’t know if any of these conversations will be their last.

All in all, I did really enjoy “Throne’s” latest offering and I am very excited for the weeks to come and to finally learn who will win the Game of Thrones.

Graduate Spotlight: Tracy Soe

Alison Macbeth –Asst. Opinions Editor

Determined, resilient and empowering. These are three words that describe Tracy Soe, a member of Rhode Island College’s 2019 graduating class, because not many graduates can say they founded a school.

Tracy was born in Liberia, but fled with her parents as a three year old to Côte d’Ivoire due to the civil war that erupted in 1990. Tracy lived in Côte d’Ivoire, where her mother was from, until 2005. Then, at the age of eighteen, Tracy moved to the U.S. and graduated from CCRI in 2016 before transferring to RIC.

Photos provided by Tracy Soe

Tracy is graduating from RIC with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In addition to her undergraduate degree, Tracy will also have certificates in Non-profit Organization studies and International Nongovernmental Organization studies.

Despite her persistence, Tracy admits that her education journey has been hard at times. “It has been a little challenging at RIC because I work two jobs and am a single mother of two,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy. But I’m grateful that I will be completing this coming May.”

In the midst of her full life, Tracy founded a school called Ghenyonnon Memorial Foundation in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The school was founded a few months after her mother’s death in 2013. “It was a dream I had because one of her greatest regrets was education. She wasn’t educated and most people took advantage of her, so she struggled throughout her life to educate her kids. I built the school in remembrance of her.” Currently, the school has 101 children in attendance and fifteen hard working teachers.

It took Tracy five years to complete the elementary school. She is currently working to add on junior and senior high school. But Tracy’s dream doesn’t stop there. “I’m also planning on building another’s school by next year, if God permits me.”

An Interview with Country Music Child Star and “The Voice” runner-up, Billy Gilman

Esther Watrous –A&E Staff

Rhode Island born child star, Billy Gilman, rose to fame as a country music artist and later gained spotlight in the American television show “The Voice,” winning runner-up in 2016. Gilman was born in Westerly, Rhode Island and now pursues a singing career in Los Angeles, California.

The Anchor: What was it like being signed at 12 years old to Sony Music, and what overall impact did it have on you?

Billy Gilman: It was insane. I never thought in a million years that it would happen quite that fast. Of course, I couldn’t process it at 12 years old as properly as I can process it now. It was kind of kryptonite in a way, but the positive thing about it is if you have talent, it will always rise to the top. If you were a child star because of the gimmick, and then you couldn’t rise above that gimmick, then you’re in trouble.

The Anchor: I read that you were the youngest artist ever to have a top 40 single on the “Billboard Hot Country Songs.” is that still true?

Billy Gilman: I think it still holds true. It was number one for seven weeks.

The Anchor: What did that feel like at the time?

Billy Gilman: I couldn’t tell you. I knew I was always in awe about what was going on, but I can’t truthfully remember certain moments. I think I was totally in it for the music and not for the accolades, even back then.

The Anchor: Did coming out as gay impact your career as an artist?

Billy Gilman: My career had to go through a shift. That was very difficult because I was trying to make it in country music and it just wasn’t happening. After I came out, my team came to me and said, “Well, we never knew if you were or not so we weren’t going to bring it up to you. But you have no idea of the stigma of, is he gay or is he not gay? It just circles around your name all the time in this town, and people just don’t want to deal with it.” I just thought that was so abrasive because I have so many great country songs that I have written that will probably never see the light of day just because they don’t want that module on their radios. I had to let my fans know that I hit a roadblock, not because of my talents or my ability, but because of people’s inability to see hearts and not just dollar signs.  

The anchor: What have the ripple effects been since appearing on “The Voice” in 2016 and winning Runner-up?

Billy Gilman: Oh it’s been such a resurgence. Some of the songs I did on the show, the singles, they went to number one. I’ve recorded some wonderful songs with some great artists. It’s been nothing but positive. Again, you have to fight to show the world that you’re more than what they just saw on television.      

The Anchor: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would you say?

Billy Gilman: Push harder. I should have pushed harder. Of course I wouldn’t have known then, being a kid. I should have made my voice be known a lot louder to my whole team.

The Anchor:  In 2017, you were honored by the Rhode Island Senate and the House of Representatives for representing Rhode Island as an artist. What was it like being honored by the state for your success?

Billy Gilman: It’s crazy. I have such a long way to go and so much more to prove. I only hope that I can continue to make the state more proud. There’s nothing greater in me than being a Rhode Islander and being a singer.

What’s new on Netflix: Love, Death + Robots

Alec Ematrudo –A&E Editor

I’ll be the first to admit that the magic of cartoons and animation has generally been lost on me in my teenage years, and now early twenties. I hadn’t really felt the urge to watch anything that wasn’t live action. However, that all changed when the trailer to Netflix’s “Love, Death, + Robots” came across my phone screen.

Graphic Courtesy of Rolling Stone

This show, which premiered a week and a half ago, is an eighteen episode anthology series edited in different styles of animation. Some of the short episodes are made with photo-realistic CGI, and other episodes are designed in a traditional hand-drawn style.

“LD+R” is one of the most enjoyable television experiences I’ve had in the last year or so. Each episode is drastically different and all feature heavy uses of violence, nudity, and some genuinely good humor. The very first episode is a science-fiction story that uses incredibly realistic imagery and without spoiling anything, sets the tone for the rest of the series.

The show itself comes from the minds of two well known filmmakers, David Fincher and Tim Miller. Miller’s resume is significantly smaller than Fincher’s but most people will know him as the director of “Deadpool 1.” His style and humor is spread throughout the series. Fincher is known for films such as “Se7en,” “Gone Girl,” “Zodiac,” and “The Social Network.” These two filmmaker’s involvement really added an extra level of refinement to each short.

As an aside, and maybe just as exciting (at least within the RIC community) is that one of the episodes comes from RIC’s own Claudine Griggs. Griggs is a writing professor and director of the Writing Center here at RIC, and her writing has certainly paid off. The episode, titled “Helping Hands,” is based off her original short story, and though definitely short, is really memorable for its shocking ending and incredible CGI effect. If not sold already, perhaps this is another reason to give the show a go.

The show hasn’t been renewed for a second season yet but I’m not sure it needs one. This series could remain a one season cult classic, but there’s definitely room for more Love, Death, + Robots.

“Captain Marvel” tops the box office charts

Britt Donahue –Photo Editor

The latest highly anticipated addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been topping the box office since its March 8 release, and it’s easy to see why. “Captain Marvel,” the first female-led MCU film, is an exciting adventure that introduces new heroes and villains alongside some familiar faces.

The movie begins on the Kree planet, Hala, where our hero, played by Brie Larson, goes by the name Vers and suffers from memory loss, nightmares, and an inability to control her emotions and superpowers (according to her mentor and commanding officer, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law)). During a failed rescue mission, Vers is captured by the Skrulls, the Kree’s shape-shifting enemy and their attempt to extract a memory bring her forgotten human past to light.      

From here on, most of the film takes place on Earth, where it is clear by Vers’ crash-landing through the roof of a Blockbuster, that viewers are catching a delightful glimpse of the MCU’s past; it is before the formation of Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative and 23 years prior to the events of “Avengers: Infinity War.” Viewers even get to meet a younger Agent Fury when he teams up with this strangely dressed woman from another planet to help her uncover her mysterious past.

This movie suffers from a lot of the same problems of previous origin movies. A lot of information has to be packed into a fairly short amount of time. It has to walk the line of satisfying long-time fans of the comics while making sure new audience members don’t get lost.

Just like Chris Evans and Hemsworth in their origin movies, Brie Larson hasn’t quite found the character yet and feels a little stiff and awkward during some scenes. But she really shines when she is able to play off her co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, and especially Lashana Lynch who plays her best friend and co-pilot, Maria Rambeau. Maria and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) are her family who thought she was dead. Through reuniting with them, she remembers her real name is Carol Danvers, and is able to step up and become a real hero.

Carol’s story is resonating with a lot of people, especially women. We watch Carol struggle with sexism,  and feelings of inadequacy. She doesn’t always trust herself. Part of her journey is literally learning who she is, what she is capable of, and freeing herself from the limitations others try to place on her. One of my favorite things about the comic book version of “Captain Marvel” is that no matter how hard she falls, she always gets back up again and this trait is carried over spectacularly into the movie.

“Captain Marvel” is a great addition to the MCU. It maintains the humor and fun that its previous films are known for while expanding the universe’s history. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you do before Carol returns to Earth on Apr. 26, to save the Avengers and the world.

Truly Young at Heart

Thomas Yakey Jr. –Anchor Staff

This past Tuesday night, the Young@Heart Chorus gave a fantastic and energetic concert at Rhode Island College. The Performing Arts Series at our school brings professional groups to RIC for enjoyment of the school, as well as the community as a whole. Young@Heart is a group of senior singers, ranging in age from 73 to 92, who come together to sing and live life to the fullest.  

The group has travelled internationally from Europe to Japan and has made various appearances ranging from “The Ellen Show” to “The Daily Show.  They even have their own documentary which has been on PBS and Netflix.  They continue to perform at dozens of schools and universities, as well as retirement and community centers around the world. Young@Heart was even in E*TRADE’s Super Bowl ad, “This Is Getting Old.”

The chorus has been around for 37 years, and they will likely continue to be around for many to come.  The group comes from all various backgrounds ranging from an opera singer to a school secretary. They come with their own band and perform different music for all musical tastes.  

Along with Young@Heart, we were lucky to have The Green Sisters as special guests to accompany them. In addition, our own RIC choir had the privilege of singing two songs with these musical greats.

The concert ended with “Forever Young,” something that describes the choir in great detail, despite being only two words. Proving age to be just a number, they shared their amazing talents and put on a great concert that made all smile.

Nicholas Cage and an acid trip through hell

Alec Ematrudo –A&E Editor

It’s no secret that Nicholas Cage, a former Oscar-winner for Best Actor, has been deep within the hole of straight-to-DVD movies for the better part of the last decade. The once celebrated actor, has become a meme, the face of countless B-grade and even C-grade films, and has almost entirely descended into what many might call a series of mental breakdowns. If he had just stolen one more historical declaration, or just decided to not play Ghost Rider, things may have been different for Cage these last several years.

Graphics courtesy of infamoushorrors.com/film

That being said, Panos Cosmato’s “Mandy” which debuted last year to audience and critical acclaim, may have just launched Cage’s career into a cult-hit renaissance. Hold my beer and let me explain.     “Mandy” premiered this past year and swept film festivals by storm. Critics hailed it as a masterpiece and possibly one of Cage’s best performances in years, if not ever. This film, which you almost certainly have never heard of, pits Cage’s character; Red Miller, against a fanatical hippy cult, and several interdimensional demons who ride quad bike and motorcycles. Sounds insane right? It most certainly is. Once you add in a moody synth-wave soundtrack and an incredible use of color and psychedelic/gothic imagery, you’re in for a wild ride. There’s also a tiger and a chainsaw battle… but we don’t need to get into that right now.

“Mandy” is most certainly not for everyone. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a fun action flick. It’s a slow-burn color orgy for around seventy percent of the film. However, against all odds, this movie is satisfying and legitimately really good from both a filmmaking and narrative perspective. On top of all that, Cage does in fact give his performance his all. There’s a scene where the camera doesn’t cut away and allows Cage to have one of his signature freakouts all in frame and it’s incredibly well acted and equally as engaging to watch.

In other news, Cage is currently filming and starring in a film adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color out of Space.” All signs are indicating that this film will, like “Mandy,” be another beautifully chaotic cult hit amongst film buffs and dedicated H.P. Lovecraft fans alike. I will provide more info on that movie as it comes out but expect it to be released either later this year or first quarter of 2020.

Nicolas Cage might be making a comeback and I’m all here for it. Regardless, I highly recommend that you all should watch “Mandy.” The director has a sequel idea in mind, where it would have Cage fighting Nazi punks in a bombed out city and I for one really hope that comes to fruition.

Mandy is available for purchase on Amazon Prime and iTunes, as well as as available for streaming on Shudder.

An interview with Rhode Island-based duo, Soul Babe

Esther Watrous –Anchor Staff

Photo courtesy of Soul Babe

Local music artists, Mary Gipson and Helena Widmann, have been performing as Soul Babe, an R&B, Hip-hop, Funk, and Neo Soul group, for almost two years. Besides performing together, Widmann is a 2018 RIC graduate and a voice instructor, and Gipson is a cosmetologist and radio personality at 101.1 WBRU.

The Anchor: You’re both very talented musicians, how did you meet?

Helena Widmann: We were both a part of a showcase called, “The Wave,” curated by BO8 Studios, and we were the only two women who were a part of the show. We exchanged information and that’s how we met.

Mary Gipson: Yeah, we networked a little bit. I was really impressed. When you go to showcases, especially the hip hop and R&B community, everybody is singing over a track, but she had a guitar player, and she just brought a whole different vibe.

The Anchor: What is the meaning and purpose behind Soul Babe?

Mary Gipson: When you’re an artist, you put your soul out there to view and see and criticize. That’s one thing that I wanted to incorporate in the name of Soul Babe. The fact that she does her own thing, and I do my own thing, I thought, let’s use this as a platform together and let’s do some live stuff.

The Anchor: Are you working on any originals together?

Mary Gipson: Not yet. We both live crazy lives right now. I think this year we’re really focused on getting at least a couple originals, even if it’s just basement tapes where we’re just vibing.

The Anchor: How do you choose cover songs to sing together?

Helena Widmann: There needs to be attention put towards popularity, so, what people like. My type of vibe is much more like an acoustic setting. People want to hear upbeat dance music. They want to drink and have fun. We have to focus on incorporating music that is soulful because that’s part of the band name, but it needs to be something that people are going to recognize.

The Anchor: Who has the most stage confidence?

Helena Widmann: Mary all day. I’m just more introverted and I don’t always like people watching me like a fish bowl, but I like performing. I like to sing, but I’m not as good at entertaining.

Mary Gipson: I’m awkward too but I just make fun of myself half the time. I think I’m funny, and I was always one of those kids who was like, look at me, look what I can do. So it just comes naturally with me.

The Anchor: Helena, How did you get into teaching voice lessons?

Helena: When I was in high school, I had developed this habit of pushing when I sing and it really made my voice hoarse all the time, and limited my ability to perform and use proper dynamics. It took away a love that I had because it was painful to sing. Over time, I had to learn from different teachers to sing in a healthy way. I like to help people achieve their best sound through what I’ve learned.

The Anchor: Mary, you released the single, “Therapy” recently. Do you have any more singles coming soon or any bigger projects?

Mary Gipson: I have another single coming out very soon. I want to release a video at the same time because its a fun track and I feel like with the video and some dancers it would gain a lot more attention than just releasing the song.

The Anchor: How do you find inspiration for both your group projects and your independent projects?

Mary Gipson: We all have separate lives. We all do what we need to do, especially with the band, it’s hard keeping everyone together and on the same page. You just have to keep that inspiration alive. I would say other bands that we go and watch inspire us to keep what we have going.

Helena Widmann: I write poetry a lot. That’s something that I enjoy doing because there’s no pressure. But I know that if I can take something that I wrote and turn it into a song, then I’ve already done half my work.