Satellite / Jillette Johnson

There is a lot of individual talent in SATELLITE. So much, in fact, that one might wonder why it is they would bother to 'give up' their day jobs as thriving musicians and songwriters, to navigate the slippery slope of being a new band. It's pretty clear that to make it in the music business, you not only need great songs and musicianship, but you have to have that something special, that passion, that never-back-down mojo. Collectively, SATELLITE has it all, in spades.

Playing together for the past year in Los Angeles, SATELLITE got their start with Mitch inviting his friend Steven to a songwriter showcase he was hosting. Says Steven, "When I was done, you could hear a pin drop. I didn't know what it meant, but I felt good about it." Mitch suggested they work together, they pulled in Josh, an in-demand session guitarist once signed to Columbia Records, and then hired Justin Glasco to drum, recruiting him to record the EP shortly thereafter.

It's interesting that with such unique individual success, SATELLITE is where they choose to make their home. Steven and Mitch, who are both with the same publishing company, had known each other socially for years. Each did quite well in their own right; Steven was signed to Epic early in his career, and then found his niche writing songs for such varied artists including Street Drum Corps, Melee, David Archuleta, Crosby Loggins and international superstar Celine Dion. As for Mitch, since he began writing and producing, he has been nominated for a Grammy, won an ASCAP "pop" award for the Bowling For Soup song "1985," written 4 top five singles, and was also the lead singer of the platinum selling rock band SR-71. And while he has written and produced songs for a who's who of the music industry including Pink, Faith Hill, The Jonas Brothers, Daughtry, Joe Cocker, Simple Plan and more, he is emphatic: "I have sold over 15 million records, and worked with some of the biggest artists in almost every genre of music, but SATELLITE is what I am the most proud of."

The result is the self-produced EP, RING THE BELLS, with its outstanding single "Say The Words." The anthemic show-stopper builds to an energetic crescendo that has the crowd on its feet at every show and is the benchmark for the whole of the EP. Instead of relying on volume for emotional release, the band explores texture and complex melodies, putting forth songs that express a wide range of emotions, while retaining their own untarnished clarity.

SATELLITE's distinct sound has been called a mash-up between "Kings of Leon + Snow Patrol" and, "Springsteen meets the UK." Continuing to gain momentum in Southern California, the band has quickly built a fan base through television and film placements, and media buzz surrounding their live shows. Rare is the artist who sounds as good live as on your iPod, but SATELLITE swings it. The LA Examiner named them one of the 20 Bands to Watch in 2011 and they've been championed by Radar Online, Alternative Press, Kings of A&R and several other influential blogs. Touring around the west coast and an appearance at SXSW, have kept the band busy; the second half of 2011 found them finishing up their full-length album, a continuation of sorts to the RING THE BELLS EP, that will complete the album "thematically and sonically" according to Mitch.

With music that is both bracing and soaring, matched with lyrics that are vulnerable and raw, sung by Steven with an emotion that gets you right inside every song, SATELLITE is as close to a sure bet as this crazy business has ever seen.

"There is no substitute for honesty in music. Every once in a while a song speaks to you; reminds you of how you really feel. We truly hope SATELLITE becomes a voice for the joy, heartache, beauty and truth of life."

Satellite's new album, "Calling Birds" is came out on March 5 via Descendant/Sony Records. Their music video for their single "Say The Words" currently has over 1.5 million YouTube views.

Jillette Johnson

For Jillette Johnson the journey has been as integral to her musical experience as the destination. Jillette, who began taking music lessons and penning songs as a child, has been performing live since she was 12, captivating audiences with her sultry, thoughtful piano-driven tunes. The musician, now 23, has spent the last decade cultivating her sound and defining her unique perspective. When she moved to New York City from her small town of Pound Ridge, NY at 18, Jillette was already familiar with the city and its clubs, from Sidewalk Cafe to The Bitter End to Rockwood Music Hall.

In early 2012, Jillette inked a deal with Wind-Up Records, who were drawn in by her standout track "Cameron," an inspirational number that explores the struggle of a transgendered person. The song appeared on the singer's five-track EP, Whiskey & Frosting, which came out in August 2012, a prelude to her debut album Water In A Whale, out June 25, 2013. Culled from six months worth of recording sessions at Wind-Up's New York studio, the album traces Jillette's experiences and ideas about living in the city and being young in today's society. She finished the album fall 2012, just before going out on tour, and as it turned out those weeks on the road shifted the musician's sensibilities.

"There's this funny thing that happens when you go on the road," Jillette says. "Because you're not around the people that you're normally around and you're in a different environment and you're constantly being creative and putting out things. Your voice starts to change, both literally and figuratively. I just started growing really rapidly and my perspective started changing a lot. I got back two weeks before Christmas and I knew that we had to have everything done by the first of the year. So I had six months to make the record and two weeks to change everything. A lot of artists don't get that opportunity, to be able to have the album that they made and come back and make tweaks. That's pretty rare and I got to do it."

The final album, which features the five tracks found on Whiskey & Frosting, centers on Jillette's soaring vocals and the sparse, haunting piano lines she wrote to accompany them. Produced by Peter Zizzo (Vanessa Carlton, Avril Lavigne) and Michael Mangini (Joss Stone, David Byrne), the album reveals Jillette's pensive reflections on the world around her, all of which lead to a deeper understand of self-identity. "Cameron," the disc's lead single, was written both from personal experience with someone the musician knows and from the idea of what it means to grapple with who you are. The glowing number focuses on what it means to be authentic to one's self, a universal theme.

"I do have someone in my life that's transgendered and I've learned a lot from this person," Jillette says. "But I think I actually wrote 'Cameron' more about myself and about that feeling of being alien in your own skin. It's been really awesome to play that song around the country and meet people who share stories that may have to do with being transgendered or may have to do with feeling a little bit different."

The real power comes from those songs about the musician herself, however and the rest of the album follows in tone. "When the Ship Goes Down," a hushed ballad, plays with the idea of the immortality you feel when you're young while the sultry "Bassett Hound" offers an unbalanced account of unrequited love, based on, as Jillette says, "every time I showed too many of my cards and wanted someone too much." The ethereal "Pauvre Coeur" treads similar ground, excising the anger the singer felt about a relationship that started to "devour" her. "True North," a soaring and epic number written in that urgent two-week period last winter, touches on what it means to return home, a fulcrum for the musician's ideas about her identity. "It's about coming home and accepting the failures that you endure along the way," Jillette says. "And realizing that you're gonna have a place to come home to, and that's the home inside your own head when all the other voices go away. Because they're not you so they don't care enough to stay that long. You're still going to have your own voice and that's what coming home means to me."

Jillette, who's toured with Delta Rae among others, brings her impassioned live aesthetic onto the album, infusing each number with a sense of intimacy and fervor. The songs shift from light-hearted buoyancy of "Bassett Hound" to the heavy urgency of "Cameron," showcasing a viable array of musical – and lyrical – inspiration. For Jillette, whose years of experience and practice have set her up for what's to come, the goal is to bring these songs to life for as many people as possible.

"The next year or two I think are wide open, in terms of what amazing things could happen," the singer says. "And I think it's just up to me to work hard every day and have a lot of luck. I hope to really build my live show. I can't get to hung up on what exactly will happen. It's really just about every day playing my heart out and connecting with fans over human experiences."

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Satellite / Jillette Johnson with Corey James, Mia Z

Wednesday, August 21 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Hard Rock Cafe Pittsburgh