Today, American Express announced the Artist in Residence Summit that culminates with the second cycle of the American Express UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence program, featuring music artists, BØRNS, Gavin James, Pia Mia and Rae Sremmurd. On August 20, all four artists will take the stage at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, California to perform for American Express® Card Members.
“American Express has a long heritage of supporting music artists on their creative journeys,” said Walter Frye, vice president, sponsorships and branded entertainment, American Express. “We are excited to continue the Artists in Residence program in 2015 by welcoming four incredibly talented artists BØRNS, Gavin James, Pia Mia and Rae Sremmurd to the American Express family. We’re helping these artists connect with more fans, cultivate their craft and grow their personal brand, while also creating authentic, live and digital music experiences for fans around the world.”
Launched last year as an extension of American Express UNSTAGED, Artists in Residence will tell the stories of these four artists on their journey to stardom, while introducing their music to legions of new fans and engaging the loyalists already in their music camps. This year’s Artists in Residence program will include:
- American Express UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence Day August 20
- New Digital Content: The morning of August 20, fans can visit the newly updated American Express UNSTAGED website which has an Artists in Residence page, www.amexunstaged.com/AIR to discover a series of videos featuring all four artists describing their journeys to the stage and the inspiration behind their music. In addition, the American Express UNSTAGED App will now allow fans to discover new content and learn more about the AIR program.
- American Express UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence Summit: Leveraging American Express’ deep relationships in the music and digital industries, the Summit will offer these artists and their teams access to insights and best practices from companies like YouTube, Billboard, Pandora, Instagram and Twitter to help introduce their music to new fans and engage existing fans in their social spheres. In addition, key figures within the music industry including Vice Chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M, Steve Berman, producer and songwriter Emile Haynie, music video director Diane Martel; fashion stylist Brandy St. John and music marketing and creative director Kelly Covell will participate in one-on-one sessions during the Summit to provide valuable insight and guidance to the artists.
- Live Performance: At 7:30 p.m. ET (8/20), fans will have the chance to see each of the four artists perform on stage at El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, California. Due to filming in the venue, doors will close promptly at 7:30 p.m. ET.
- #AmexAIR Unlocks: Beginning August 20, fans can help these artists access unique opportunities like an artist takeover of the Instagram account of Vevo, the all-premium music video and entertainment platform. Fans can help unlock these special experiences for each of the four artists by mentioning the artist’s name with #AmexAIR on Twitter and Facebook from August 20, until all the opportunities are unlocked. Fans can visit www.amexunstaged.com/AIR or download the UNSTAGED App to learn more and track how close the artists are to unlocking each opportunity.
- Performance Video On Demand: For fans that are unable to attend the concert, they can watch select footage from all four artists’ live performances starting August 24 at www.amexunstaged.com/AIR, the UNSTAGED App, Vevo and on Amex NOW, the brand’s always-on television channel through select service providers.
Since its creation in 2010 in partnership with Vevo and YouTube, American Express Unstaged has been a creative collaboration between artists and directors to deliver a unique music experience for fans through the use of digital technology. Previous Unstaged events partnered high profile music artists and directors such as Pharrell Williams and Spike Lee, Kings of Leon and Fred Armisen, Vampire Weekend and Steve Buscemi, The Killers and Werner Herzog, Usher and Hamish Hamilton and Kenny Chesney and Jonathan Demme, and many more.
Additional background on this cycle’s American Express UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence:
BØRNS, Growing up in coastal Michigan, Garrett Borns moved from one inspiration to another. His first artistic love was visual arts and then came music thanks to an eccentric piano teacher. At the age of fifteen BØRNS attended the prestigious summer program at Interlochen Center for the Arts to study filmmaking while writing songs on the side with the music majors. Playing local gigs through high school and college, BØRNS ended up in a secluded treehouse home in the Los Angeles canyons where he wrote his debut Candy EP, a set that filters the singer’s naturally moody, sensual sound through “an explosion of sunlight,” as he puts it. BØRNS’ single “Electric Love” is taking over radio airwaves and garnering praise from the media with NPR stating the song is “catchy and clever,” and Spin noting BØRNS “writes brilliant pop songs that worm their way into your heart in an instant.” BØRNS spent most of 2015 on the road sharing the bill with Misterwives, Charli XCX and Bleachers and playing festivals like Lollapalooza and the upcoming Bumbershoot, Life Is Beautiful and Austin City Limits. BØRNS is currently putting the finishing touches on his debut album which will be released this fall on Interscope Records.
Gavin James, already on his way to becoming one of 2015’s international crossover-stories, Gavin James is a 22-year-old artist who grew up in a Dublin suburb. Music was arguably in Gavin’s blood: his maternal great-grandparents were both famous Irish Opera singers. James began playing guitar at age eight. After years of playing Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin covers in the garden shed, he joined a band while in his teens and was drafted as its singer.
Inspired by local heroes like Damien Rice and classic soul artists such as Sam Cooke, Gavin played marathon three-hour shows at Dublin’s pubs during college, often performing seven nights a week. His original material soon began to draw an impassioned following. James’ very first single won Ireland’s Choice Prize for Song Of The Year. Say Hello, James’ Irish debut EP, charted for more than six months, leading to a string of sold-out headline dates and supporting tours with such artists as Lianne La Havas, Beth Orton and Marina & The Diamonds.
In 2014, James recorded a rapturously received hometown show at Whelans. The resulting album, Live at Whelans – released by Capitol Records in the U.S. and by GS Believe internationally – climbed to #1 on iTunes in Ireland shortly after the pre-order launched. Diffuser.FM hailed Live at Whelans as “intriguing…an addictive first tug in what promises to be a lengthy assault on listeners’ heartstrings.” James is the first artist ever to sell out the historic Olympia Theatre in Dublin before releasing a studio album. While writing and recording his forthcoming debut studio album, he had a national TV performance on The Late, Late Show with James Corden and continues to tour Europe and the U.S., including support slots opening this past spring for Kodaline, Tori Kelly and Sam Smith’s summer 2015 US tour.
Pia Mia, 18, is a recording artist, entrepreneur, songwriter, fashion icon, dancer, actress, Krav Maga instructor and Island girl. Born and raised on the tropical island of Guam in the West Pacific, Pia Mia grew up on strong family values and Chamorro culture. Here, she fostered an early love of music, joining school and community musicals and theater while posting her own covers songs on YouTube. After quickly becoming a viral sensation, Pia Mia left home to bring her childhood dreams and island roots to Los Angeles.
Soon after her arrival, she worked with Disney, the Groundlings and signed a one-year production deal with Babyface. In 2013, Pia Mia saw breakthrough success with her viral cover of Drake’s “Hold on We’re Going Home” and Ryan Seacrest debuting her independent single, “Red Love.” Her companion video debuted on Vevo, garnering more than 12 million YouTube views and over four million Soundcloud streams.
At age 17, she formed her record label Wolfpack Entertainment, signing herself as its first artist, in addition to joining major label Interscope Records. Billboard Magazine named Pia Mia one of eight “acts who will help define 2014.” Pia Mia performed consistently throughout the year, even returning to her home island to play the international music festival, Guam Live.
In May 2015, Pia Mia’s first official single for Interscope, “Do It Again,” featuring Chris Brown and Tyga, received much praise from critics, was selected for Clear Channel’s “On The Verge” artist for Rhythm radio and now has over 33 million views on Vevo.
Rae Sremmurd: Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee were born in California, but moved to Tupelo, Mississippi at an early age, where they were raised in the notorious Ida Street housing projects, some of the worst, most crime-ridden in the state. Making matters worse, Sremmurd’s parents split while the brothers were still young, a devastating turn of events that found the brothers seeking shelter in abandoned homes. Music, from a young age, became a way for Jxmmi and Lee to escape the desperation of their surroundings. “When we were growing up, it was just about perseverance,” says Slim Jxmmi.
The brothers began throwing parties and shows around town, often in the same abandoned buildings where they once stayed. The pair always had larger ambitions and so the brothers taught themselves how to record, make beats, and DJ, building enough buzz to earn an appearance on BET’s 106 & Park. Lee and Jxmmi were introduced to Mike WiLL, and the multi-platinum producer immediately signed the duo to his label, Ear Drummer Records.
Rae Sremmurd’s first single under the Ear Drummer Records, “No Flex Zone,” was a breakout for the duo, becoming a cultural touchstone throughout 2014 and entering Billboard’s Hot 100 and Top 40, earning the brothers a performance on the 2014 BET Hip-Hop Awards. “No Type,” proved even bigger, peaking at number 16 on Billboard’s Top 40 charts and earning the duo their first late night appearance on The Tonight Show. In 2015, Rae Sremmurd released their first album, SremmLife, with a top 5 debut on the Billboard Top 200 and a number 1 debut on Billboard Hip-Hop. "Throw Sum Mo," featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug, emerged as their third consecutive single to break into the top 10 at urban radio and second consecutive single to peak at #1. “It’s the energy, that’s what #SremmLife is all about” says Swae Lee.
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