Alexa Spieler Writing Samples (1) (PDF)

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1375 Sally Court | East Meadow, NY 11554 | | 516-456-2341

Gavin DeGraw talks collaborations, songs
Alexa Spieler, Music Editor
October 29, 2014
With five studio albums under his belt at age 37, Gavin DeGraw released his greatest hits album, “Finest
Hour: The Best of Gavin DeGraw.” After the album’s release on Oct. 17, DeGraw spoke with WSN
over the phone to discuss his new tracks and what the future holds for the “Soldier” singer.
From an outsider’s perspective, a collective release of greatest hits may seem premature for DeGraw. He
said he made the album primarily to release his two new tracks, “You Got Me” and “Fire.”
“I’ve been so excited about this new song, ‘Fire,’ I just wanted an excuse to get the song out there,”
DeGraw said. “I was afraid that it would’ve lost its momentum and that excitement … I needed any
excuse that I could get to get the song out there.”
For the creative process, DeGraw found himself working with the likes of Harry Styles of One Direction
and Max Martin, whose name has been attached to a number of hit projects. Martin produced “Fire,” as
well as the unreleased version of DeGraw’s “In Love With A Girl,” which is also featured on “Finest
“Max is legendary,” DeGraw said. “Before I met him, I thought that he was an old man. When I initially
met him, I couldn’t believe how young he was. He had already written so many hits and, in a way, had
already reached legendary status, but he was this young guy.”
The success that DeGraw witnessed in working with someone as young and precocious as Martin led
him to collaborating with Styles, which ultimately worked out favorably. The pair worked together on
“Not Our Fault,” which did not make it into the final track listing, despite DeGraw’s intention to include
it on “Finest Hour.”
“We got into the studio and he was as nice as can be and respectful,” DeGraw said. “He’s a talented
writer. It’s a song that I’m very, very proud of.”
With a greatest hits album in his discography, DeGraw continues to look toward the future. He is
interested in other aspects of the industry, including publishing.
“I’m very interested in cataloging and writing other people’s songs,” DeGraw said. “There’s so much
great talent out there.”
His goals do not all rest in his artistic endeavors, however. Despite enjoying creative projects, which
keep his mind entertained, he wants to try new ventures that have nothing to do with music.

“I don’t really think very often as far as five-year plan,” DeGraw said. “I think for the most part, I just
want to be happy. I think that’s the key, to be happy and to stay happy. It can’t all be about your career,
it has to be about your life.”
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 29 print edition. Email Alexa Spieler at




Chance the Rapper takes on NYU
Alexa Spieler, Arts Editor
February 25, 2015
As part of NYU’s official spirit week, Chance the Rapper & The Social Experiment took over Webster
Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Drawing in fans immediately, Chance started his set with “Everybody’s Something,” from his 2013
mixtape “Acid Rap.” The first part of Chance’s set included mostly newer material, as he followed with
“Pusha Man.” Though both songs typically feature other artists — Saba, BJ The Chicago Kid, Nate Fox
and Lili K. — Chance & The Social Experiment brought heightened energy to the performance, even
without the other artists. After finishing “Pusha Man,” Chance took the opportunity to formally
introduce himself to the sold-out crowd.
Chance has made some interesting career moves since his last New York performance, foregoing his
solo career to include The Social Experiment. Their liveliness enhanced the performance, increasing the
set’s musicality and strengthening its energy.
The addition of The Social Experiment not only added energy, but also constructed new renditions of
Chance’s older songs. Not neglecting early fans, Chance performed tracks from his 2012 release
“#10Day,” including “Prom Night” and “Hey Ma.” The combination of Chance’s older songs with The
Social Experiment’s new renditions recreated the older tracks, putting new, jazzier spins on them.
Chance, already an energetic performer, frequently thrived off The Social Experiment’s instrumental
contributions, exemplified by the rapper’s free-flowing, carefree dancing that corresponded with the
band’s roaring horns and powerful, driving percussion. Chance’s undeniable energy is amplified by his
natural stage presence and his ability to catch the crowd off guard.
“Pay attention, because I might just — 1, 2, 3,” he counted down, before unexpectedly jumping into
“Favorite Song.”
It is hard to find a performer who is as engaged with the audience and who sincerely loves performing as
much as Chance the Rapper. Pulling in the audience with his magnetism, he continuously exuded
passion for this performance dedicated to NYU students. Chance noticed the performance’s significance
to the NYU crowd.
“Y’all are here because you go to NYU,” he said. “So when I say NYU, I’m talking to you. Let’s have
some school pride. I’ve never played NYU before, but I’m excited to see what you guys bring.”
Presenting an eclectic setlist, Chance performed a range of older tracks to newer ones, including “Juice,”
“That’s Love,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Everything’s Good” and “Sunday Candy.” Before concluding
his set, Chance acknowledged that he would be performing the one track that the audience members
were waiting for.
“Can this be the one song that I’ve been alluding to all night?” Chance asked. “Can this be the best show
I’ve ever been to?”

Chance ended the show with the awaited “Chain Smoker.” His high-energy style, smooth lyric delivery
and seamless dance moves never faltered in this intimate, NYU-centric performance.
Email Alexa Spieler at




A conversation with Drake at Skirball
Curving around the Skirball Center at NYU on September 22nd was a massive line, which only signified
that Drake’s presence was about to grace campus. A collection of NYU students and non-students began
covering LaGuardia Place as early as 6:00 AM, ensuring that they would land a spot up close to the
former Degrassi actor, object of Amanda Bynes’ affection, and “Nothing Was The Same” rapper, Drake.
With intensifying energy, the “Hold On We’re Going Home” artist captivated the Skirball stage with
Elliot Wilson for the fifth installment of the journalist’s #CRWN series. The roaring energy didn’t
appear as a surprise for audience members, as tickets for the interview sold-out within minutes. Wilson
and Drake took time to deeply discuss “Nothing Was The Same,” the competition fueling rap, his family
relationships, and of course, his Judaism. Drake began the evening by pouring a mother a glass of
champagne; he truly does epitomize the ‘Nice Jewish Boy’ archetype.
For 90-minutes, Drake stripped down his walls with his realness. Tackling immense questions, Drake
revealed to the audience he wants to do an album in which he only sings, that “Pound Cake” was
originally for “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” that he has unreleased music with Aaliyah, and that he doesn’t
want to discuss history, but wants to focus on the present.
“People ask me ‘if this your best album?’ I tell ‘em my best album is my next album,” Drake announced
to the crowd. Constantly looking toward his next production, Drake admitted that he began working on
“Nothing Was The Same” about 2-3 weeks after “Take Care.”
Addressing Drake’s survivor mentality, Wilson didn’t stray from questioning what everyone was
thinking: his thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s dis-riddled and freestyle “Control” verse. Drake didn’t shy
away from – cautiously – expressing his thoughts. Though he admitted he saw Lamar “five days later at
the VMAs,” and “it was all love,” he did question the verse’s longevity. The 26-year-old turned to the
audience and stated that the verse was “a moment to talk about,” and asked Wilson if he could
remember how the verse begins and rhetorically asked: “Are you listening to it now?” The responsive
silence echoed sufficiently.
Perhaps the most honest conversation occurred throughout discussing his family. Drake previously
embraced vulnerability upon giving a disclaimer prior to his performance on Jimmy Fallon (“I just want
to say to my friends and family, I want the best for everybody. I love you all.”). Concerning the
disclaimer, Drake revealed: “At the end of the day, I want a lot more for my mother. She’s 66, that
scares me…I made that disclaimer because I wanted her to know how much I love her in front of the
whole world.”
The conversation accelerated from him admitting that he enjoys online jokes about himself, proclaiming
that Twitter is “not real,” and that he wants to “venture away from what everyone expects.”
Starting on Wednesday, Myspace will begin airing Drake’s three part NYU interview.

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