Latest News: cover songs

Player Q&A

By Jessica Apperson



Violinist Simon Orvista, violist Erica Ticthdale, and cellist Steve Velez took the time to answer some fun and informative questions in between sessions for Rock Hits 2016 and our upcoming Hits of 2016 Volume 2.


What do you feel you do to add your personal touch to the VSQ renditions?

Simon Orvista - Even though these are tribute albums, it doesn’t feel genuine if I try to copy the original exactly.  After getting to know the vibe of each song, I approach the music as if it’s the most meaningful, important music I’ve ever played - and play it from the heart.

Erica Ticthdale - When I was in high school I often fantasized about being a drummer, so when I get a chance to be a “rhythm-section” (such as in Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” or Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches”) I get a little extra kick out of it.


What is the most fun about playing a song that isn’t traditionally played by string instruments?

Simon Orvista - I play the violin, and we often (and rightfully so...back off violas and cellos) get the melody lines.  So it’s fun to emulate what vocals do, especially pop vocals, since singers naturally do a lot of interesting and expressive things that aren't normally done on the violin.

Erica Ticthdale - Similar to what I said above, it’s fun to get a chance to “imitate” rock instruments, or even voices. I love all kinds of music, so as a classically trained musician it’s really fun to get a chance to branch out and dip my toe into other genres.

Steve Velez - It’s so fun to find parts of classical music in pop and rock music. Being inspired by George Martin to blend classical with rock was my motivation to do more with bringing it to life with my cello.


What was your favorite track to play?

Simon Orvista - Gah, I can’t pick a favorite kid.  Most satisfying to play: Sia’s “Chandelier” and Adele’s “Skyfall”; maybe “Sweater Weather.”  Surprisingly dope: The Sigur Rós tracks.  I’ve got a big soft spot for Lorde’s “Team.”  I’d have to go down the rabbit hole to remember all the songs I’ve done, but I always have a great time recording them.

Erica Ticthdale - My favorite track would have to be “Tennessee Whiskey,” since I not only get to imitate the singer (whose vocals in that song are so soulful and expressive), but the AMAZING guitar solo in the middle as well.  I had a lot of fun with that one.

Steve Velez - This is very difficult to pick after doing so many tracks. I love The Nightmare Before Christmas.  “This is Halloween” was so fun. I also loved doing Dream Theater, Tool, and Madonna.


What was the most challenging one to play?

Simon Orvista - Um, I’d say some of the slower, more intimate tracks can be hard to pull off well.  Things like “Stay with Me” or “Say Something.”

Erica Ticthdale - Ironically, the answer to this is the same as my answer above. Because we work hard to capture the essence of each song we cover, I needed to play along with Chris Stapleton’s vocals over and over to get myself into his groove. It was so worth the extra work!

Steve Velez - Absolutely, Dream Theater, 100%!


If you could transform any modern rock or pop song into a string rendition, what would it be?

Simon Orvista - Some old school R&B, like Donnie Hathaway’s “A Song for You” or some esoteric Stevie Wonder would be so fun...and I think it would sound amazing for string quartet.

Erica Ticthdale - Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” ‘Nuff said.

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Between the Covers: Edition 1

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Nelly – “Hot in Herre”

Jenny Owen Youngs covers "Hot in Herre"

Who could forget Nelly’s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre?” It inspired many covers even by non-rap groups (looking at you, Coldplay), including one by miss Jenny Owen Youngs. Youngs adds some fun gender role reversal and cute folk-rock strumming to the otherwise hot and heavy hip hop song. She soothingly suggests “it’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all your clothes” to a monotonous chorus of men chanting back “I am getting’ so hot, I wanna take my clothes off” (they also cleverly replace “Nelly just fall out” with “Jenny just fall out” in the background of the last verse). Matching the quirkiness of the song, the video takes place in an igloo nightclub where Eskimos, penguins and polar bears join Youngs at the bar. . City High – “What Would You Do?”

Bastille covers "What Would You Do?

At first, the soaring “woh-ohs,” indie harmonies and heavy British accents seem a funny match for American R&B band City High’s “What Would You Do?” from 2001. But when the cliché hip hop lyrics of “Saturday night I was at this real wild party / They had the liquor overflowing the cup / About five or six strippers trying to work for a buck” turn into the urban philosophical question of “What would you do if your son was at home / Crying all alone on the bedroom floor / 'Cause he's hungry / And the only way to feed him is to / Sleep with a man for a little bit of money,” the song comes into its own. Regardless of who is singing, no matter the musical genre or even subject matter, the lyrical response of “Get up on my feet and stop making up tired excuses” is transcendent, life-affirming advice.


Peter Bjorn & John – “Young Folks”

Dawn Landes covers "Young Folks"

Sometimes you really like a song, but if you hear it one more time, you might throw your radio out of the car window. The cure for this predicament of loving a worn-out song? Covers. That’s why I found it refreshing to hear Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Dawn Landes add her own bluegrass swing to Swedish band Peter Bjorn & John’s 2006 indie-pop favorite “Young Folks.” The YouTube video even features the young songstress recording the cover with older male backup singers, personifying the dichotomy of different age groups in the chorus: “And we don't care about the young folks / Talking 'bout the young style / And we don't care about the old folks / Talking 'bout the old style too.”

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Amazing Cover Bands: Levi’s Pioneer Sessions

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she & him

For the past few months, Levi’s has sponsored a series of sessions that find modern artists doing covers of bands who influenced their sound. These tracks are available as free downloads each month on their website. The bands range from She & Him doing Rick Nelson’s  “Fools Rush In”, to the Shins doing Squeeze’s “Good Bye Girl.” New artists are being added almost every week, with the latest being Ryan Bingham doing James Roosevelt’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Each track page offers fans a bit of info on the artist and their take on the song they covered. Other artists include NAS, the Swell Season, Dirty Projectors, Colbie Caillat, Bomba Estereo, Jason Mraz, Raphael Saadiq, Passion Pit, John Legend and the Roots, and the Kills.

For a full list of downloads and songs, visit

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Covers that Kill! Ten Cover Songs that are Better the Second (or third) Time Around

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Do you love a good remake or does the thought of a copycat make you cringe? Cover songs have been either angering or pleasuring our ears for decades.  Most popular artists produce cover songs as a form of artistic expression, a tribute to the original artist, or as perhaps a way of saying, "whatever you can do, I can do better,” showing off their talents. Whatever the intention, cover songs can have an unpredictable fan reaction because they are not typically judged on their own merit, but judged in comparison with the original song.  While some cover tunes may be celebrated as better than the original, others are loathed because loyal listeners may feel that what isn’t broke doesn’t need to be fixed. I love it when one of my favorite artists performs a cover because it gives me a chance to hear a familiar tune performed in a style that I love.  I typically prefer these new revamped versions over the old originals, but if a band I could care less about covers one of my favorites, the song is generally not music to my ears. Not saying I don’t absolutely LOVE George Michael or Trent Reznor, but here is a list of ten covers that I say are better the second (or perhaps third) time around:

1.   “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” by Guns n’ Roses (Original sung by Bob Dylan)

2.   “Easy Like Sunday Morning” by Faith No More (Original sung by The Commodores)

3.   "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson (Original by Gloria Jones)

4.   "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin (Original by Kris Kristofferson)

5.   "Hurt" by Johnny Cash (Original by Nine Inch Nails)

6.   “American Woman” Lenny Kravitz (Original by Guess Who)

7.   “Come Together” by Aerosmith (Original by The Beatles)

8.   “Wish” by Linkin Park (Original by Nine Inch Nails)

9.   “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill (Original by Neil Diamond)

10.  “Careless Whisper” by Seether (Original by George Michael)

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