Choose the Cover Contest Finalists Discuss Their Inspirations

Watch video interviews with Lelia Broussard, Empires, Fictionist and the Sheepdogs

Photographs by Sioux Nesi
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The third round of the Choose the Cover of Rolling Stone contest is in full swing! After hundreds of thousands of votes were cast online, the 16 acts vying for the cover of Rolling Stone – as well as an Atlantic Records contract – have been narrowed down to a group of four. Our finalists recently visited New York City, where they recorded new songs, performed in our studio, and talked to Rolling Stone about what inspires them to make music while hanging out in the Big Apple.

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Now you can get to know the artists by checking out photo galleries of their visit to the city, and by watching videos in which they open up about what motivates them to pursue their dreams.

Utah rockers Fictionist went busking on the streets of the East Village, and opened up about their band geek beginnings at Bleecker Bob's Records. Singer-bassist Stuart Maxfield got choked up when explaining how the band's Mormon faith influences their music. "Ever since I was a kid, one of the only ways I feel I can get myself out there is through the music," Maxfield says. "Performance and the arts are a place maybe 20 years ago I couldn't have gone, because of where I come from."

Photos: Fictionist Visit New York City

Singer-songwriter Lelia Broussard is no stranger to New York City – she's lived in a lot of places, but Manhattan has been her home on and off since she was 17. Lelia opens up about her long history of touring, and her early days of playing small clubs such as Manhattan's the Bitter End as a teenager. "I always get scared that no one's gonna come," Broussard says of her gigs. "Over the years I've come to be pretty good at the internet, and I have a ton of people online that come to shows that I try to keep as much of a personal connection with as I can."

Photos: Lelia Broussard On the Streets of New York City

After performing on the streets of Manhattan, Canadian boogie rockers the Sheepdogs talked about the early days of their band, when they would jam at drummer Sam Corbett's parents' house. "When we first started the band, before we played gigs, we just had parties at my parents' house," Corbett says. "We played some our worst and some of the best show – it's part of coming up as a band in Canada for sure."

Photos: The Sheepdogs Check Out Manhattan

Chicago quartet Empires felt right at home hanging out in Brooklyn. "I'd say our band has always been pretty city-driven," says guitarist Tom Conrad. "We're more of a band that gets inspired off that than open country roads." While bowling at Brooklyn Bowl, the band spoke openly about their up and downs over the past few years. "We have had serious falling outs with each other and we've also been there for each other in really extreme circumstances," says singer Sean Van Vleet.

Photos: Empires Explore New York

Voting for this round will close on May 13th. The two surviving bands will advance to the final round – an epic battle on stage at the Bonnaroo festival in June. The winner of the contest will be announced on the August 2nd episode on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where they will also make their live television debut. In the meantime, please check out all of the songs and vote for your favorites.

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