It's hard to believe that the spectacular success of the Dave Matthews Band began with a shy conversation.

"I always used to see this ponytail-wearing kid when I'd gig with Secrets, this jazz fusion group I used to play with," recalls DMB drummer Carter Beauford. "We never talked until one day in 1990, when he came up and said he'd always wanted me to play on one of his songs. I heard three or four of his tunes, and I was blown away. It wasn't complex music, but the way he played and sang was so unique, I knew I wanted to be part of it."

JoAnna Jan├ęt only recently completed her first album, but she learned a long time ago to trust her instincts when it came to writing and choosing material.

If the mere fact that sisters Morgan and Mercedes Lander of the Canadian metal trio Kittie are still in their teens fails to impress you, consider this: the band has already released two hit albums on Artemis Records, supported Slipknot and Pantera on tour, and co-headlined both the Sno Core tour and the Ozzfest 2000 sidestage.

"I'm the guy they bring in on country records when they don't want the 'perfect' thing," he says. "I'm not a total roots guy, but I have a loose, Stones-like way of playing that just feels good. I don't have to play those perfect, clean guitar parts you hear on most country records. I can be a little rougher."

Chances are you've heard Ellis Hall, even if you've never heard of him.

Bassist Preston Crump carries the torch for realtime bass playing in the sequencer-driven hip-hop and R&B genres. The Atlanta-based musician has contributed woofer-rattling lows to discs by Outkast, Goodie Mob, TLC, Destiny's Child, En Vogue, and, most recently, rapper Citizen Cope and producer/performer Raphael Saadiq. Crump recently discussed his work from his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

One of the first things you'll notice if you attend a show by the Southern California quintet Something Corporate is the remarkable age range of the audience. No surprise that there are plenty of amped-up teens, given that frontman/chief songwriter Andrew McMahon is still one himself. But there are also older, more sedate fans savoring the group's offbeat love songs.

There's a common thread between all the number #1 country hits Allen Shamblin has written or co-written. From Randy Travis's "He Walked on Water" to Mike Reid's "Walk on Faith," from Collin Raye's "In This Life" to Toby Keith's "We Were in Love," each song boasts a storyline as memorable as its melody.

Tom Shapiro is one of the unchallenged masters of contemporary country songwriting. Twenty-one of his songs have hit #1, and he is the only writer in Music Row history to be named BMI's Country Songwriter of the Year three times within five years (in 1993, '96, and '97). He's also a successful producer whose credits include Billy Dean's string of hits, many of which he also co-wrote.

Q: What do Brazilian music, jazz, heavy metal, and dance-pop have in common?

A: Rafael Moreira