If I had to capture the kind of magic in a bottle that would equate to Ogden, Utah-based Singer/Songwriter Sammy Brue, it would go something like this: you can’t. There is only one Sammy Brue and the kind of magic he creates stirs the deepest of human emotions through intrinsically written lyrics and harmonies that you will never hear anywhere else. Even his very persona has a calm, casual presence offstage but turns into a guitar shredding flurry on stage completely unaware of the alluring effect he has on his audience. In that moment, it’s just the maestro and his guitar: all this – within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I have carefully observed Brue on social media and he is extremely interactive with his fans, gracious with media, and completely down to earth even when performing alongside his idol Justin Townes Earle (son of music legend Steve Earle). In fact, I am confident that it is this very persona combined with exceptional talent that impressed Earle when Brue asked to ‘play a few songs for him’ at one of his shows. ‘We stayed in touch ever since,’ he said to me in a recent discussion. It’s things like this which lead to Brue win a recording deal with New West Entertainment, home of such Americana icons as Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Hiatt.
This doesn’t surprise me, Earle being an exceptional Musician himself, would want to enlist exceptional talent for his ‘Kids In The Street’ tour. Brue has left enough of an impression on me that I am confident in saying: there will never be another like him. In fact, I am 100% confident he will go the full nine yards with his music career and I honestly don’t see that taking long either. He has already laid some serious touring tracks with Earle and has also appeared on his album ‘Single Mothers Absent Fathers‘. His penchant for bringing back a true ‘Americana’ sound through his music and live performances complete with his unique look sire true showmanship that is impossible to replicate.
I review and meet many people in the music industry but the last time I can recall ever spending more than three days researching an indie band or Artist this in-depth was Palaye Royale. My standards are high – It’s rare that I will spend more than a day researching a subject before their interview. However, with the kind of impression this young Artist has left already in the relatively short term of his career, it would be a disservice not to.
On June 16th, 2017, Brue released his debut album ‘I Am Nice’, a 12-track assortment of beautifully crafted songs that are guaranteed to blaze the trail for his future in the industry. The harmonies throughout are smooth – bringing me back to a time when the likes of Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, and Elvis were blazing their own trails bringing the house down on the Ed Sullivan show and the Grand Ole Opry. The beats and guitar rhythms are unforgettable but it is truly Brue’s voice that is the unique element here – just when you think the first few beats of each song can’t get any better, enter the bewitching vocals of Sammy Brue. Yeah, that’s the kind of magic I am talking about.
Sammy Brue isn’t just a Musician, he’s an out of this world experience.
Exclusive Interview | Sammy Brue | July 2017
SMC – Hello Sammy and welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! I have had a chance to research your background and I see so many impressive accomplishments in a relatively short period of time. Let’s begin with your most recent: touring with Justin Townes Earle – what was that experience like for you?
Sammy – Touring with Justin has been something I wanted to do for a long time. He has been a huge influence in my music and a constant support, so have this be my first tour was an honor.
SMC – Can you tell us what one of your best memories was while touring with Justin?
Sammy – Justin plays a lot bigger venue than I’m used to. So, I think being able to play those stages made a big impact on me. Also watching Justin handle his business was great. Learned a lot from him.
SMC – The connection with fellow artist Justin Townes Earle came after you played for him at one of his shows, correct? Can you tell us which songs you played for him and what his reaction/advice was to you after that?
Sammy – I remember him being pretty enthusiastic the first time I played him one of my songs. I think he was just stoked I was writing instead of doing covers like every other teenager on YouTube, but he also doesn’t hold back when he thinks I’m going in the wrong direction. I’m not sure what the first song I played for him was, but it was probably about Woody Guthrie.
SMC – Listening to your music is a genuinely moving experience – your songs are authentic and well written. Do you do all the writing of your music?
Sammy – Yeah, so far, I have had limited co-writing experience. My writing style is so abstract that writing with someone else is tricky. I do have some writing sessions in LA coming up so I hope I can pull it together.
SMC – Can you tell us how you can about the ‘theme’ of your album? Did the ‘theme’ come first or was it the songwriting that lead to the theme?
Sammy – I’m not sure there is a particular “theme” to the album other than I wanted it to sound like it was recorded in Muscle Shoals. It feels like we got that. We were choosing from about 25 songs that could go together. In the end, I wanted to have a mix of songs that weren’t all the same and showed a bit of diversity.
SMC – I found it really interesting to read in your bio that you gravitated to an acoustic guitar more than the electric guitar your father gifted to you. Can you tell us what you feel the acoustic has brought to your songwriting more than the electric guitar did?
Sammy – First, I’m not an acoustic snob. I love the electric and the legends that play them. There are about 5 different ones hanging in my studio that I use to write with. That being said, the acoustic guitar feels more honest to me. I can’t get away with as much on an acoustic so I have to really work hard for it. The sound it gives takes me to a different place artistically too. The hollow notes that won’t sustain make you work more.
SMC – I saw that you recently lopped off your locks for charity and you plan on continuing to do this. That’s very impressive – I have a true appreciation for people who aren’t afraid to change their personal image for the sake of humanity. Can you tell us which charity this was for and why it is dear to your heart?
Sammy – I donated my hair to Locks of Love through my mom’s salon she works at. They treat the hair and send it off to people free of charge when they donate. I just wanted to do something for someone else. I see a lot of people around that are going through chemotherapy and I just felt like as a human, I should do this. My grandmother Mary died of cancer long before I was around and it would have been cool if I could have done it for her, but I can’t. I did write the song “Once a Lover” for her though.
SMC – Let’s go back to your songs – they are very relationship based. Have you ever been told that you write from the perspective of someone, say, 20 or 30 years older than you? I am blown away!
Sammy – I’m influenced by the lives of the people around me. I really didn’t hang out with kids my age until just a little while ago, so most of the time I was around people 20 or 30 years older than me. Their stories are fascinating too. They’ve seen way more pain and struggles than I have. Reading about people like Woody or Leadbelly living in their time seems more interesting than 2017 where we contemplate what movie to go see, or where should we eat tonight. Watching someone go through a divorce or losing their job and home has more emotion to it.
SMC – I saw your live performance/Vlog on your YouTube channel for your performance at the Red Butte Garden Show. You seem to immerse yourself completely when you are performing live. Can you tell us what exactly you are feeling when you are performing live? You seem to be in a little bubble all your own and it’s rather impressive to see this!
Sammy – You have one shot to get through to a crowd when you play your songs. They feel if you are scared or don’t want to be there. This means you have to let it all out and get to your soul in your songs if you want them to feel it. I write these songs and they mean a lot to me so they deserve my best. It also hurts more when you put it out there and it’s rejected too. If I see people just talking or on their phones I feel like I didn’t do my job and I let those people and the song down. That’s the hard part. I know if I’m present or not during a performance and I’m my harshest critic. So, I try.
SMC – I am guessing that you are not shy about getting out in public and performing but which do you prefer more: recording and songwriting or being out on the road?
Sammy – It depends. Recording with incredible musicians and producers in Muscle Shoals is going to be tough to beat, but the right venue with the right crowd, it just becomes a spiritual experience. When you can feel their eyes on you and the only other thing is maybe the clink of glasses from the bar, and everyone is present, that touches my soul.
SMC – How did you win your recording deal with New West? I saw this in your bio and wondered if this was a contest thing or if it was a word of mouth thing….
Sammy – I don’t think “win” is the word I would use. I earned it by sacrificing everything to chase a dream. I had a goal written down for several years that I wanted a record deal before I turned 15 and was dedicated to it. I wrote the best songs I could and when I had the opportunity to play those songs, I didn’t waste it.
SMC – Which song off your new album ‘I Am Nice’ is your personal favorite and why?
Sammy – I don’t know that I have a favorite. I always gravitate to “Once a Lover” because it’s personal to me. It was for my grandmother. Going to be tough to beat that.
SMC – What comes easiest to you: the words or the melodies?
Sammy – Depends on the day and depends on the song.
SMC – Can you tell us what success means to you personally?
Sammy – Not really. I know that I’ve had success than a lot of artists in this business already, but I’m not ready to stop pushing for more ground. I get to make music and play all over the place for money. That’s a cool thing and sounds a lot like success.
SMC – What is a deal-breaker for you professionally?
Sammy – Making souls music just for profit. I want to make what feels like something to me. It has to move me in some way or another.
SMC – What brand of guitar is your go-to when songwriting?
Sammy – I’ve been playing guitars made by The Loar for years and have a nice collection now. The company has been so supportive for a long time and I love their instruments. I have a couple of Fender electrics too, but when I signed my record deal I went and bought a vintage Martin 00-18 that fits me like a glove. It just depends on the mood I’m in really.
SMC – What will you not part with and why?
Sammy – My very first Load guitar. I carried that thing around everywhere when I was starting out and had everyone I loved sign it. It hangs in the studio now so I don’t rub the signatures off. Justin was the first person I had sign it.
SMC – How do you feel you have evolved personally from your previous recordings to your latest?
Sammy – I’m more open to criticism about my songs and listening to other people’s ideas on how to improve them. Especially when it comes from some of the artists I’ve been able to work with.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you gravitate to personally?
Sammy – Is Etta James a sound? Because that captivates me.
SMC – I saw that you grew up listening to the greats (I did too!) – What do you feel you have extracted from each in terms of cultivating your own sound?
Sammy – It’s authentic. Everything starts there and leads you to areas of possibilities. I was looking for Leadbelly videos and found Kurt Cobain. That’s why I start there.
SMC – Can you tell us what your family’s thoughts are on your music career and how they have supported you along the way? Tell us about a memory that stands out for you….
Sammy – My dad is the one that taught me how to work hard and strategize a plan when it comes to music. He has done everything in his power to help me reach those goals too. He believes in me more than anyone and picks me up when I need it. My sisters and mom have sacrificed so much to help too. At one point, we sold our house and moved to Nashville to make this happen. Everyone believes in me and I can never repay them.
SMC – In terms of your peers/friends – I have read that you are a still a typical ‘teenager’ and enjoy things like video games and skateboarding. Have you been able to remain grounded and personable with your peers while still killing it in the career aspect of your life?
Sammy – I think one feeds the other. The more time with friends, the more life experience I get. The more success in music, the more fun me and my friends have. It’s a good balance.
SMC – What impresses you in the music industry?
Sammy – Artists that grind. When I see an Artist who has great songs and just can’t catch a break, but they keep going I love it. A lot of them don’t have a team of people helping out so they do their own booking and are their own manager. Those guys blow me away because of their love of it and dedication.
SMC – You were born in Oregon but now live in Utah – Where do you feel the music scene is strongest?
Sammy – Portland Oregon has had a great music scene for a long time now. Some of my favorite acts like Portugal The Man and The Shins live up there so I absolutely love it there. Utah just hasn’t had the light shining down on them like that. I’m pretty sure that will change pretty soon though. Too many good acts just in my home town of Ogden for it to stay hidden.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of your music and tour?
Sammy – Not really. I don’t get too involved in that. I just wait for them to tell me where we go next. I’m sure it will have a lot of writing and playing songs. I know I have Americana Fest coming up and a week in LA doing some co-writing too.
SMC – Are you already working on more music?
Sammy – I’m always working on new music. I think I have about 30 some songs to choose from for my next album already. There’s a lot of half written songs too. I can’t not write when I’m home or have time off.
SMC – How long did it take you to write ‘I Am Nice’?
Sammy – Well the first 2 songs that came out as single are “I’m Not Your Man” and “I Know” one of them was the second song I ever wrote and the other I wrote 2 weeks before we went in the studio.
SMC – You have a vast range of sounds on this album – in terms of a genre, which do you gravitate more to?
Sammy – It depends on the day. Sometimes I write something like “I Never Said” and then that afternoon I’ll be writing something like “Covered in Blood”. I don’t think I gravitate one way or the other. I did them both.
SMC – Who would you call your ‘go-to team’ in terms of production?
Sammy – I’ve only been produced by John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) so for now, they are my go-to guys. I can’t thank them enough.
SMC – Who is your go-to team for the creation of your videos?
Sammy – I’m always looking for creative video people.
SMC – Have you received radio play? Which stations would you like to give a shout-out to?
Sammy – I know that some of my songs are getting radio play, but I don’t know which ones or where unfortunately. Here in UT our local station KRCL has been spinning me so I thank them with all my heart.
SMC – We have many influential industry peers watching our site and sourcing out new Artists all the time. We have seen some seriously talented Artists receive radio play globally as a result of being discovered on our platform. Who can these peers reach out to for radio play?
Sammy – New West Records has done a great job with this. They handle all of that.
SMC – We would like to begin an SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series on you as we have with many of the Artists that we work with. This means we will chronologically follow along with your career in a documented series of interviews. Are you open to this?
Sammy – Sure. If you don’t get bored of me.
SMC – Okay, last question: Can you tell us where your focus is in terms of your career in the next year?
Sammy – I’m just going to tour this album and hope it does good enough to get me back to the studio for a follow-up. Thanks for the interview.
There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.
‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered byJeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.
You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.
Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!
By Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?
Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me.
SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?
Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!
SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?
Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.
I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.
SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?
Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.
The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.
SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?
Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves. Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.
SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?
Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.
SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?
Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.
SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?
Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.
SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?
Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.
Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.
I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.
And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.
SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?
Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.
SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?
Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.
I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.
I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.
SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?
Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.
I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.
SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?
Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.
SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?
Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!
Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.
The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.
SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?
Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.
SMC – Your bio states:
‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’
Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?
Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!
SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?
Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.
I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.
Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.
SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?
Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.
SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.
SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?
Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!
SMC – What do you want to aspire to?
Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…
SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?
Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…
I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.
Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.
I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.
SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?
Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.
SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?
Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.
On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.
And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.
SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?
Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015
SMC – Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?
Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.
SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?
Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.
Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.
SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?
Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.
We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.
SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?
Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.
Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.
The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.
I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.
I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.
SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?
Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.
This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.
First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.
I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?
Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…
SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?
Stephen – Let’s do it!
SMC – Okay, final question:
Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?
Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…
July 11, 2017 – The exotic location of the world class recording complex Karma Sound Studios in Thailand has been selected to host the next Superstar 101 programmes aimed at aspiring pop stars who want to fast track into the big time.
Multi Grammy Nominated & Award Winning producer and senior record company executive, Chris Craker (the owner of Karma Sound Studios), will personally be overseeing the month long ‘package deal’ for aspiring artists. During the 28 day stay at Karma, artists will have an album of songs written for them, they’ll be recorded at Karma, they’ll work with a top stylist, create video shoots, photo shoots and all the social platforms and a website that one needs, making the artist completely match fit and ready to launch! There’s more… Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG, Chris will sign the artist to the Karma record label and handle the debut release for the selected artists on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 other digital platforms in a global record deal.
“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a highend studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 programme – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
For a limited time, there’s a very special deal lined up for aspiring pop stars who would like to join the programme: The Superstar 101 Platinum package is viable for $100,000US all inclusive (reduced by half from $200,000). Within this fee the lucky participants will enjoy:
12 songs written and recorded at Karma Studios, Thailand
Two videos created for the lead singles + b-roll footage for social media advertising and marketing
Stagecraft advice and training
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat platforms all created, linked and populated with content +
A three month marketing campaign planned and ready to execute
All songs released in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 global online distribution platforms
Applications close on August 1st, when the pricing goes back to the normal rate. So if you’d like to take advantage of working with the best of the best, in an amazing and exotic studio location in Thailand, send your name, address, phone number and a short biography + a link to a video of you singing a song to: firstname.lastname@example.org and the guys at Superstar 101 will send you all the details!
For further information please contact: Chris Craker – email@example.com Telephone: +66 (0)85 288 1696
July 11, 2017 – Songwriters from all over the world have enjoyed the famous Song Writing Camps and Retreats at the beautiful location of Karma Sound Studios in Thailand during the past three years. October sees the fourth of these events happening over the course of three individual weeks commencing October 9th.
Each week, fifteen songwriters will join together and work in teams of three, writing songs each day to specific briefs from major label name artists and A&R teams from global publishing houses and record companies – all of whom are looking for their next Number One hit!
Karma Studios is the perfect location for this kind of ‘Song Writer Retreat’ – with five studio spaces,
amazing equipment and facilities, outstanding engineers, award-winning producers and exceptional hospitality within the compound of this luxury five star “destination studio”, it’s impossible not to be inspired!
“We’ve had amazing successes here at the Karma Camps in the past – we attract a very high level of writer and producer, and the results are always exceptional… On the last Camp we were writing for Rhianna, Robin Thicke, Five Seconds of Summer, top acts from SE Asia AND we invited in one or two recently signed acts, each needing songs written for them. You’ll be hearing some of these songs on the radio anytime soon!” said Studio Owner and the host of the Song Writer Retreat at Karma. “People make new friends for life and the networking opportunities here are amazing. We’ve already established great commercial relationships, too, between major publishers and some of the unsigned writers that attend. It’s always fascinating to watch 15 immensely gifted writers bonding and creating in front of our very eyes…”
The cost of attending is just 32,500THB ($950US and £750 GBP) which includes everything except your flight to get to Thailand. We pick you up at the airport (and return you there at the end of the Camp!) and provide full board and accommodation (either on site, or in a nearby hotel) as well as all the facilities during the Retreat.
For further information, simply contact Chris Craker – firstname.lastname@example.org with a short bio and a link to some of your recent work.
Fun, creativity, networking all in the truly amazing location of Karma Sound Studios in Bang Saray, Thailand.
In the latter part of June 2017, I was introduced to one of the industry’s most notable, influential peers and music inspirations Mr. Chris Craker. Undeniably, Chris comes from a distinctive background: he was General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks, Producer of the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie “Interstellar”, with the Oscar nominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the 2017 Annie Award Winning score for “The Little Prince” for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne (of Kung Fu Panda fame). In April 2008, Chris resigned from Sony to set up Karma Sound Studios and devote more time to his own creative endeavors and management of a select group of uniquely gifted artists. Karma is now recognized as the number one luxury residential recording studio complex in South East Asia who’s first guests included three iconic global bands:Placebo, Jamiroquai, and Bullet For My Valentine.
Chris Craker has won numerous awards and received acclaim for his activities as a performer, recording artist, composer, arranger, producer/engineer, record label founder, artist manager, author, critic, industry commentator and strategic advisor. So, it doesn’t surprise us that he has plunged right into his projects at Karma Sound Studios with successful results (see our interview below). Karma, located among the luxurious sand and waterways of Thailand located just outside Bang Saray, provides a picturesque fishing village on the coast and surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for inspiration.
The accommodations at Karma boast 6 bedrooms which are all ensuite, four with private balconies overlooking the 60 sqm swimming pool and extensive gardens. All rooms have an in-room private safe and are supplemented by a massage room, small gym, and a private bar situated around the swimming pool and BBQ area. The outdoor dining sala doubles as a live stage area for al fresco pool-side concerts and the ultimate “unplugged” video shoot location. TVs/DVD/Games Console and full broadband internet access and a table tennis table are all available.
Studio One provides spacious recording areas (200 sq metres), consisting of the main live room plus a very large drum booth / isolation area that can contain up to a twelve-piece horn or wind section, as well as a large vocal and guitar booth, and two further guitar amp / speaker isolation areas. The control room’s centrepiece is the SSL 4056 E/G Series console, supported by a 32/56 I/O Pro tools 10 & 11 HD system, complemented with outboard by BAE/Neve 1073s, Millennia, API, Great River, Emperical Labs, Teletronix, Universal Audio, dbx, Thermionic Culture, Avalon, Lexicon, Eventide and many more!
Studio 2 at Karma provides the ultimate ‘Swiss-army-knife’ set-up for the modern songwriter/producer. Designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind, it runs Pro Tools 10 & 11 HD Native, Logic Pro X and Reason 5 running on a UA Apollo Quad with D-Box monitoring and summing. Both studios have access to a comprehensive sample library and the latest 64bit plugins. Mastering grade ATC monitoring is an unusual but welcome provision, along with Yamaha HS8s & NS10s, B&W 805 Nautilus and Aurotones. Outboard provided by AMS Neve, API, SSL, Universal Audio, Teletronix, GML, SPL, Radial, dbx, Empirical Labs Inc. and more, mean very few studios can compete for the price.
*A full GEAR list of equipment in both studios can be found (here)
I hopped on a call with Chris last week and we spoke about some of the future projects coming up at Karma, his collaborations with some of the worlds’ top Artists (whose songs are written at Karma), and the projects which SMC will be in support of by way of press releases, interviews, and video content on the SMC Spotlight and Starlight Music Chronicles website. We are excited to share the content over the next few months and begin with our press releases on Karma Sound Studios Songwriter Retreat 2017 (click here) and the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars (click here). Needless to say, when the website says ‘If James Bond had a recording studio it would be Karma…’, they were not kidding!
There will be much more to release over the course of the next six months on our SMC Spotlight so be sure to subscribe to our site and the Karma Sound Studios website (here)
Settle back for a few moments and enjoy this glimpse into the studio.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Craker
SMC- Hello Chris! We are happy to have you on our SMC Spotlight! I’m going to get right into it – I have read your bio (here) and it goes without saying that you are THE man in terms of the music industry. Your career history timeline includes that of being Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG (among many other exceptional accomplishments!). I am certain that you have hundreds of amazing experiences that you are proud of. Can you tell us of a few highlights in your career(s) that have stood out most prominently for you?
Chris – Probably the biggest highlights we working as the Producer of the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s incredible movie ‘Interstellar’ and the Composer (my friend) Hans Zimmer. It was nine month of my life that then cumulated in me also being engaged as the Executive Producer for staging ‘Interstellar Live’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London – a sold out show which we screened the movie with a live, 90-piece orchestra playing the score, and speakers before the show including Stephen Hawking, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, etc.…
SMC – I could probably sit and listen to your story all day (laughs), and I have so many questions that I am sure I will think of later, are you open to SMC continuing to support you by way of our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series? This is a chronicled history and timeline of your career accomplishments via interviews, ongoing support for new and current projects, and press releases.
Chris – I would love to be a part of this…thank you for asking.
SMC – You have worked with some of the world’s finest Composers and Musicians, which have you developed a kinship with and why?
Chris – Composers I’ve worked closely with include Hans Zimmer which has been inspiring; working with Lang Lang the Chinese classical Pianist was amazing and needless to say, it was a real pleasure having Jamiroquai at my Studio. Recording Leona Lewis was incredible too – watching how someone takes their artistry so seriously and setting super high standards for themselves…we all found her an inspiration.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you? Pick a day, any day will do.
Chris – Ha ha…I get up at 5:30 or 6 am and in the gym by 6:30 am the latest. Work starts around 8:00 am and continues all day with a mixture of either creative work or business/management issues with my Artists and colleagues. A normal day will include half a dozen overseas Skype or Facetime sessions too – which, by default, means that the working day is long so that I can coincide with multiple time zones…
SMC – I do know that with anyone in the entertainment industry, there is never a dull moment so I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this: is there any moment in time that stands out to you as an ‘ah-ha’ or ‘pinch me’ moment?
Chris – That’s a great question because it is odd sometimes when I think back to being in serious discussions with Christopher Nolan, Lang Lang, Benny & Bjorn from Abba, Hans Zimmer, Jimmy Page, and Actors like Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee – surreal really…
SMC – I heard you juggle between Europe, Thailand, and the US. Can you tell us where you feel most ‘at home’?
Chris – Actually, I feel most at home in Thailand since my studio is there – but I have family in London and always enjoy being in Santa Monica too…they are three amazing locations to spend my time.
SMC – Have you ever met an industry peer who was difficult to deal with? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Chris – Some Artists and Managers are more challenging than others and without naming names, I find the best approach is simply to be incredibly polite, friendly, and always do my job and try to exceed expectations. Then, if people are still difficult to deal with, it’s clearly them that has the problem! I try to surround myself with like-minded spirits and most of the time, working relationships are very cordial.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the music that is being created today as opposed to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Chris – I love what’s happening now – it’s just very different in content and the methods of creating are so different now. Also…the method of delivery to fans and the engagement with fans is so different from 20 years ago. I actually think the Music Industry is an incredibly vibrant place to be right now, and one of immense opportunity if one is prepared to think and act differently from the past!
SMC – Are there any other ventures you are involved in currently that you will be announcing at a later date? Obviously, I realize you can’t divulge full details, but perhaps even a hint at it….
Chris – I am expanding my Management and Label Activities. I am heavily involved in the field of Music Industry Education and have set up a new joint venture to forge that ahead – and later this year I will be rolling out a program that aims to help Musicians and Artists who have suffered at the hands of drug and alcohol addictions and giving them ‘Music therapy’ and a second chance at making it back into the industry.
SMC – What was your personally most rewarding experience from any one completed project?
Chris – Seeing Karma Studio open for the very first time and to see albums being created here that then have global success which changes people’s lives.
SMC – Who is your go-to team? Are you a solo thinker/doer, or do you like to bounce ideas around with your peers?
Chris – I have a small team of trusted Advisers but do most things on my own…the team at Karma is amazing – great administration and creative and technical support.
SMC – Which of your awards are you most proud of being a recipient of and why?
Chris – The award that brought me most satisfaction was winning the gold medal at an international music competition when I was just 18 years old. It was the first time I’d won anything of consequence and it really boosted my confidence to then go on and try to achieve great things in the music industry.
SMC – I read that you have been behind successful Artist projects in the USA and Asia. What draws you to Asia and where do you see the difference in the style of Pop Musicians between the two countries? Would you say Asia is more advanced?
Chris – we have amazing acts all over the world and the best ones are all unique. Styles and flavors change from country to country but I would say that I am excited at the prospect of breaking Asian acts into the west and western acts into Asia. That’s always fun to see cross pollination and true global success…
SMC – Where do you think ‘it’ is in terms of the future of music platforms supporting Artists – Radio, or alternative platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
Chris – I see Spotify dominating globally before too long. It’s an easy to use and very functional platform. I listen to the radio in the car, but more and more, I am enjoying having control of what I listen to on Spotify and then being surprised by playlists that others have created.
SMC – We often hear from industry professionals that the music of today ‘isn’t what it was’ 20 or 30 years ago in terms of quality. What are your thoughts on what the Millennial generation of Artists are creating? Do you share these same opinions of your peers in the industry to a degree?
Chris – I wholeheartedly disagree – there’s loads of great music being made now and 30 years ago, there was also great music and a lot of terrible music being made! Nowadays, everyone has access to very affordable simple technology to record and create which is a wonderful thing…then, as people develop their skills, they use the more sophisticated platforms on which to create and truly amazing music is flowing from Artists from all over the world.
SMC – Have there been any indie Artists who have wowed you in the last few years? If so, who?
Chris – Adele started out as an Indie Artist and caused a massive response from being truly authentic. I have also loved watching the rise to fame of Dagny – a Norwegian Pop Singer who has now been snapped up by Republic, but she started from grassroots and evolved as an Artist and is now wowing people all over the world.
SMC – For you, what do you find personal satisfaction in?
Chris – I love bands like Muse and Radiohead. I’ve really enjoyed live shows from Queen featuring Adam Lambert, and the Chainsmokers we fun in Los Angeles earlier this year.
SMC – When an idea comes to the forefront of your mind, do you act quickly on it or do you take the time to research and develop it?
Chris – I like to move quickly whenever possible! But I make sure to research too. That can be quick these days with access to everything we ever need to know online!
SMC – What was the most rewarding or memorable moment in your role as Senior Vice President of Sony BMG?
Chris – It was always great to see the younger acts coming through and making their mark. But, from a corporate point of view, seeing the end of the year financial reports always showing growth and always above target – that, as a result of making great music with our key acts. Also, ensuring that the back-catalogue was always being stimulated and refreshed and presented in new vibrant ways to the public.
SMC – Aside from Artists/Musicians/Songwriters, what kinds of initiatives or individuals professionally are you most likely to support or which you are most passionate about?
Chris – I take a strong interest in supporting mental health practitioners who help Musicians. Our industry is so demanding physically and emotionally and often, Musicians end up in difficult places. We need to look after them and ensure they are supported when the going gets tough, for whatever reason…
SMC – Last question before we head into the Press Release questions: What do you personally feel your greatest accomplishment is to date? Professionally?
Chris – Producing the soundtrack to ‘Interstellar’.
KARMA SONGWRITING RETREATS
SMC – When Mike (Rogers, mutual industry friend) had introduced me to you, he sent me a link to your website (here) and I was blown away! You are the owner of this venture – can you tell us what inspired you to get this project going? (for our readers, the press releases will be included with this interview below)
Chris – Having been working in London and New York for Sony, I really wanted to do a project that would get me back to making music and making records. I had always wanted to do build a strong studio and I thought about what the ideal studio should be. Naturally, there were palm trees and a beach location springing into my mind (laughs) and I liked the idea of being away from the real world in a tropical paradise – Thailand! We have subsequently developed these songwriter retreats for writers from all over the world to come and enjoy the vibe here. Fifteen writers from all over the globe, congregate and write together in the most exotic and inspiring location imaginable. Great songs flow!
SMC – What is the kind of work that goes into the planning process of these retreats? Do you have a team that organizes this for you or do you prefer to be hands-on?
Chris – I am very hands-on but we have an Administrator who looks after all the accommodations and logistics as well as amazing Producers working with the writers and programming them up, ready to pitch to major label Artists all around the world.
SMC – I feel that a studio in the middle of paradise is probably every musician or songwriters dream. As a writer myself, this inspires me to get the creative juices flowing just looking at the video of the studio (laughs)! Do you feel location for this project when you initially came up with the idea was essential to getting the creative juices flowing for the Songwriters/Artists? If so, why?
Chris – Choosing this location was all about the vibe. It was all about what would inspire Musicians. The world is full of studios in cities, and most Musicians have a set-up at home. We needed to be different and it seems to have worked! We are constantly full.
SMC – Can you tell us a little bit of history on the studio in terms of who has attended and whose music has been picked up by major label Artists?
Chris – One of the first bands to come (to Karma) was Placebo recording their album ‘Battle Of The Sun’ and since that time, we also have made records for Jamiroquai, Bullet For My Valentine, The Libertines, Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Heat, Hellions, Trophy Eyes, and amazing bands from Japan, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course, pretty well every major Thai act has been here too!
SMC – Is there one (or a few) Songwriters who have attended the retreat whose music has stood out to you or impressed you greatly?
Chris – There are a number…a young guy called Syps (Alex Sypsomos) really stands out and you will be hearing hits from him in the next none months, I guarantee. Also, Gia Koka from Holland was amazing. Also, Jackson Dimiglio Wood and Rich Craker have done some pretty awesome things too for major label Artists.
SMC – Can you tell us about some of the Artists who have had some hits that originated from the Songwriters in this retreat?
Chris – Well it’s early days, but we know that a new Artist with Avex in Japan (Momo) is about to break with a brand new single written at Karma. We also have songs on hold with Rhianna and Leona Lewis currently.
SMC – Can you tell us what kind of feedback the Songwriters who have attended the retreats have to say about their experience?
Chris – We have such lovely feedback – people absolutely love being here and they do their best work but I get looked after so well too…our staff tend to everyone’s every need and the whole thing is pretty idyllic.
Karma Studio & Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars
SMC – Was the studio built from scratch? What kind of details can you give specifically about the studio equipment and the studio itself?
Chris – Yes, I bought the land and built the entire complex from scratch. We have three studios – one equipped with a 56 channel SSL G+ Console and the other two are very sophisticated production and post-production studios with a mixture of state of the art and vintage equipment from all major brands.
SMC – Is this your first time hosting the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars program?
Chris – Yes, it is. We are the perfect ‘destination studio’ for this kind of project. We can make such great footage here and shoot great pictures to accompany songs from hit songwriters.
SMC – Can you tell us a little more about the program and where it was incepted and why?
Chris – This is a program that enables a young singer with some financial backing to fast track into the business and to work with amazing people within a concentrated period of time. At the end of the one-month program, the Artist will have an album and all the video and image assets required to be marketed internationally. And with my connections at the major labels, we can introduce them to senior A&R teams in London, Nashville, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as release direct to market via our own label linked with iTunes and Spotify.
SMC – Although at first glance of the costs for this program seem high initially, when one looks at what is offered to an Artist in terms of career advancement, I feel this is a valid and wise investment! Can you tell us if there is any other program out there which offers what you do or is this a first?
Chris – I don’t think there are many programs out there quite like this and when one knows that quite commonly top Writer/Producers are charging $10,000 – 20,000 a track, $100,000 for an entire album with two videos and two photoshoots plus all the other ancillary help is an amazing value!
SMC – You seem like the kind of man who is an innovator in terms of unique opportunities for the music industry. Can you tell me what the vision for the next five to ten years is for Karma Studio Artists or the Studio itself?
Chris – I do indeed like to develop new things, you’re right. In the next five years, we will have a very strong and innovative management company linked to the studios, as well as the label, which has already started but we are also very attentive to the ways that the market changes and so, right now, we are making it our business to work closely with Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook, and numerous other emerging platforms. We keep on top of the latest marketing techniques and ensure our Artists benefit from these…
SMC – What determines a successful candidate for this program? What are you and your team looking for in terms of qualifications/skills from the Artists submitting their music to you for this program?
Chris – It’s simple – a unique voice and a passion for success that matches our own hunger!
SMC – In your experience, what do you think makes up the components of a truly successful Artist?
Chris – Someone who has a genuine, authentic talent, who cares a lot about every single detail ad who works incredibly hard…there is now substitute for hard work and I love it when I see young acts really giving their all and matching our own drive and enthusiasm.
SMC – What do you and your team(s) hope to do in terms of having the Artists attending your program ‘stand out’ in mainstream music?
Chris – Again, in one sense, the answer is simple: we move heaven and earth to write and produce hit songs. One song can change people’s lives…
SMC – I read in your press release for the Superstar 101 program that ‘“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a high-end studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 program – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
How do you feel your program is superior to that of one who writes, records, and produces music in their own personal space/environment? I do see that you have a lot to offer and I know that really, $100,000 isn’t much to ask for what you are offering in terms of services and the ability to get the Artist who attends this program the ‘established’. What do you think is the main benefit of the Superstar 101 program?
Chris – Along with the exceptional Writer Producers that we have on the team here, the other main benefit is the incredible links to industry that I offer. Yes, the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ does ring true and If we have the right Artist here, I can have them in front of the right people in any major city with the very best assets to ensure they fast track to the top.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time you have had an Artist come on too strong and it was a turn-off? How did you handle it?
Chris – Well, naming no names, we did have one act that had a lot of drive and very little talent, but was not aware of this fact. I love people with passion and I always try to help, but there does need to be a base level of talent at all times!
SMC – In relation to the last question: Can you tell us of a time where there was an Artist who you felt was grateful for all the hard work you and your team did in establishing them and how did they reciprocate this gratitude?
Chris – The studio name is ‘Karma’ and actually, whenever we give our all to people, they always reciprocate in some way. We’ve built up amazing relationships with acts from all over the world, and the best way anyone can reciprocate is by recommending us to others…that’s the greatest gift.
SMC – Where do you think this kind of program becomes personal and about the Artist and their talent/art as opposed to the business aspect?
Chris – We will connect with the Artist from day one. That’s when it all starts. We need great chemistry and we work hard to develop the best environment and conditions for a healthy stimulating personal relationship.
SMC – What has been the best collaboration with an Artist from Karma Studios you have experienced to date?
Chris – Wow – there have been so many! I guess we have been instrumental in bringing a young Australian band ‘Hellions’ into the mass market but working with the new guy ‘Syps’ has been amazing. Watch this space…. he is destined for the top!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us about some of the dynamic or insightful experiences an Artist has shared with you about their time at Karma Studios?
Chris – The one thing that reoccurs from most of our most valued clients is simply, their gratitude that ‘we care’ and that we go the extra mile to make sure they have the perfect environment in which to create. The Libertines were especially grateful because we took our duty of care to the n’th degree looking after Peter Doherty (Lead Singer) for six months before he was ready to record. That’s an example of how our care and attention to detail pays off for people. They are now back playing major festivals all over the world, rising up from a long period of dormancy. It may well not have happened if they had not spent time at Karma….
Karma Studio Contact information & Social Media (click to view)
On June 16th, 2017, Los Angeles-based Singer-Songwriter O’neill Hudson walked onto the world music stage under her new project and hasn’t looked back. In the short span of approximately 2 weeks, she has managed to enrapture thousands of her loyal fans (old & new) with launch of her debut single ‘Lucky’ on all major music platforms. What followed is the equivalent to one discovering a beautiful waterfall in the middle of a lush forest on a midsummer’s day: magical, refreshing, exquisite, and a welcome sight and sound. And that’s just her vocals. When we add in the exquisitely romantic lyrics (originally written for her husband), we have THE wedding song of the summer and more than likely, for infinity…it’s that good!
O’Neill began debuting her new single opening for her older brother, Reeve Carney on his ‘Youth Is Wasted’ tour recently, and the reception was exactly what we predicted: fans were gushing and clambering to hear the song just ‘one more time’ on social media platforms. In fact, friends of the songbird have also begun submitting videos to her with beautifully choreographed dance moves inspired by O’neills’ bewitching vocals. One fan even sent in a video with their preschool children singing ‘Lucky’ acapella! It’s that contagious and that memorable. (check out O’neill’s Instagram @oneillhudsonsings) These kinds of fan interactions demonstrate that this is a song that inspires people to sing along, create, dance, and even dream. O’neill maintains her authenticity with gracious responses such as, ‘I can hardly express my thankfulness for you all following me on here + your unbelievably sweet remarks on ‘Lucky’ – I feel like these times are pinch me moments’ and ‘You guys!! I am so overwhelmed by the support on ‘Lucky’ – it feels like a dream. I am so thankful that this song (which means so much to me) has connected us. I’m so excited for this new journey’.
Can we say ‘AMEN!’?
The earlier part of O’neill’s career, music written under the name ‘Paris Carney’ included sensual, leading-edge alternative ballads that laid the groundwork for her new project: ‘O’Neill Hudson’. After listening to the new single in comparison to her earlier work, one can audibly hear that O’Neill is ‘Paris Carney’, evolved. The singer songwriter began as a back-up singer for her equally talented brother Reeve (Carney), Jonas Brothers and most recently, Hailee Steinfeld. Soon after, with the support of family and friends, she began delving into her own art which prompts us again to raise our hands with another emphatic ‘AMEN!’
Although ‘Lucky’ is the first single under the O’neill name, we are confident that this is the very rich, mellifluous beginnings of what this Artist is capable of. Her cultivated vocals are O’neill and I am confident that this is the kind of Artist who does everything on point in terms of lyric/instrumental compatibility, while remaining original, authentic, and beautifully flawless in her final composition.
O’neill has already consented for SMC to begin a Spotlight Numbered Series where we will begin documenting her career journey on our SMC SPOTLIGHT and in the wake of her success with ‘Lucky’, we are already anticipating her next single!
Have a listen to ‘Lucky’ & read our exclusive interview below:
Starlight Music Chronicles SMC Exclusive Interview | O’neill Hudson
SMC – Hello O’neill! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! I am going to get right into this – off the hop, I want to say that your new single ‘Lucky’ is an ASTOUNDING entry into the industry under your new project O’neill Hudson. Before we get into talk on your new song, let’s go further back: you’ve been a musician for a few years now. Can you tell us what your other projects were/are?
O’neill – Hi! Thank you so much! I’ve been singing my entire life truly, and grew up doing demos for my dad. I professionally started as a backup singer for my brother Reeve 12 years ago. I’ve also sung background for the Jonas Brothers and most recently Hailee Steinfeld. I’ve written songs for TV/FILM and co-wrote Youtuber Bethany Mota‘s debut single ” Need you right now”.
SMC – I was on Spotify looking back at some of your previous music under your Paris Carney name. There’s some pretty fantastic tunes! Can you tell us how you have evolved from Paris Carney to O’neill Hudson and which project you are focusing on more long-term?
O’neill – Ah thank you! I am very proud of my other released material (under my maiden name, Paris Carney) but I felt like there was a side of me that wasn’t being heard in that style, that’s why I started writing for “O’neill”. I love singing and telling stories and I wasn’t feeling like I could fully do that…I also wanted everything to be authentic and real from the messages to the production. I’m definitely focusing on “O’neill Hudson” but I wanted the ability to go back and work on some more of my older stuff down the line.
SMC – Can you tell us about the stage name O’neill Hudson? Where is it derived from? I saw somewhere that part of it was a name your mother was going to give you?
O’neill – O’neill is my middle name and I’ve always loved it so much. I was named after a close friend of my parents “Norris O’neill” who worked in commercial jingle business with my dad in NYC. He’s also my brother Zanes God-father, but Norris passed away before I was born, so I was named in his honor. “Hudson” was the name my parents had picked for me before I was born, because they thought I was going to be a boy. I also always loved that name + I’m from NYC and loved the Hudson River connection!
SMC – You come from a family with exceptional music talent, can you tell us how they inspired you or vice versa?
O’neill – I think we inspire each other by watching each other live and listening to eachothers’ recordings… We have similar inclinations and it’s cool to hear them / see them and then also exciting when something unexpected happens vocally, lyrically or production wise.
SMC – I saw that you had some very successful live performances opening recently for your brother Reeve. Can you tell me what your thoughts are on the response you received when you sang ‘Lucky’ live?
O’neill – It honestly feels surreal getting to sing “Lucky” live, really all my new songs. I’ve been working on this project for 2 years and only the co-writers and producers and my family have really experienced them. Singing “Lucky” live does feel especially special because of the meaning behind the song, having people connect to it was my dream.
SMC – Do you plan on any more future touring dates with or without Reeve? (Come to Canada!)
O’neill – I most definitely intend on touring very soon and I LOVE Canada- I would be so honored to play there!
SMC – What kind of feedback have you gotten from your family on your new single?
O’neill – My family has been so supportive and encouraging (really always! Ha ha) – I think they recognize my passion and ownership of this project, which has been really cool and validating.
SMC – What has the online support been like in terms of your fans?
O’neill – It has been truly unreal – I have been so moved by people’s support and love for the song – That is all you can ever hope for as an artist and songwriter. I just hope it continues to reach more people!
SMC – What has the media support been like?
O’neill – Nylon magazine online was amazing to just include my song in their best songs of the week, but otherwise my only other media support has been through my incredibly talented friends and family 🙂 I’ve been doing this all very grass-rootsy.
SMC – Often, when we find an Artist we see with a very promising future, we like to follow and chronicle their career as they reach milestones in their careers. We do this by way of a SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. Would you be open to us supporting you by way of interviews and reviews on our site as you continue on your journey?
O’neill – Of course! 🙂
SMC – Okay, let’s get into the topic of your new single ‘Lucky’…first off, I have to say ‘WOW’, lady, you have the voice of an Angel. (my review of the single will be posted above). I assume that this song was written for your husband correct?
O’neill – Ah thank you SO much! And YES! I wrote this as a love letter to my husband. It started with the chorus’ lines and the first line of the song “I hit the jackpot” and I brought it to my co-writer Wendy Wang (who also ended up producing the version that I released) …the rest flowed out in about 2 hours. I still cry when I listen to the lyrics because they are so true! I come from a divorced family and to find a love like I’ve found is so remarkable 🙂
SMC – When was this song written and why was it chosen as your debut under the O’Neill Hudson name?
O’neill – The song was written on Feb 24th, 2016. I chose it as my first single because the meaning was so special to me and everyone that heard the demo seemed to have this deep connection with its message, so I knew it had to be the one 🙂
SMC – Have you been approached by Radio yet for ‘Lucky’? I can list at least six stations who will want to play this song! I should connect you….
O’neill – I haven’t! But I would LOVE that so much! 🙂
SMC – When you sit back and look at the kind of responses you have gotten for ‘Lucky’, can you tell us what thoughts roll through your mind as you’re reading the comments from friends, family and fans?
O’neill – It almost feels like an out of body experience ha ha! I think because I hoped and prayed it would resonate with people, but actually seeing it resonate with people is so powerful to me.
SMC – What do you think makes a Musician ‘successful’ in the music industry?
Oh man…So many things… It really feels like ” right place, right time”. There are so many ways to “make it” now a days. You could make yourself crazy thinking about it. I know, for me, I just want to make art to make art at this point – and then pray that “success” comes from that place.
SMC – Where is your greatest global fan base located?
Hmmm… I’m not sure – I wanna say South America? They are so sweet and passionate there!
SMC – Can we expect another single soon? You MUST keep them coming. Please do keep us in the loop on upcoming music.
O’neill – Yes! I’m not positive when, but it may be coming very soon 🙂 I will definitely keep you posted!
SMC – Speaking of future music and style, can we expect recordings to be thematically or compositionally congruent to ‘Lucky’? This is a different sound from your music as Paris Carney.
O’neill – Yes! This project is all about organic sounds – Nothing MIDI 🙂
SMC – Are you touring on any festival circuits this summer?
O’neill – Not that I know of yet, but I’m hoping soon!
O’neill – I’ve been loving the “Good Luck Charm” charm necklace (I’m wearing it in my single artwork) – Really ever since I wrote “Lucky” I’ve been drawn to it. Also, her “Smiley face ring” – Her jewelry is all unbelievable.
SMC – Your husband Greg (Garboswky) is bassist for Jonas Brothers and has toured extensively with the band. How did the two of you meet and what is his thoughts on your new single?
O’neill – Yes! He actually works on their management team now. We met at a karaoke bar through mutual friends in 2009. When I first played him Lucky, he got choked up – which made me so emotional / happy 🙂
SMC – Aside From the talent you are surrounded with in terms of your family and friends, I still see you as a bright light whose talent stands alone and apart from the crowd. You are truly unique. Have you ever heard this from any industry peers before?
O’neill – Wow – that is so kind! I’ve struggled a lot with insecurity in the past (still do, of course!) but when it came to this project I found such strength and confidence – I am just so passionate about it and I think that is what shines through at the end… That makes me so happy!
SMC – What was the most flattering compliment you have ever received in terms of your music?
O’neill – My main inspirations for this project were Jeff Buckeley and Areosmith and two separate people heard “Lucky” and without me telling them the inspiration said it reminded them of those people and I about lost my mind with happiness.
SMC – What are your thoughts/experiences on/of the music industry in general?
O’neill – I think I know a little too much… Ha ha! It’s so complicated and complex, I love knowing people that make music because they love it.
SMC – How do you feel you differ I in terms of your Brothers Zane and Reeve in terms of your own projects?
O’neill – I think I have a little more “pop” music in my background, which may come through here and there, that’s where all the spice girls and Britney Spears listening sessions shine though, ha ha.
SMC – How do you feel you are similar to your siblings?
O’neill – I think we all have similar vocal tones and also, we are all obsessed with Areosmith “nine lives”. We also love a good vocal harmony arrangement!
SMC – Can you tell us where your most memorable live performance has been and why?
O’neill – This past mini tour for sure! I’ve done a lot of background singing in amazing places – but singing my own songs in a style that is so authentic to me is unreal.
SMC – Are there any specific charities or non-profit organizations you have a passion for or whom you support? If so, why?
O’neill – That is such a wonderful question. I feel passionate about people feeling loved and heard, for that reason I love giving back to the homeless in Los Angeles. I’ve also always had a heart for those with special needs and I want to get more connected in a way to give back in a bigger way.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of O’neill Hudson is like?
O’neill – I have a literal obsession with coffee, soooo, I’d pick up almond milk latte from a coffee shop near me (usually to meet a friend) …before that possibly go to my fav workout “Pop Physique” and then usually I’ll go to a writing or recording session to follow! I also probably watch too much TV in the day… I was obsessed with “This is us” and want “Lucky” or one of my songs to be in it soooo badly!
SMC – I have read articles that speak of your wit and charm. I have found that you come from a family of pretty charming and witty individuals. (The Honeymooners Art Carney is her great Uncle!) What would you say is your greatest personality trait and your weakest?
O’neill – Aww that is so sweet! I think it usually is a good thing because I love to make people feel comfortable… I do however have serious trust issues, so it’s kind of an interesting internal combination.
SMC – Let’s talk more fashion: aside from wearing gorgeous jewelry pieces from your mother’s line, what are your go-to’s in terms of clothing and ensemble?
O’neill – I do mix it up quite a bit, but I love vintage tees or silk shirts and different denims (Paige denim is my favorite) and I’ve also been obsessed with pointy toe flat booties.
SMC – Most often, we ask the Artists in our interviews who their ‘go-to’ team is in terms of Music production, Music Video Production, Management, and PR. Can you tell us who your team is?
O’neill – Aw yes! Don Miggs, Kevin Held and Wendy Wang are my current dream team! Lydia Murrty took my single artwork/ did all of my photography. I also have a lot of help from friends who have gone above and beyond to make my dreams come true so far… I’m still in need of someone in PR though 🙂
SMC – Which music platform do you prefer to promote your music: Spotify, Radio, SoundCloud, CD Baby, or Pandora?
O’neill – I love them all! I do tend to go to Spotify because I know it’s cheap and or free to access so much music…I really just want my music to be shared as much as possible.
SMC – Aside from family, which Artist or Artists in the industry are you inspired most by and why?
O’neill – Jeff Buckeley, Areosmith, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. I love all of them for different reasons from songwriting, to vocal ability, to the way they emote. New ones include…Andy Shauf, Lucius, and Big Thief.
SMC – Many people can Google an individual to find out more about their background, but we like to ask this question in our interviews: can you tell us 5 things about yourself that no one (or barely anyone) knows about you?
O’neill – I love God, Coffee, my husband, my family, I love listening / talking through stuff with people.. And obviously I love music and singing and songwriting… That’s 8 whoops…ha ha!
SMC – Where do you see your career in 6 months to a year from now?
O’neill – I hope to be on tour seeing people singing along to songs I wrote… My dream is also to sing “Lucky” on dancing with the stars and Jimmy Fallon. Ha ha!
SMC – Are there any other projects you have coming up that you can tell us about?
O’neill – This is my main focus right now… But I do have a side project with two of my songwriting friends that may be released somewhat soon 😉
SMC – Alright, final question – Can you tell us five things in your life at present you are grateful for and why?
O’neill – God, my husband, my family, friends and my first song “Lucky” being out… I am truly so Lucky and blessed.
Thank-you Paris! We look forward to supporting you on our SMC SPOTLIGHT platform and we wish you a world of success in your new venture as O’Neill Hudson!
After initial introductions (thanks Mike!), John and I arranged for an in-depth interview covering his career span, music, and personal life. ‘Nothing is off limits’ was his response to my inquiry on sensitive subject matter. In fact, he even divulged on the future of Rodney Bingenheimers’ career (under his wing at The Alternative), his thoughts on his career change from The William Morris Agency to The Alternative, and the extreme passion for his art (a night owl like me – often creatives don’t sleep much). This is one of the most candid and entertaining interviews I have had to date where we cover many insightful, relevant, and interesting topics.
This is the first installment in our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series where we will continue to track and follow John’s career. So, if you feel left like you’re left wanting more at the end of this feature, know that this is just the first chapter in our journey with the entertainment industry legend known as Mr. John Ferriter. Enjoy!
Note: Following the interview below, I’ve included my review of the new Tearaways album ‘Esquire’ track by track complete with summary.
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | John Ferriter June 20, 2017
SMC – Hello John! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) SPOTLIGHT! Let’s get right into it – you have quite an extensive career so we will break it down into sections here. Before we do that, can you tell us how you came to know Mike Rogers?
John – I actually met Mike Rogers in the early 80’s when he was the lead singer for a Punk Rock band called The Rotters. He was in the band with Phester Swollen and he was singing a song called “Sit On My Face Stevie Nix”. It was a classic and I played it on my radio show on KCSB many, many times.
Television Producer/Talent Representative
SMC – I was watching a YouTube video on your website ‘The Alternative’ where you are interviewed by Hollywood Immersive. In it, you spoke about working with The William Morris Agency. Can you tell us which accomplishments you feel were your greatest while working there?
John – In my 19 years at William Morris, there were many highs and many lows. The best part of the job was that I never experienced the same day twice. Conversely most days felt like a broken play, so you learned to think on your feet and improvise. But the greatest accomplishments were when you made the seemingly impossible become possible and when you saw the moments where clients were able to realize their dreams.
SMC – You are behind many well-known television shows such as ‘The Biggest Loser’, ‘Project Runway’, and ‘On Air with Ryan Seacrest’ to name a few. Can you tell us what your process is in terms of ‘packaging’ these shows?
John – When packaging shows, I always tried to bring together proprietary elements that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. That’s why I’ve always been so partial to talent. There is only one Ryan Seacrest. There is only one Garth Brooks, one Dick Clark, one Piers Morgan, one Dr. Drew, One Carrie Keagan, so when you have an opportunity to build shows around really talented people with great concepts and you target the marketplace accordingly you can meet with a greater degree of success.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time when you felt there was a client that was unprepared, or not ready for the kind of work you expected of them?
John – Many clients are unprepared in general and unprepared for success. As an Artist, your life can change in an instant, so I tell them to act like they’ve already had success. But too many are unprepared. See it and Realize it and it can happen if they are willing to work for it.
SMC – While with The William Morris Agency, can you tell us which project made you feel exceptionally proud?
John – At William Morris I was proud of all my projects. That being said, all of the work I did with Garth Brooks, Piers Morgan, Dick Clark, Ryan Seacrest, Nancy O’Dell, The Spice Girls, Hanson were quite fulfilling. I sold “Blue Collar Comedy”, “Biggest Loser”, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, “The Man Show”, “Project Runway”, “Biggest Loser” and about 300 other projects while at WMA. I was very proud of the Tsunami Benefit we put together in seven days that generated millions for the victim. I packaged the first Radio Music Awards and it’s now been cloned 50 times. I feel good about that.
SMC – Your transition into your own Agency ‘The Alternative’ followed working with The William Morris Agency and Octagon, can you tell us how that came about and why?
John – I was unceremoniously locked out of WME after the WMA and Endeavor merger because I was the only board member who voted against the merger. It was a bad deal and I voted to support the rank and file. The new boss used it against me. I don’t think I ever would have left the agency but I was given no choice. I signed a five-year deal with Octagon, a division of the Public Company Interpublic Group, and built a successful entertainment division. I sold and produced the Arsenio Hall Show, Garth Brooks last network series, was nominated for an Emmy for producing the Teen Bullying series “It Gets Better”, won an award from Planned Parenthood for Best Documentary for “I’m Positive” and launched a couple of docu-series. I realized that representing people and working at a Public Company are in direct conflict and I opened to launch my own Management Production shingle, THE ALTERNATIVE, when my five-year deal with Octagon expired. No regrets at all.
SMC – Can you tell us which of your clients with The Alternative you have enjoyed working with the most and why?
John – Wow, at the Alternative I love them all! Seriously, Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, Mike Wolfe, Clem Burke, Rodney Bingenheimer, Carrie Keagan, Brian Copeland, Mark Walberg, The Beach Boys, JoJo Wright, Ari Afsar, The Tearaways, Millie Courtney, Paige Davis, Mark McGrath, The Calling, The Fulcos…. How much time do you have? It’s a privilege to work with such talent people.
SMC – You gave advice in your interview with Hollywood Immersive about how individuals should appear in their first meetings with your agency in terms of professionalism. Can you share some more insight on that with our readers?
John – Well just blow me away in the first 120 seconds. I don’t look for clients. I look for partners who are or who want to be stars. Shy doesn’t play, so make an instant impression. Also, don’t bring your problems into the room.
SMC – I saw in the ‘About’ section of your website, it states: ‘WE ARE PLEASED TO INTRODUCE AND WORK WITH THE MOST NOTABLE ENTERTAINERS IN THE INDUSTRY. WE DO THIS WITH EXPERIENCE, INSIGHT AND PASSION.’ Can you tell us what determines who is a ‘notable’ in the industry? What are your standards?
John – Great people, great projects, great attitudes. That’s where we start. I also like category leaders. But I look for people who will listen and who want it all. My standards are really about the character of the person, not that the person is a character.
SMC – You have just taken the famous Mayor of the Sunset Strip ‘Rodney Bingenheimer’ under your wing, can you tell us how that came about? When will you be able to reveal what projects/deals you have coming up for him? (can you tell we are excited about this?)
John – I have listened to Rodney on the Roq since 1978. I met him over the years, have loved what he has done for so many, many people. Clem Burke (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Drummer for Blondie, and the man who has played with us the last year) introduced me to a different side of Rodney. I learned Rodney was a deeply sensitive caring person who loves music and musicians. I heard Kroq was dropping his show (new management decision) so I called Rodney and offered to manage him for free and told him I would get him on the air within a month. We just closed a great deal for Rodney to continue his show, Sunday nights in primetime on Sirius Radio on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel 21. One of my proudest deals ever because Rodney deserves to be National and I want everyone to experience what has made me happy for 39 years.
SMC – I have worked with some smaller newspapers and have a passion for Journalism in all its forms. One of your clients is Piers Morgan and I have to say, I admire that you have taken individuals not only from the entertainment industry, but also those who are behind the broadcasting of major world events. Can you tell us how this relationship began?
John – My relationship with Piers began over a bottle of inexpensive French Bordeaux at a party at Lady Caroline Michel’s flat in London and he’s become one of my closest and most trusted friends. I also shared the most expensive French Bordeaux with him the night we signed the big CNN contract. I’d take a bullet for him. We’re that close, and he’s that good.
SMC – You also have worked with Garth Brooks. Can you tell us what your best or most memorable experience was in working with him?
John – I love Garth Brooks. Greatest country artist of all time and up in the top three with Paul McCartney and John Lennon in my opinion. My greatest experience with Garth was in Vegas when I was producing his One Man Show Thanksgiving CBS Special with him. I suggested he put his Cowboy Hat back on for one of the numbers and he refused. Right before the show, he looked at me and said “ok, I will do it. If it doesn’t work, it’s your fault. If it does, I’m taking all the credit.” It did, and after the crowd went crazy he looked my way and winked at me. He’s simply the best.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were in complete awe of an industry peer/client?
John – Every day I am in awe of people in the business. Too many stories to tell, but I am in awe of any person who can balance a successful family, marriage and career. I’m envious.
SMC – At the end of the day we are all human. Can you tell us of an experience with a client or industry peer that made you see them in a different light aside from their celebrity status?
John – I’ve seen so many human sides. Clients who go through divorces who have to walk onto a set and smile like there’s no tomorrow while I know their heart is breaking. Many come to mind.
SMC – Have you ever had a real friendship develop with any of your clients?
John – I’ve had many friendships with clients. Piers Morgan, Glenn Weiss, Nancy O’Dell, James Ray, many, many, many. I’ve also had close friendships break up when clients look at me as their servant. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
SMC – In terms of your clients, what do you feel are the key factors in being successful in the entertainment industry?
John – Success in the industry – if you are a woman, know where you want to go and look fabulous when you get there! (Thank you, Leeza Gibbons, for that!). In general – success comes via hard work and preparation. Also, you need to trust your team. Without trust there will be failure.
SMC – Let’s begin with your connection to Rodney. Rodney is a legend and a true pioneer in the music industry in terms of discovering the ‘who’s who’ (such as Bowie, Blondie, etc.) I am aware that you have your own music career, The Tearaways as well. Can you tell us how supportive Rodney has been of your music?
John – Rodney Bingenheimer has always been a supporter. He started playing “Girls Who Love Cars” off of the Earle Mankey Sessions: Vol. IV CD and then he jumped on a number of other songs. He has gotten behind “Name That Tune”, “John Wayne”, “Bash”, “That’s Rock!”, “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio”, “I Love My Life”, “We Don’t Talk We Text” many, many tunes. Our new Christmas song “Helluva Christmas” will be on his new Christmas CD. What can I say, the man’s a tastemaker!
SMC – Your new album ‘Esquire’ is a ton of fun! There are a lot of vintage rock influences woven throughout the lyrics and even in the instrumentation. Can you tell us what it was like to collaborate with some of the industry’s most notable such as Clem Burke?
John – Esquire” is a label of love. John Finseth (founder of the Tearaways in 1981 at 17) and I wrote about thirty songs along with Greg Brallier and we just tried to create a record that we would want to listen to over and over. Clem came in after I met him with the Empty Hearts and played about thirty shows with us last summer and fall and this winter. He came up and started recording and we watched it grow into something special. We also did some work with Jeffrey Foskett from the Beach Boys on Name That Tune (the theme to the new game show). We’ve been friends for years, and fans of Jeffrey’s and that was a thrill.
SMC – Which is your personal favorite song off this album and why?
John – My favorite song is one of five – “BASH” is just an old-fashioned romp and puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it. Hey we mention, Bash, IPO, The Rave-Ups, The 3 O’clock, Chesterfield Kings…. I mean, come on! “That’s Rock!” Is an autobiography of our early Santa Barbara days, “Much Too Old To Feel This Young” was inspired by Garth Brooks and his song “Much too Young to feel this damn old”, “I’m Just Trying to be nice” is the quintessential breakup song (it’s not you…. it’s really you!”) and “If I Had It” (just great vocals by Fin and Greg). I do the first ever Tearaway rap/Meatloaf rip off bit as well).
SMC – The album art is dynamic! David Russo is the brilliance behind the artwork on it and he has quite an impressive roster of accomplishments also. Can you tell us how he came up with the theme for it?
John – I met David through a mutual friend. Loved him and his work. We conversed for a couple of years and I just called and asked if we could use the vibe and characters from “What A Great Life” (WAGL) which he created. He said yes. The cover and design were all David. I love it!!!!
SMC – When you are songwriting, where do you go to for inspiration?
John – As a songwriter I just look for inspiration. I have my favorites, but it starts with an idea and a melody for me. But it’s important to me that everyone be able to hum our songs. Mike Rogers told me that Japanese audience hum the Tearaways’ songs. That makes me feel really good.
SMC – The albums’ credits include this phrase: ‘A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world’. We often hear how much has been put into the work by the Artists we support. Can you tell us what YOUR meaning behind that phrase is?
John – We loved making the record. We love the songs. We collaborated, we fought, we compromised but at the end of each song we high fived, hugged each other and shook hands. Being in a band is like being married to five of your ex-wives at the same time. But it’s as great high as I’ve ever experienced when it works. So, we are saying… “We love this, we hope you do to, and if you don’t love it we aren’t going to quit anytime soon!
SMC – I especially had deep appreciation for this phrase (also on the album credits): ‘When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.’ With that being said, what would you say is an accomplishment that you are all proud of (aside from the album, of course)?
John- I am proud that a bunch of guys in their fifties can still rock, and sing and play with passion and that we all have our hair and none of us are grossly out of shape. I’m 57, but I feel 27! And playing with Clem makes me feel invincible. Fin is 53 but has the stamina of a 16-year-old in the studio. It’s a thrill to do this, while still having a very time intensive day job.
SMC – What has been the media response to your music in terms of Radio and Entertainment websites and blogs?
John – Knock on wood, the response to our music has been very strong. I just hope more people hear it. But we are gaining fans daily and that’s an amazing feeling.
SMC – What has the support been like among your peers? Family?
John – Our families have been wonderful and wonderfully supportive for the most part. Unfortunately, my wife left me during the recording of this record. We will write about that on the next record! But hey, sometimes Bad things have to happen for the right things to happen.So, love is out there somewhere!!
SMC – Are there any tour plans for the remainder of 2017? Any festivals you will be attending during the summer months?
John – Yes. We are playing in Ireland and England in August and September. Also, a lot of California dates in September and October and November. We have two new Christmas songs that are done and we will push them hard this fall and winter. We played the Malibu Guitar Festival for the second year in a row. It was great. We would love to play more festivals!!
SMC – Where do you find your fanbase is the most concentrated in terms of countries and age groups?
John – Our fan base is early twenties to Sixties. More women than men. California, the UK, some Scandinavian countries and Australia. Slowly but surely, by the time we’re 80, look out!!
SMC – Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process?
John – I write constantly. If I come up with an idea I write it down. I then usually write late at night or early in the morning. If I start a song I finish it. Then I bring it to the guys. But I also love to co-write with others and help them elevate their ideas and concepts. Lyrics are easy for me. Melodies are easy. I need help with arrangements.
SMC – What instrument do you create your music on?
John – I write almost exclusively on Guitar. I recently wrote two songs that started on my trusty old Hofner Club bass (A Little Bit of Love and King of “F” Mountain).
SMC – You have all played impressive venues in the USA and England, can you tell us which is your favorite and why?
John – My favorite venue is the Cavern in Liverpool. Because it’s the Cavern and the Beatles played there. The staff at the Cavern is World class. In Dublin, I love “Whelan’s”. In Santa Barbara, I love “Soho”. I’ve always loved “Molly Malone’s” and “The Troubadour in Los Angeles. I’ve always wanted to play “The Roxy”. But I will play anywhere with a stage and a great PA.
SMC – What is the reception like when you play live? Which were your most memorable live performances?
John – We played to 40,000 people in Liverpool one year. We opened with a Ramones song and they went nuts. It was magic. People really seem to like the band know. We also played a show in Long Beach at the Petroleum Club to about 20 people and I loved it. Old people got up and danced. It was cool.
SMC – Can you tell us what your experience was like working with Earle Mankey?
John – I’ve worked with Earle Mankey going back to 1988. He is a collaborator, a great producer, engineer and I am thankful to call him a friend. He’s talented and compassionate. So, I feel good when I work with him. Earle been berry, berry good to The Tearaways!
SMC – Tom Hanks and Piers Morgan are huge fans of your art – can you tell us what their responses are to the new album?
John – Tom Hanks booked the Tearaways a number of times before I rejoined the band. Piers has been an ardent supporter coming to shows and tweeting in support of us. Piers does the voice of “James Bond” in our song “James Bond”. That’s cool!
SMC – I read in your band bio that ‘Recent TV appearances include NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, Tribune and The Arsenio Hall Show’…wow! Which experience was most memorable?
John – Any TV is memorable. Love it all. They can see us, they can hear us too! I’m in!
SMC – Will there be more creating in the next few years for The Tearaways?
John – We released “Esquire” May 29th, we have the next record in the can. We have two new Christmas songs and we will perform on the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Lots of Tearaway action coming to you!
SMC – Aside from being a successful Television Producer, Artist and Talent Representative, what other characteristics or hobbies do you have?
John – I love animals. I love dogs. I help with dog rescues. I like all animals, but I love dogs. They are loyal, smart, they trust us, they are loyal. My goal in life is to be the person my dog thinks I am.
SMC – Who has been the most supportive of your career(s) other than family?
John – I have some friends and associates who have really supported us. It takes an infrastructure of love and support to make a band work. We’ve been blessed.
SMC – Can you recall an interview that was most memorable to you and why?
John – I loved my Hollywood Immersive” interviews and my talk/interview at UCSB a couple of years ago.
SMC – Can you list at least 5 talents/hobbies aside from your music career we don’t know about?
John – I play Tennis. I read avidly. I listen to music avidly. I love TV. It’s not the boob tube, it’s the Groove Tube to me. I love Tea. I really love Tea. I also love the News. I’m a news junkie.
SMC – Can you tell us what a normal day in your life would be like? Many of our readers idolize a celebrities’ life, but they don’t often know what goes on behind the scenes and how tough the industry can be….
John – I don’t have a normal day. I get up and all hell breaks loose. Every day since August 21st, 1991. I like it!
SMC – What kinds of pressures are there for you personally in keeping to a schedule in terms of your career(s)?
John – Many pressures. The industry kills relationships. If you are with someone who isn’t in the industry they don’t understand why you are a slave to your clients. If they are in the industry, they are jealous of your clients. Next, I will be a monk. Also, the hours put a strain on fitness. I work hard now to stay in shape. I want to live longer.
SMC – What kinds of charities or organizations do you personally support and why?
John – I support many dog rescues, but It’s a Dog’s Life in particular. I support a lot of AIDS Charities, Autism Charities, the SPCA and the like. Animals need our help. So, I go there first.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time where you were involved in a project and it just didn’t ‘feel right’? How did you handle it?
John – This happens every day unfortunately. Recently someone was disrespectful to my partner Jamie. He screamed “Do you know who I am?” I said “Yes, the guy that I just dropped.” I have no tolerance for Temporary people who make permanent decisions.
SMC – What does the term ‘truly successful’ mean to you?
John – Knowing that you’ve done things to change people’s lives forever in positive things. I call it Psychic Income!
SMC – Final question – if there was one thing in your life you could go back and ‘do over’ again, what would it be and why/why not?
John – I would have gotten up on stage at the Goleta Community Center and I would have sung “Sit On my Face Stevie Nix” with Mike Rogers.
SMC – Thank you John!
John – Thank you!!!
Bash –Right out of the barn gates (complete with lampshade on the head and party animals in tow), ‘Bash’ is a thrill-ride throwback to sunny beach days with the convertible top rolled down. The single word to describe this song has already been occupied by its title – a true reflection of this super catchy piece infused with guitar riffs and smashing drums that deliver like a punchy, warm, attack.
If I Had It – Now this tune is smooth as silk: the intro grabs my attention immediately and leads into instrumentation that takes me back to the music I coveted as a young girl listening to dynamic classic Rock songs on the turntable. It’s fun from start to finish. You can audibly hear these guys having a blast in the recording process of this song and listening to it allows you to be a part of it, almost as if you are there. Listen LOUD.
Hello Isla Vita – This is the song you hear in those movies where the little country girl arrives in the big city: it’s awe-inspiring. The magnificence is heard in the thunderous drums and gentle vocals throughout marking this ballad as the song you want to listen to when you are looking for adventure on a Friday night. Keep it in your weekend playlist for sure.
I Quit My Job – The lyrics here are laced with honesty throughout and is a true ode to the beach boy days where songs were executed with that gentle feel-good vibe. I give credit to the vocals in this one which are mellow but powerful in their impact. I recommend this one for cruising one a warm sunny day.
That’s Rock – We pick up the pace again with this track that is strategically placed halfway through the album. After the ‘Hello Isla Vita’ and ‘I Quit My Job’ mellow vibe, ‘That’s Rock’ picks up the pace with a groovy beat topped with impressive vocals. This song brings the party right back into the album.
My Bad – Ohhhhhh where do I begin with this slick number? The lyrics are strong right off the get-go. The instrumentation flows very well throughout and supports the steady authoritative vocals heard throughout. I envision a ride down sunset strip on a motorcycle when I hear this number.
Much Too Old To Feel This Young – If you want to get to the heartbeat of this album, this song is the one. The gentle tones in the vocals on this one illuminates the heart and soul. The song is perfectly placed in terms of the track order in this album as it gives the listener a true taste of how this band demonstrates a 360 degree turn in their style and instrumental composition.
Good Luck Lovin – What a fun one. The party continues with the catchy lyrics in this tune which, I feel, is an ode to The Beatles Cavern Club era days. The vocals are on point and the instrumentation is super catchy. I think this one would be fantastic to hear live!
Find Another Fool – is a slower ballad that has a very slight ‘Bon Jovi’ style in the vocals and mood. I am talking the ‘Living on a Prayer’ variety here. Backup vocals on this are a perfect fit throughout and make this a unique composition. I quite like this one a lot.
I’m Just Trying To Be Nice – Hello Sir Paul McCartney! This is a gorgeous number and probably, my favorite off this album. I mean it, this album definitely touches on the scope of all eras of classic Rock and ‘I’m Just Trying To Be Nice’ is captivating in its overall composition. They lyrics, vocals, instrumentation – all of it is completely on point. Classic British Rock and Pop influences play a primary role here.
Name That Tune – Back we go to California! This is a short ballad that fares well among the 1960’s groovy pool party crowd. Can you see it? Once you have heard the song, you’ll know what I mean. Definitely a must for a playlist suitable to this nature.
Any Better Than This – The final song on this album is like the bow on a present: a complete picture of the who, what, when, where, and why of The Tearaways: they have been there, done that and there’s no regrets. This is a very heart-warming number.
Here’s my description of this album in its entirety: These boys are no strangers to this industry and it’s apparent in their cultivated sound. Listening to ‘Esquire’ is the kind of experience where you walk away feeling closer to these incredibly talented Musicians. They have exposed their hearts and souls vividly and authentically to their fans, comparable to them inviting you into their homes, having a couple of beers and shooting the breeze. It’s a warm, familiar, and fun feeling that leaves you satisfied long after the visit. Who doesn’t walk away from something like that feeling fantastic. That’s The Tearaways sound. Well done gentlemen!
People, have you bought the album yet? Get on it!
Check out their live performance on Brian Copeland below:
“I’M JUST TRYING TO BE NICE” – John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier/John Ordazzo c. 2016
Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP
“Whatever Happened To Rock And Roll Radio” by Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone c. 1979
“MUCH TOO OLD TO FEEL THIS YOUNG” c. 2015
“FIND ANOTHER FOOL” c. 2015
“ANY BETTER THAN THIS” c. 2012
John Ferriter/John Finseth/Greg Brallier
Feretic Music, ASCAP / Magma Music, ASCAP
John Finseth – Guitar, Bass, Keys, Percussion & Vocals
Greg Brallier – guitar & vocals
David Hekhouse – guitar & vocals
John Ferriter – bass, guitar & vocals
with Clem Burke – drums & percussion
Additional instruments – Joel Mankey – horns, woodwinds, cool noises
The Tearaways are endorsed by Hofner Guitars
The Tearaways use Vintage Vox Amps, Vintage Fender Amps, Marshall Amps, Hi-Watt Amps, Ampeg Amps, Hofner Basses & Guitars, Gibson Guitars, Rickenbacker Guitars, Fender Guitars, Martin Guitars, Gretsch Guitars, Silvertone Guitars, DW Drums, Gretsch Drums, Vox, Korg & Hammond organs, Human hand-claps, just about anything else in the studio that you can shake or hit
CD design and original artwork for the Tearaways by David Russo (WAGL =. WHAT A GREAT LIFE)
CD photographs courtesy of Collin Mathew Photography Liverpool, Ian Hanson Photography Liverpool, Joanne A. Calitri Beat artist Santa Barbara California and Martyn Daniel Still Image – we thank you all for your amazing work and friendship
A lot of sacrifice went into making this record so we hope you enjoy it and appreciate the spirit within which it is presented to the world. Special thanks go out to our families and friends for their loyalty, love and support. All of our former bandmates for tolerating us and inspiring us to play and to all others who have inspired us in some way.
And a very special thanks to Earle & Jeri Mankey, John Ordazzo, Piers Morgan, Jamie Gruttemeyer, Rodney Bingenheimer from Rodney on the Roq, KROQ, KTYD, Alan Goldman, Patricia Kramer, Lin Aubochon, Billy Butler BBC Merseyside, Mike Rogers WhatTheFunDay, Radio365 Network, Jeffrey Foskett, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Ron Dante, Bo Donaldson, Kenny Aronoff, Robin DiMaggio, Jimmy Paxson, David Raymond, Eddie Munoz, Joel Mankey, Jesse Benenati, Perry Benenati, Daniel Orias, Stephen David Brooks, Jim Yukich, Cindy Kona, Ralph Rubenstein, Noah Rubenstein, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Mark McGrath, Charles and Mary Rook, Thomas Repicci, Merwyn Belin, Robert Matheu, Bob Hannam, Chantal Reeder, Marc Platt, Lianne Curtis, Millie Courtney, Robert Courtney, Bill Heckle, Jon Keats & theteam at the Cavern Liverpool The Greatest Club in the World, Blondie, the Empty Hearts , the International Swingers & Split Squad for loaning Clem to us, The Beatles, Chandler, Carly, Marc Chardon Rogers, Nick Wass, Cathy Harrison & Rob Olson from Hofner, Jim Lombard, Charles & Mary Rook, Bootleg Blondie, Paddy, John, Bob Horrocks, Tony Barbados and Liverpool elite, Candy Kayne, Elizabeth M. Adger, our friends from Imperial Guitars, Norman’s Rare Guitars & Guitar Center, The Beatles, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, The Spoilers, The Rotters, The Jetsons, Trik, The Stingrays, 5 Cool What, The Pranks, Reverie, Aston Martin, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Mr. & Mrs. Dog, Christine Brallier, Jack Brallier, Loretta Finseth, Dakota Finseth, Jade Finseth, Mack Finseth, Dave Humes, Tony Cook, Steve Heller, Mike & Jessica Lambert, the little Twerp, Cam Dafoe, Lisa Hekhouse, Cari Hekhouse, Shane Hekhouse, Kyle Hekhouse & the Ferriters,
Dedicated to E.L. Woody & Alan Massengale & every kid who has a dream to play an instrument or sing in public
In loving memory – of our family members who remain with us only in spirit & Timothy Bryson
“When you’ve topped 40 in age, you can never be in the top 40 on the Pop Charts, but you can always be Top 40 in Life.”
The Tearaways are represented by John Ferriter & Jamie Gruttemeyer at The Alternative
In February 2017, Los Angeles-based Iconic Band ‘The Fontaines’ dropped their single ‘Evaporate’ on iTunes and are once again waking up the Music Industry demonstrating their incredible talent and consistently accelerating career toward the next level of fabulous. In fact, this is a band whose notoriety has been duly noted by the ‘who’s who’ in the industry such as Famous Radio Hosts Rodney Bingenheimer (KROQ – Rodney on the Roq in Los Angeles) and Mike Rogers (WhatTheFunday Inter FM Radio in Japan). The Fontaines had their (unreleased yet – we are waiting!) upcoming new single ‘Mercury’ spun on Bingenheimers’ last show ever on June 5th alongside the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Bangles, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Moon Kids (another SMC fave), Elvis Costello, Van Halen, and Blondie. Bingenheimer is the legend responsible for discovering and spinning many of these bands (including Bowie!) in the early stages of their careers so THAT’S our indication of just how cool these cats are. See why we call them Iconic?
Today, the band has released their newest single ‘Two Bodies’ to iTunes following the succession of their single ‘Vacant’ (April 2017, reviewed on The Chronicles here) just in time for summer. The song is yet another result of this bands’ ability to create something we all want to hear 365 days of the year and can be summed up in one word: Extraordinary. Let’s break that down to the effervescent sexy, seductive, and lilting vocals of Charlotte Fontaine who carries off lyrics that are equally as suggestive and powerful ‘Two bodies in motion…’. This wickedly talented frontwoman of the band has a style that has engraved The Fontaines’ sound into music history and into the hands of iconic radio and media platforms worldwide. In fact, the bands’ website goes by the address THATFONTAINESSOUND.com, a truly unique sound created with the epic guitar riffs of Hank Fontaine and Daniel Zuker (Bassist) complete with a beat that makes you move your feet by Drummer Chrystian Kaplan.
We are always awaiting the release of new music, and it looks like the wait will be not much longer – their upcoming single ‘Mercury’ will launch by the end of summer 2017. Following the successful launch of last Junes ‘ii’ EP and with the hint of a new full-length album on the horizon, we can’t wait! Even if your first listen of this iconic band is today, prepare yourself for something one of a kind and completely addictive also known as: The Fontaines.
We took a moment to chat with Charlotte Fontaine in an exclusive interview below:
SMC SPOTLIGHT! Exclusive Interview | The Fontaines ‘Two Bodies’ June 6th, 2017
SMC – Here we are again with another Numbered Series on our SMC SPOTLIGHT platform. This is number four for The Fontaines! Can you tell us what your connection to SMC and your experience to date with our media platform?
Charlotte – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again-Candice’s support of our music has been incredible and so encouraging. It’s because of people like Candice that I continue making music.
SMC – We were so thrilled to see you on the roster for the great Rodney Bingenheimer’s last show on KROQ (Los Angeles). So many legends have been on his show – can you tell us how you met with Rodney and what your thoughts are on ‘The Mayor of the Sunset Strip’?
Charlotte – Rodney’s a legend! I can’t believe he played us twice on his final KROQ show. What an absolute honor.
SMC – If you could give a shout-out to Rodney here, what would you like to say?
Charlotte – Thank you for playing us and for the sugar free cookies.
SMC – When can we expect to see your single ‘Mercury’ (as played on Rodney Bingeheimers last show on KROQ) hit iTunes? I am already wanting it on my playlist! (laughs)
Charlotte – Mercury’s gonna be released by the end of the summer!
SMC – Now let’s get into some discussion on your single ‘Two Bodies’ released today: I see that there seems to be a trend with the releases and I recall the last time we spoke, that another album was imminent…will ‘Vacant’, ‘Evaporate’, and now ‘Two Bodies’ be on the album?
Charlotte – We actually will be putting out two EP’s that were recorded a while ago that do not include any of these new singles.
SMC – One thing I have learned about The Fontaines is that you are never predictable. Can you tell us what kind of feedback you have received from industry peers in terms of your individuality as a band?
Charlotte – Thank you! I think that unpredictability is a sign of growing, which is all I ever want to be doing as a musician and as a person.
SMC – That was so nice to see you had included Rodney in your ‘Two Bodies’ video! Speaking of the video (and all your videos for that matter), can you tell us what the inspiration is behind this video?
Charlotte – The biggest inspiration for our “Two Bodies” video was a lack of budget! We shot it in a warehouse that’s being converted to our friend Zach’s new recording studio (Big Bad Sound LA), and on Hank’s iPhone. I love how dramatic the video turned out.
SMC – I have also noticed a trend on your YouTube channel: the ‘Trashy Version’ of your upcoming releases. I had a chuckle when I saw that. Can you tell us what the trend is there in giving these videos that title?
Charlotte – We decided to shoot some acoustic type performances one day but our camera guy bailed last minute. So, I took out my iPhone and started shooting us selfie-style. Thus began the “trashy” series.
SMC – I have mentioned before that I feel your music and brand speaks for itself. Some of the greatest Musicians really don’t have to sell themselves short or be aggressive and pushy with their Music. What are your thoughts on that?
Charlotte – Living in LA gives you the opportunity to perform any night of the week, for entirely different groups of people. Plus, you can go to Canter’s deli and meet Rodney Bingenheimer.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the kind of music that comes from the east coast – is there a bit of a different vibe that westerners create in their music as opposed to what is produced in the east?
Charlotte – I honestly haven’t experienced their music scene half as much as the one here on the west coast, so I can’t quite say.
SMC – Since we last spoke, ‘Evaporate’ was the topic for discussion. You have also released ‘Vacant’, a brilliant song! Can you tell me what was the inspiration behind this song? Was it a personal experience?
Charlotte – “Vacant” is about creepy guys at the bar who you can tell a million times “I’m not interested” or “I have a boyfriend” or “I’m married to my cat” and they’ll still keep pursuing you.
SMC – The video for ‘Vacant’ was pretty on point. (laughs) On a serious note: whose idea was it for the theme?
Charlotte – The girl featured in the video, our friend Fiona, actually directed it and came up with the entire concept. I think her work is brilliant and so unique.
SMC – When it comes to the creation of your music, do you find that you all have that ‘ah-ha’ moment when you begin to produce and record it?
Charlotte – With every song there’s either an “a-ha” moment or a “this is awful! we gotta drop this!” moment. Funny thing is when two different people experience different ones with the same song…
SMC – We are looking at doing a Social Media takeover for SMC in the near future. You are SMC Royalty in our opinion and want to have you hosted on our Social Media for a full day. Tell us of the kind of creative things you would like to do if we are able to facilitate this?
Charlotte – Royalty! I can’t wait to tell our mom we’re royalty. We’d love to take over the social media for starlight for a day!
SMC – Can you tell us what other cool gigs you have coming up for the summer months?
Charlotte – We’re playing a festival in August called “Musikfest” in Bethlehem, PA, and we’re booking some east coast shows around that!
SMC – You also released another video to your YouTube channel last week ‘F Buddy Holly (Voice Memo)’ which is soooo pleasing to the ears. Can you tell us if this song will also be included on the new album?
Charlotte – ‘F Buddy Holly’ was just a voice memo we recorded onto my phone one random day last year with our friend Scott from the band Street Joy, so we just put it up on YouTube for fun.
SMC – Can you tell me a little bit about the title of the song and what it means ‘F Buddy Holly’?
Charlotte – “F Buddy Holly” was just us censoring ourselves. It’s just a pun. I recall listening to a lot of Buddy Holly that day. But that’s me every day…
SMC –Ha ha! I thought as much. I really like that you have registered your social media and website as ‘That Fontaine’s Sound’, yet another unique little nuance we have come to know and love. What do you think are some of the most important things a band can do for themselves in terms of brand awareness and marketing their sound?
Charlotte – Biggest advice I have is to come up with a band name and spell it in the most unusual way possible… the amount of trouble we and friends of ours have gone through with other people under the same name…
SMC – Can you tell us who your go-to is in terms of Media platforms and collaborations in getting your new music out?
Charlotte – Right now I’m on a YouTube kick. I’m posting vlogs of our everyday life on their once a week as well as releasing new songs or “trashy versions” of songs on there.
SMC – Where do you think the music world is headed in terms of Radio? Many are saying that Spotify playlists are the way of the future. You have been listed on our Playlists ‘SMC SPOTLIGHT ARTISTS’ and ‘SMC EDITORS FAVORITES’. I also see that you have close to 18,000 monthly listeners! What do you think the benefits are for being placed in Spotify playlists?
Charlotte – Spotify has been incredible for us. At one point when “Evaporate” first came out we had 37,000 monthly listeners… Their playlists are just a convenient way for people to hear new music, all of my friends go there for new tunes.
SMC – How long have you been on Spotify?
Charlotte- Probably about a year?
SMC – We are really beginning to push our Spotify playlists for the Artists that we support and are quite happy with the response we have gotten from industry peers. We are even thinking of compiling a Christmas playlist as well in the month of November. What do you feel the public wants in terms of a great playlist?
Charlotte – The public probably wants what I want from a playlist-high energy, then maybe some slow jams, and a build back up to some fun hits at the end!
SMC – Finish this sentence: If I were not a part of The Fontaines, I would be ______________.
Charlotte – If I weren’t part of The Fontaines I would…still be going to Fontaines shows (winks).
Charlotte Fontaine (Vocalist)
Hank Fontaine (Backup Vocalist, Guitarist)
Daniel Zuker (Bassist)
Chrystian Kaplan (Drummer)
The Fontaines are a brother-sister duo based in Los Angeles, California. Charlotte Fontaine (vocals) and Hank Fontaine (guitar) began writing new-wave influenced rock songs after growing up all over the world as kids. The siblings are backed by Chrystian Kaplan (drums) and Daniel Zuker (bass) live and in the studio.
In 2016 The Fontaines performed at music festivals including Savannah Stopover, Canadian Music Week, Broke LA, and Make Music Pasadena. In June, the band released their new EP, “ii,” which has gotten airplay on KROQ in Los Angeles. The band is currently finishing up their debut full-length album, set for release in 2017.
How do you begin a review of an Actor who, at the age of only 18 has surpassed any milestone that the average young adult has? I mean, we’re not talking about the first car, first girlfriend, first job, and graduation kind of milestones here either…this is something on a much grander scale…..
I am referring to the kind of milestones that only Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward has come to achieve in his short, but very accomplished acting career thus far. In fact, his very persona reminds me of a middle-aged Johnny Cash: cool, confident, and bonafide talented without ever giving an air of pretension. I have observed him in interviews since the launch of the film ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ in the Film Festival circuit, (where he plays lead Actor) and without fail, he exudes these aforementioned traits. I have also read interviews where he has been referred to as ‘an old soul’ and his responses are concise, sometimes cheeky, and brimming with mature sophistication. Ward has also mentioned his early talent for Elvis impersonations (he loves Elvis) at a musical theater debut which later earned him scores of wicked television roles (see film and television credits below his social media links) and an impressive roster of film credits under his belt as well. He has often played dark characters and delivers them with the kind of graceful, undaunted candor that, in relation to the acting realm, I can only compare to a young Marlon Brando. In fact, looking further into Wards’ background, I would never have guessed that his portrayal of Clyde Thompson in ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ was that of a man half that age. (see my interview with his Father, Director of the film, Justin Ward here)
In this true-story film of convicted murderer Clyde Thompson, Ward manages to take this role from an innocent boy, to an aggressive and hostile young man, to a redeemed middle-aged man of faith seamlessly all in a matter of an intense 105-minute thrill-ride. The accuracy to which he portrays Thompsons’ character in this film is genuine in delivery and fiery in emotional display. Because his performance was so historically accurate to the original Clyde Thompson, Ward (recently) earned himself the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the IndieFEST Film awards in Florida. This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, I predict this to be the start of a successful string of awards to come. It does take a lot for young Hollywood to impress me since the days of Molly Ringwald and the ‘Brat Pack’(and even the original ‘rat pack’ for that matter), but Ward has earned the utmost respect from me for his ability to take this role at such a young age and make it undeniably twenty-four carat authentic. If you have any opportunity to attend a Film Festival where ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ is showing, make sure you are there!
So, here’s my summation of Mateus Ward: undeniably, for me, he has earned the right to be compared to the reputable likes of Johnny Cash (even arriving to premieres all in black) and Marlon Brando (that confidence!). Yet, even with all comparisons to music and Hollywood royalty aside, there really is only one Mateus Ward, and he really is that predominantly paramount, remarkably distinguished, and naturally skilled. AND – he will always dance to the beat of his own drum. Period.
I connected recently with Ward for an exclusive interview for our SMC SPOTLIGHT. Here is what he had to say:
SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’
May 9th, 2017
SMC – Hello Mateus! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have been profiling some of the industry’s top Actors, Musicians, and Fashion celebrity profiles for a couple years now and are happy to add you to this roster. Let’s begin with an introduction: we discovered you via our friend and peer Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine) who also Directed the short film ‘STROBE’ which you have a starring role in. What are your thoughts on how the film will have in terms of an impact on society?
Mateus – I believe that STROBE will shock people into realizing the collateral danger of hard drugs.
SMC – Do you think that this film could be an educational tool on the effects of drugs and how they impact people’s lives?
Mateus – Absolutely! I really think it will wake people up!
SMC – What was it like working with Joshua Shultz (Director | STROBE)?
Mateus – Josh is a great friend of mine! He’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Working with him was a true pleasure and such a blast.
SMC – Okay, so let’s get into your film credentials – your film reel roster is impressive! Which films/TV shows are/were your favorite to be a part of and why?
Mateus – I have so many amazing memories from all of these sets, I’ve created amazing friendships with people. Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats, Brockmire) and I still hang out, and I’m always in touch with my onscreen sister Quinn Shephard (Hostages, Blame) I’ve kept in touch with most of the people I have worked with, but if I had to chose, the two best work environments had to be “Murder in the First” and “The Meanest Man in Texas.” The cast and crew on each of them were like a family!
SMC – What is it like for you to prepare for a role? You go from being a meth addict in ‘STROBE’ to being a hardcore criminal in ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ to a Disney XD role on Lab Rats…. this has to involve some devoted time to studying for these kinds of roles and becoming the characters you are portraying. Tell us what your process is like when preparing for a role.
Mateus – I think each actor has their own process. I like to start with research of the world or time period, then answer all the motivation and intention questions of the character and get to know them, then find their physicality.
SMC – Let’s get into your role as Clyde Thompson in The Meanest Man in Texas – can you tell us how you landed this?
Mateus – Pure nepotism! Just kidding, my father was offered to direct the film and I set out to prove to him and the producers I could play this part. I read the book, studied the history, learned the accent, and eventually won the part.
SMC – There are some pretty intense scenes in this film that I have to give you a ‘hat’s off’ nod to. For instance, the scene where you took a ‘whupping’ from ‘Captain Colt’ (played by Actor Jamie McShane) – wow! These are things that not very many youth today know anything about. How did you prepare mentally for that kind of a situation?
Mateus – I focus on the situation, and play it as real as I can. For that scene, I honestly don’t remember much. I was just going through it.
SMC – In terms of the emotion portrayed in your character…. scenes like when Clyde is told his father has passed away, how do you prepare yourself for that kind of emotional expression? What frame of mind do you have to be in to get the emotions right?
Mateus – For me, as an actor, it always comes down to being in the moment. I tend to stay away from “tricks” or “substitutions.” That is not to say that I don’t use them. I think an actor needs to utilize whatever is necessary to convey a moment. I have always had an intense imagination, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes was always easy for me, once I’ve put in the work to know everything I can about a character.
SMC – Some of the scenes were played so well, I had actual tears! What are your thoughts on the story line and events that happened in the life of the real Clyde Thompson?
Mateus – It’s hard to believe all of these things actually happened to him. His story is unreal in so many ways, I felt an obligation to play it all as real as I could.
SMC – The scene where your father (played by Ben Reed) comes to you and encourages you to have faith in God…your reaction to him was pretty intense! (‘There ain’t no God! There ain’t no word!’) Can you tell us what filming scenes like that were for you? Religion is such a controversy these days….
Mateus – When playing any character, no matter who they are, you have to throw out all of your pre-conceived notions and beliefs. I believe I really learned this while playing a school shooter on “Murder in the First.” There is a certain level of separation that has to be done before you can play a character truthfully. I personally am not religious, but Clyde was. This story is about Clyde’s redemption he so happened to find through faith. Therefore, it is my job as an actor to put all my personal opinions to rest, so Clyde’s could come out to play. I always find that once I do that, I fall in love with every character I play. In that particular scene, it’s all about where Clyde is, mentally, at that point. So, I guess, in short form, I just played what Clyde was going through.
SMC – I love the ‘Got a Light?’ smart-alec comebacks woven in throughout…. you have one of those faces that can portray an angelic innocent young man and then a devilish hell-child (laughs)…. which of the two personalities can you relate to more?
Mateus – Depends on the day…
SMC- (laughs) Fair comment! Your on-screen chemistry with ‘Julia’ (played by Alexandra Bard) was also intense. Can you tell us a few words about your thoughts on her performance in this film?
Mateus – She made it easy to have that chemistry. She is an amazing actress and we had a blast on set.
SMC – I am going to ask the inevitable: what was it like working with your father on this project? (Justin Ward: Director of The Meanest Man in Texas)
Mateus – It was incredible! We read each other’s mind the whole time! He would go “Hey MC, how about—” and I’d reply, “I was just thinking that!”
SMC – On May 6th, you earned the award for ‘Best Actor’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) – That’s impressive! What are your thoughts on that?
Mateus – It is such an honor to be recognized for my work.
SMC – Can you tell us which other accomplishments in your career you are particularly proud of and why?
Mateus – Getting a chance to do what I love is the best accomplishment.
SMC – Can you tell us the most memorable fan moment you have had in your career?
Mateus – I was in New York on Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Hostages” and we took a family trip out to Mantauk. I tweeted I was there, and on our way back that night, my sister saw a tweet from a fan, so she got her address and we paid a surprise visit. Our families met and it was really cool. Another great moment, was meeting young women with scoliosis in Nashville during the film festival. These girls are so courageous and it was great to meet them and their mothers and hear their stories.
SMC – What are five unique things about you that no one else knows about? (our readers love this one)
Mateus – I am obsessed with Elvis. I love to draw and paint. I play piano. I have a 1953 Chevy truck. I am unhealthily addicted to superheroes and comic books.
SMC – I read that you have lived in Hawaii for a few years before pursuing a career in acting. Can you tell us what lead to your family’s move to LA?
Mateus – I like to believe it’s because I wanted to pursue acting, but I think it was during the recession, it was a tough time and we moved back where there was more work.
SMC – What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Mateus – I have always been a performer. I was super shy, and it was a way to hide behind characters. I didn’t even need an audience. I just liked pretending and using my imagination. I was a little Elvis impersonator at like 5, and I think that sparked the acting thing.
SMC – Which of your peers in the film have you created a bond with as a result of your character in the film?
Mateus – Alex and I have become close because of filming and on the festival circuit. But the most entertaining friendship is the bizarre “Tron” inside joke between Anthony Guerino and I, who plays Barney in the film. On set he suddenly approached me and asked, “Did someone say Tron?” It became a running joke. Now we text each other with Tron mimes, gifs and jokes all the time. He’s so funny!
SMC – Your whole family has such amazing talent! I did read about your sister as well – has she been involved in any of the projects you have worked on?
Mateus – It was a family production. Our company is Ohana Films, Inc. Ohana means family in Hawaiian.
SMC – That’s lovely! What has the family support been like for your career?
Mateus – I honestly couldn’t have done what I have done without my family and their support. My mother is the best. She used to own a salon and stopped working to make sure I could follow my dream.
SMC – Can you tell us your thoughts on your father’s work on this film?
Mateus – He did alright… I mean for his first film. Just kidding! Who gets to act in a film their father directs? It was incredible. He was so prepared, had such a clear vision, and yet, since we didn’t have much time, he was able to improvise and shoot on the fly in order to make the days. All the actors and crew respected him, and went the extra mile for him. It was an amazing experience.
SMC – For an Actor so young, did you feel intimidated by this role at all? You did so well!
Mateus – Thank you! It was one of those things that I was always worried about. I wasn’t necessarily worried about doing it. I knew that once I put in the work, I could get there. I was mostly worried about how people would receive it. The title of the movie has the word “Man” in it! I knew it would cause shock and a lot of doubt from the audience before hand, but the way the movie is formatted I think it works very well. I have always been told I have an old soul, and to be honest, it was more challenging to play the young version of Clyde.
SMC – Have you had any personal experiences that have shaped you personally and prepared you for the kinds of roles you have been playing as of late?
Mateus – Let’s see an evil robot who shoots lazers and is telekinetic, a smart-ass son of a drug dealer, an actual drug dealer, a school shooter and a 40-year-old man convicted of three murders? Hmmm… can’t really say I’ve had any of those personal experiences…
SMC -Ha ha ha – fair enough…. Where can the general public see The Meanest Man in Texas?
Mateus – We are still on the festival circuit. But check out our social media, all #TheMeanestManInTexas for updates.
SMC – Have you been approached for other roles as a result of this film?
Mateus – Not that I can discuss…
SMC – What advice can you give to new Actors pursuing a career in Hollywood?
Mateus – Work, work, work! Study film, watch as many old and new programs as you can. Challenge yourself! Make sure it is truly what you love, because it’s not easy.
SMC – Since we are also a Music website – can you tell us who the top five Artists are in your favorites playlist?
Mateus – Jason Mraz, Chance the Rapper, Elvis Presley, Childish Gambino, and Panic! at the Disco
SMC – We would like to continue profiling you via our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. This is a documented chronological journey of our most celebrated Artists throughout their career. Is this something that would appeal to you?
Mateus – Sounds great!
SMC – Alright, final question…finish this sentence: If I didn’t pursue a career in Acting, I would be………
Mateus – I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t an actor… I’ve never had a back up plan!
Film and Television: Wards television credits include: Murder in the First, Hostages, NCIS, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, Weeds, Parenthood, Norn MacDonald Show, Outnumbered (Pilot), Criminal Minds, Pit Boss, and The Incredible Bean (Pilot). Film credits include: Lonely Boy, House Painting, The Afterlife, The Hall Monitor, Devil’s Eyes, Love in the Time of Flannel, STROBE, and now, The Meanest Man In Texas.
Recently, we posted a SPOTLIGHT on Director Joshua Shultz for his short film ‘STROBE’ complete with an in-depth interview with he and his leading lady for the film, Chelsea Debo. In researching the background on other Actors in the film a little further, I discovered Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward (see Mateus Wards’ in-depth SMC SPOTLIGHT interview/review here). His role as a meth addict in this film was so convincing, I decided I needed to know more about him. That’s when I stumbled across his Facebook Fan page and discovered he was cast as lead Actor in the upcoming film, ‘The Meanest Man in Texas‘(just hitting the Film Festival circuit now). This lead me down the rabbit hole and what I discovered was a kaleidoscope of magnificent talent and that talent has a name: Justin Ward.
Ward is the Director and genius behind this compelling film and it is evident in every detail that was portrayed historically and thematically. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is a true story account (set in the late 1920’s and onward) following the life of Clyde Thompson, who, at the age of 17 was convicted of murder (self-defense) and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Within hours of his inevitable fate, Texas Governor Ross Sterling reduced his sentence to life in prison. This began the true account story (title of the same name) written in the early 1980’s by Author Don Umphrey who compiled a detailed and documented account of what turned this young man into what the media would later label ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’.
Aesthetically, this film scores high in my list of epic true-story cinematography: I have always been a fan of vintage films and the imagery, costumes, sets and final produced result of this film is exquisite. Lead Actors Mateus Ward (yes, he is Justin’s son, also, plays Clyde Thompson), and Alexandra Bard (Julia, Thompson’s love interest and savior) bring depth and emotion with conviction. I admit, I was a blubbering mess each time their on-screen relationship was tested with inevitable challenges and hurdles.
Actor Jamie McShane lends combustible energy to his role as Captain Colt. Now, I don’t want to give too many of the details away (you’ll just have to attend the Film Festival circuit to see what I mean!), but let’s just say that the friction between Wards’ and McShanes’ characters was on-the-seat-of-your-chair gripping, explosive, sometimes humorous, and compassionate. Characters throughout the film such as Ben Reed (Thompson’s grief-stricken Father), and Casey Bond (Preacher) lend depth to this already intense story. My hats’ off to Casting Director Laura Ward who, clearly, has a true penchant for recognizing strengths and weaknesses in each Actor and has suitably matched them for every role in this film – brilliant! A full list of the cast and crew for this film can be found (here).
There aren’t a lot of films anymore that motivate me to head to the theater and feel inspired by their stories and I am also not the kind of individual to watch even much television these days. For me to sit more than 10 minutes during any film, whether it be in the theater or in the comfort of my office or home, it must be compelling in its content, visuals, and supported by stellar performances. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is this complete package delivered by a ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber cast and crew. Having a Journalist background, I am drawn to factual-based films where accuracy portrayed in the overall details, visual, and acting is congruent to the time/era it takes place in. In my opinion, Justin Ward along with Producers Casey Bond and Brad Wilson (Higher Purpose Entertainment, in association with OHAHA FILMS, Inc.) have brought truth, humor, emotion, and enlightenment to this otherwise dark story that I am certain will inspire viewers to look beyond misfortune to know that there is always hope and the ability to achieve a positive outcome.
If you haven’t heard about this film yet or the cast and crew mentioned, I encourage you to check out the social media links after this interview and stay tapped in to find out when it will be available for public viewing and where. In the meantime, spend two minutes of your day and check out the trailer to this incredible film below.
And did I mention the films ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber?
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’
May 9th, 2017
SMC – Hello Justin! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have begun expanding SMC into other areas of the arts such as the Film Industry. We are thrilled to be talking to you today about your new film ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’. Let’s begin first with some background questions…. can you tell us about your role in the making of this film?
JUSTIN: Thank you. I am the director and co-writer of the film.
SMC – Can you share your career background with us?
JUSTIN: I began my career working for Mick Jagger at Jagged Films, his film production company. I went on to work as an assistant to the producers on several studio feature films, and was fortunate enough to work with and observe such producers and directors as Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, James L. Brooks, Richard Donner, Ron Shelton, Arnon Milchan, Joel Silver, and Grant Hill. I developed a documentary sports series for extreme sports for ESPN, and produced and directed over 300 hours of programming from 1999-2005 on that network. In 2006, I was the Showrunner on a magazine TV series called “Inside the UFC” for Spike TV. I also created and was the Showrunner of “The BJ Penn Show,” and in 2011, I created, directed and Executive Produced the documentary film series “Rock Stars” on National Geographic. In 2015, I directed the award-winning syndicated farm-to-table series “Localicious.” I have also produced, directed and edited for The UFC, The USSA, The ParaOlympics, Nascar, Warner Bros. Marketing, CBS, NBC, FOX, The Travel Channel and the NFL. This is my feature film directorial debut.
SMC – What lead you to this story about the life of Clyde Thompson aka: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’?
JUSTIN: Mateus Ward and I wrote an anti-bully film called REBEL in 2014, and I shot a teaser to help raise financing. Brad Wilson, one of the producers of “The Meanest Man In Texas” read the script and saw my teaser. He and his partner Casey Bond brought the project to me and asked me to direct it. I worked with writer Don Umphrey on the script for a few months, then we jumped right into production. It all happened very quickly.
SMC – Let’s get into the details of the film itself: how much of Clyde’s life story was accurate in this film? Sometimes in films, there is a true account of the biographical story and in others, it’s a ‘based on’ account….
JUSTIN: When I read the book, it was hard to believe any of this could have happened to one man! I was blown away by this unbelievable story. So, it wasn’t hard to stick to the truth—it was more dramatic and exciting than any fiction. Don Umphrey had spent years talking to Clyde Thompson and others to get all the facts, and we felt it was important to stay as close as we could to his true story. All the situations actually happened, and are true. However, we flushed out a few characters that Clyde knew or mentioned, but didn’t give much detail about. When I started on the script, I wanted to really explore more deeply Clyde and Julia and Clyde and Capt. Colt’s relationships.
SMC – Can you tell us what the importance of telling this story though film was to you? How did it resonate with you personally?
JUSTIN: I was so moved by this story, I had to tell it. There were so many themes that resonated with me in the story. First, I think it is a powerful story about redemption. That no matter how dark things get, there is always hope. The other theme I wanted to explore is the idea of how a corrupt justice and penal system can change you. Clyde went into prison a typical teenager, quite innocent in many ways, and soon gained the moniker “the Meanest Man In Texas.” I wanted to make a film that asks the fundamental question: do circumstances define who we are, or can we become the person we want to be in life, no matter our circumstances? Once I started re-writing the script, what really resonated with me in the true story was the unconditional love between Clyde and Julia, so I wanted to make sure we flush that element out more. Society wants to put us in boxes, they try and label us, for example he’s “a killer” and she’s a “hunchback,” but this is a story about two people who didn’t accept those labels—in fact, they defied them—and loved each other unconditionally regardless of how society saw them. So, for me, it became a powerful story about redemption, forgiveness and acceptance, and that was the film I wanted to make.
SMC – I also see that Don Umphrey, the author who wrote ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ was involved in this project as well. Can you tell us how much of a benefit he was to have included in the making of this film?
JUSTIN: Don was a wealth of information. Having met and spoken with Clyde himself was a huge resource. It took Don 39 years to get this story to the big screen. I was very respectful when changing the script and ran everything by him, just to make sure it was historically correct.
SMC – Your Casting Director Laura Ward did an excellent job at assembling the Actor profiles for this film! Can you tell us a little bit about her background and what vision she had for the film also? (this could even be a question you could let her answer)
JUSTIN: Laura was amazing. Laura has a phenomenal eye and worked around the clock to find the best actors for every single role. Every actor we cast was incredibly talented! It was such a joy collaborating on this with my wife. I knew we had little time for rehearsal with the actors, and most likely we would get no more than a couple of takes, so we were really looking at auditions and audition tapes where the actors were “performance ready,” with maybe a few adjustments.
LAURA WARD: It was really important for us to find actors that looked vintage, as if they were from that era. We saw a lot of actors from popular shows, but it was important to find classic faces and great acting. During the process, it was great to see how many actors came really prepared and embodied the character they were portraying. I come from an acting background and have studied with some great teachers. Being the mother of a young actor, and watching roles being put out on breakdown, cast and then filmed, I was able to use that experience in searching for our cast. I was seeking actors who brought something special to each character. I am so very proud of this cast!
SMC – In conversation with you, this past weekend you earned ‘Best Picture’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) Film Festival in Florida!What an accomplishment! What are your thoughts on this?
JUSTIN: It is such an honor to win a Best Picture award. The festival also gave Mateus Ward a Best Actor in a Feature Film award. Brad Wilson, our producer, was in Orlando for ICFF, and said it was an extremely successful screening and festival.
SMC – Tell us about your LA premiere? Can you tell us what some of the reactions to the film were?
JUSTIN: I was thrilled we were accepted to the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival in Beverly Hills. It was great to show the film to our friends, family and industry peers. The reaction was amazing, and many people stayed after the Q&A to continue to discuss the film, which was incredible.
SMC – The emotion that was expressed in this film was very intense and laced with some humor throughout (‘Got a light?’) – can you tell us if that was your personal touch to the film or if those were true accounts of the kinds of things the real Clyde would have said or done?
JUSTIN: I have to admit, the line “Got a light?” was my addition. However, it was based on Clyde Thompson’s type of humor. I like to think it was something he would have said. I didn’t have much time, but I did my best to add humor and charm into the film where we could, since it was such a dark series of situations. The casting director and I wanted to make sure that the actor Barney had a great sense of humor, and Anthony Guerino brought in a lot of awkward charm and humor to the role.
SMC – What are your thoughts on Mateus’s skill as an Actor in this film?
JUSTIN: I can’t explain how extraordinary it was to work with my son on this project. I may be biased, but I believe he is one of the most talented actors of his generation. The fact that he’s won 3 lead actor awards for this film, backs up my belief. I don’t know any 17-year-old that could pull off what he did in this film, let alone many actors of any age. Not only did he lose 17 pounds for the role, research for months, reached out to the family, but he also learned a very difficult accent and certain cadence, aged himself up physically and vocally, and carried the film. The role required so much emotional, mental and physical range, and he nailed it. I am extremely proud of his work on this film.
SMC – I discovered your film through an industry peer – Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine, Director: STROBE), can you tell us what your connection with Joshua is?
JUSTIN: We met Joshua through an article he was doing on Mateus back in 2013. We have all kept in touch, and Joshua asked Mateus to be in his anti-drug film STROBE.
SMC – With the SMC SPOTLIGHT, we have begun a ‘Spotlight numbered series’ with some of our high-profile clients and would like to continue following your journey and career. Is this something that would interest you?
JUSTIN: Yes. Of course. We would love to be a part of the Spotlight Numbered Series.
SMC – What do you think is the value in having the support of media platforms such as SMC?
JUSTIN: SMC is such a great publication, with incredible talent and interesting interviews, I am honored to be included. I think there is huge value in SMC sharing indie films to their audience. Our goal as filmmakers is to make films so people can see them, and we are able to reach new audiences through publications like SMC.
SMC – Can you tell us which industry peers have been most supportive of your film? Who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
JUSTIN: The success of the film is a culmination of everyone who worked on, acted in and helped support this film. First, the executive producers Don Umphrey and Marshall Danby, have been incredible to work with on this project. I have to thank the Producers Brad Wilson and Casey Bond, who hired me. My wife Laura, son Mateus, and daughter Adiana for their constant support. Shirley Roberts and Clyde Echols are members of the family who helped fill in the gaps. It was my first film, so I reached out to a few people in the industry for advice, like Ralph Bertelle VP of Production at Paramount, Greg Berry an incredible art director and production designer, and Clenet Verdi-Rose a director and 1st AD. So many people were so supportive, I’m sure I have missed some, but I am humbled by so much support by people like Dennis Lavalle, Eric Swanson, Andrew Morgado, PJ Ochelan and Joshua Shultz.
SMC – What are some of the projects you have coming up? Are you able to share that info with our readers?
JUSTIN: I have a couple of projects that I am trying to package right now, a feature film and a music documentary. Mateus and I are also seeking financing on the anti-bully film we wrote together called REBEL.
SMC – Will you be including Mateus in on more future projects?
JUSTIN: This was such an incredible experience for both of us, we hope to continue to work on projects together.
SMC – Pardon my ignorance, but I have never asked this question before: what is the process of getting a film completed? Can you give us a play by play from first concept to final output?
JUSTIN: Basically, it’s like bearing a child. For this film, we had a short window of pre-production which included budgeting, scheduling, re-writes, finding locations, casting and wardrobe. Production was 11 days. Post production included 4 weeks of editing, color, mixing and final output.
SMC – You had mentioned to me that this film took only 11days to complete – wow! That’s some intense shooting! Can you tell us what a typical day would be like on set from start to finish?
JUSTIN: Having only 11 days meant everyone had to be extremely prepared. I had every shot, every angle, every beat planed out. Then, when we got pressed for time, I had to throw away the game plan, and in the moment, create a way to get the scene shot in just one shot, with no coverage. This happened several times a day. The cast and crew all had to adapt and be fluid, because I refused to throw out scenes, I threw out set ups and coverage instead. We made every day. I couldn’t have done it without my first Assistant Director and the Cinematographer Will Barratt, or with a different cast and crew.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next several weeks and months look like in terms of Film Festivals and promotion of this film?
JUSTIN: As of now, we are waiting on a couple more film festivals, and just trying to create some buzz and get people excited about the film.
SMC – I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the portrayal Alexandra Bard gave of Julia in this film. Can you tell us what working with Alexandra was like?
JUSTIN: Alex walked into the audition and had morphed herself into Julia. I remember after she left, I asked the casting director for her headshot, thinking I found my Julia. When she handed me Alexandra’s headshot, it was a glamor shot of this gorgeous woman, I said, “No, the one who JUST auditioned.” Alex is one of the actresses every director dreams to cast. She was 100% committed to the role, did her homework, transformed herself for the role, never complained, took direction, and gave a stellar performance that has left audiences in tears. We lucked out that she walked through the door that day. I knew from her first audition she was our Julia.
SMC – Some of the other Actors in the film had some pretty stellar skills presented in the film also. Ben Reed, who played Clyde’s Father was compelling! Jamie McShane as Captain Colt – that was also intense! How do you feel about the skills that these two gentlemen portrayed?
JUSTIN: I am proud of every actor in this film. We assembled some amazingly talented actors, and they all stepped up and delivered strong performances. I cannot say enough about Jamie McShane. In New York, he won Best Supporting Actor at the Film Festival, and deserves many more awards for his performance. Jamie was a pleasure to work with and he stepped in and accepted this part late in the game. He didn’t have much time to prepare. He was so respectful of the script and my vision, yet brought so much to the role. We had some incredible discussions about Capt. Colt and his journey. Besides being a great actor, he is an extraordinary human being. Great example of the kind of actor / person he is, Jamie arrived on day 1, and it was over 100 degrees outside. Hotter inside the Morgue. Jamie shows up with 2 huge cases of water on his shoulders, and passes them out to the crew. Then stepped in, and delivered that performance that left us all mesmerized.
SMC – At the end of shooting, and it’s time to attend Film Festivals, do you feel like the cast has become a family? I mean, this is a story about a young man whose life was changed forever but there were key people along the way that helped to bring him to this epiphany in life…. surely this is the kind of thing that would connect people.
JUSTIN: Yes. Well, some of the cast and crew are actually family. Seriously, there is a certain connection with people when you make a film. This team was especially special. We were fortunate that the entire cast and crew were all really great people, besides being so talented. It made an impossible task fun, and everyone has been so supportive during the festival circuit. We have all gotten very close.
SMC – Can you tell us all the film Festivals that ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ has been a part of and which are coming up?
JUSTIN: We have been accepted to 7 film festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival, The New York City International Film Festival, The Beverly Hills Film Festival, IndieFEST, The International Christian Film Festival, The Los Angeles Cinefest of Hollywood, and The Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival.
SMC – What accomplishments overall can you list for us that the film has earned so far?
JUSTIN: It has been accepted to 7 festivals, with over 20 nominations and 10 wins, including a Best Picture.
SMC – Where will the general public be able to see this film?
JUSTIN: We are still on the film festival circuit, but check our social media for any updates on distribution.
SMC – How can one of our readers reach out to find out where they can see this film?
JUSTIN: Follow us on social media for more information and updates:
SMC – Finish this sentence: If I was not pursuing my career in Film, I would have been a……
JUSTIN: Theater Director… or a scuba or kayak instructor.
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the future of film and the role independent films play?
JUSTIN: I think studio films play a great role as pure entertainment, but it is the indie films that filmmakers have a voice. Films such as “Mean Streets,” “Momento,” “Resevoir Dogs,” “Precious,” and “Moonlight,” are all independent films and have very unique cinematic voices. I think Indie films are essential to the industry, it is where stories like this can be told.
SMMC – We couldn’t agree more Justin! Fabulous work!
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