Interview With Musician Brad Schecter

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of interviewing working musician and actor (whom I’ve also had the good fortune to teach), Brad Schecter. If you’re 21 or over and into metal, be sure to check him out at the Iron City Tavern in San Pedro on June 28 at 9 PM! Read on in order to get Brad’s insights into how to join a band and what to know before pursuing a performing career, and to hear his memorable stories about working with such notables as Spike Lee and Phil Collen.

MM:

When did you know you wanted to be a performer?

Brad:

Right away! I began piano lessons at age 6 and then started doing community theatre. I continued to play the piano and drums throughout school.  I was captain of my high school drumline.  We were ranked #2 in the top division of the All American Drum Circuit! I didn’t really begin singing professionally until after college.

MM:

I know you do a number of different types of performing: acting in film, music, comedy…. Do you have one you prefer over the others?

Brad:

Music is where my heart is. After getting out of school, I first pursued acting, because I thought it would be easier than music. I had more of a fear of rejection with music because it’s so personal. When you’re acting, you’re reading someone else’s lines, but when you sing original songs, it’s really more about you. I wouldn’t say that pursuing acting first was a mistake though, because if I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have known. And I still like to do it.  Stand-up comedy was more of a means to an end. When I started to make headway with that, that’s when I gave it up, because it never fulfilled me. If I had any advice about what to pursue, I’d say to go with what you feel in your soul, not what you think will be the easiest or quickest way to succeed.

MM:

Has your music ever been played on the radio?

Brad:

On Coast to Coast 740 AM with George Noory was my first exposure to a nation-wide audience. He played my song, “She’s My Addiction” this past December.

MM:

Looking at your bio, it sounds like you’ve worked with some interesting people. Do you have any memorable stories?

Brad:

When I was 23-years-old, my first professional acting gig was in a national K-Mart commercial directed by Spike Lee. It was the only commercial I ever got, and oddly enough, the only one I didn’t audition for! After going on audition after audition without booking, my manager at the time suggested that I attend a seminar at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on how to break into commercials.  When I was just about ready to fall asleep out of boredom, my manager called and told me that I got the K-Mart commercial with Martha Stewart directed by Spike Lee. I replied, “That’s wonderful news, but I didn’t audition for that!”  He told me that they needed someone and liked my picture.  And like that, I was working the very next day. Working with Spike Lee was the most exciting 10 minutes of my life, but the K-Mart clothes were the worst clothes ever—very itchy. I kept scratching in between takes. LOL!  Still, Spike was a lot of fun to work with.  Great sense of humor!  Since it was a national commercial, it probably would have been a really good moneymaker for me, but of course a month later Martha Stewart’s insider trading scandal made headlines.  That definitely impacted the number of times the spot was shown. But it did ok, so I really can’t complain.

The other memorable story is when I met Phil Collen, lead guitarist and backing vocalist for Def Leppard. Phil used to come into the Starbucks where I had just started working. I noticed him, I went up to him and said, “Has anyone ever told you you look just like that guy from Def Leppard!”   I didn’t even know his name at the time.  He replied in his British accent, “Oh yeah, that happens all the time.” When I realized that it was Phil Collen, I really felt like an idiot and apologized profusely. After giving him my number and asking to jam with him, I turned around and walked right into a wall. But we did finally end up jamming together, and recording an original track.

MM:

If you could sing a duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Brad:

Wow, that’s a really tough question. Can you narrow down the genre?

MM:

Let’s go with rock or pop.

Brad:

Well, Iron Maiden is still my all-time favorite metal band. And of course Steve Perry.  Even though he’s lost some of his range, he still sounds amazing.  Nobody can touch that incredible tone!

MM:

Congratulations on joining the new band, Scarred! How’s that going?

Brad:

Thank you!  It’s going great! I’ve already learned 8 songs from the band. Three of them I helped write.  I get lots of satisfaction, not just from the creative process, but from working with other people. When I’m acting and sometimes play the lead, I know I could get almost the same satisfaction if not more from a supporting role. I love doing more ensemble work. I love collaborating.

MM:

Here’s a link to his first show with the band, by the way.

How would someone go about getting into a band?

Brad:

There are several ways.  The fastest and cheapest way is to open up a Soundcloud, Reverbnation, or Bandmix account.  Soundcloud  and Reverbnation,  I believe, are free, not sure about Bandmix. You can upload samples of your music—just a couple covers you can record quickly. People will have a specific idea of what they want and will have to hear you. Once you do that, you can either look for a preexisting band searching for a new member, or you can start your own band. If you’re looking for a preexisting one, people post on different websites. Craigslist is a great one. If one band isn’t interested in your samples, move on. Someone will be. You want people to recognize what you have to offer and not have to convince someone. One word of caution about craigslist though: Not everything on there is legit. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And no reputable agent or manager will take a monthly fee or money upfront.

When you have the time and money you can eventually build yourself a website with a picture, bio, and music samples.  Shop around.  You don’t have to spend thousands to have a good looking professional website.

If you can’t find a preexisting band, start your own. If you’re a singer, look for a great guitarist, or vice versa. You can post on Craigslist. You just need a singer and a guitarist to start out with. After all, they’ll make the band work or not work. After you have those two members, it’ll be easier to find a bassist and drummer.

Just make sure to be honest about what your skill level is, because people will find out. If you’re just starting out, you may just want to find someone to jam with. You can post a flyer at school or where you take lessons.  This one band I found on Craigslist sent me a recording, in which the guitarist and drummer were both professional studio musicians. When I showed up for the audition, I found this geezer on guitar (and I don’t mean Geezer Butler), who sounded nothing like the guy on the recording, and this other dude on drums who couldn’t count past 4. You shouldn’t misrepresent yourself.

MM:

Do you have a favorite type of music to sing?

Brad:

I love singing a wide variety of music. When I do karaoke, I do stuff I’d never sing for a live performance, anything from Journey to show tunes—Michael Crawford, Rent, artists I wouldn’t even try: Bruno Mars, Chris Cornell, Seal, Alanis Morrissette, Heart, Frank Sinatra, Pat Benetar, Fleetwood Mac, even Demi Lovato. Demi can smoke a lot of female recording artists out there right now! I liked her version of “Let It Go.”

MM:

What are your future plans and goals?

Brad:

My band is working on a new full-length studio album due out later this year.

I’d also eventually like to do a solo project and record my original music. If I did a solo project, it would be very different from the metal bands I’ve been in. My music is piano-based. I’d characterize it as progressive rock—definitely a little more accessible than what I’m doing now. I can do drums, piano, and vocals for my project, but I’ll need a guitarist and a bass player.  An old friend of mine, Jeremy, does musical scoring for DreamWorks and has a good friend with a recording studio who’s toured playing bass with the band, One Direction. I’d like to work with him on my project.

I also have a possibility of touring; and opening for Quiet Riot and Queensryche later this year!  You can get a list of all future shows and venues by visiting our website! The singer currently on the website is not me, since I joined a month ago!

At this point in my life, I don’t have any interest in being famous. If it happens, I’ll deal with it, but I like my private life.

MM:

Do you have any advice for kids interested in going into show business?

Brad:

The thing I most wished I learned when I went to music school was how to create a survival plan while pursuing music. It’s not a backup plan. It’s about learning what jobs you can do while working on music—which ones are flexible, which ones leave you the energy to go out and audition…. They never help you with those practical aspects. It’s not all or nothing.  For example, there are tons of sales or tech jobs you can do in the meantime that allow you to have a reasonably flexible schedule.  You don’t have to live like you’re homeless just because you’re trying to make it in music, and you can be every bit as creative while maintaining a day job.   It could take 10 or 15 years to realize your dream.  You have to ask yourself, am I doing this because I love it, or because I want to be rich and famous? If it’s to be rich and famous, you aren’t doing it for the right reasons.

Keep yourself busy and active. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Go out and make something happen.  Anything.  Even just taking a painting class.  It doesn’t matter what…something that keeps you engaged and creative. I think it was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Pursue what you love. I look back on things and wonder why I didn’t enjoy them more instead of constantly worrying about the future. You have to live in the present–just keep taking risks, and you’ll eventually be rewarded based on how many big risks you were willing to take. If you play it safe, you’ll never accomplish anything great. Success breeds success.  The only way to really fail is simply not to try.  If you gave it your all, it’s impossible to fail.  Even if you just end up with greater knowledge; that is still something you did not have before.  The worst thing in life is wondering, what if?  At one point in the not too distant past, I had to move home and file bankruptcy, but I didn’t give up. Now I’m back in my own place making music again and getting hired to sing.

Make as many connections as you can. You just never know where they’ll lead. Don’t burn any bridges. A connection you make now may help you 15 years later. Think of auditions and interviews as meet and greets. Hopefully, if you aren’t right for the project, you’ll be right for some other one. Someone who rejected me called me 6 years after the audition because I was right for the new project they were doing.

My bit of more concrete advice is to once again look on craigslist for music equipment. I’ve gotten a full PA system easily worth thousands for under $500. You can find so many deals, because there are always people getting out of music and/or needing to sell their instruments in order to eat!

But, no matter what, just keep going!  Woody Allen said it best, “…80% of success is just showing up!  …If you stick with something long enough, you eventually just win by default!”

Brad at the Key Club

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