Prank Off

For our last show with One Republic in Virgina Beach on August 3, we felt a tension in the air all day; for we knew that a prank was a-comin’. If you’re the baby band on a tour like this, you will get hazed. During soundcheck, we were looking over our shoulders. During dinner, we were examining our meals for possible laxative content or other such innocent poisons. Their director of security measured all of our heights and acted very fishy whenever we walked by. We were nervous, to say the least. When we walked onstage, there was much more of a 1R crew watching than normal. And as I took my guitar to play the first chord, I looked down at my pedalboard, and there it was, duct taped to the floorboard at my feet: an 8” x 11″ photo of a couple of gay gentlemen in the throes of passion. Yes. THAT was the prank. Graphic gay porn taped on all of our gear. Every drum, amp, and speaker that was not immediately visible to the crowd held up a photo of some a hunky dude on top of another hunky dude, and the crew on the sidelines howled in laughter as we sheepishly played our final set. And for the encore prank, the members of One Republic started removing Matt’s drums piece by piece during the outro of ‘Best Day of My Life,’ so by then end, he had but one cymbal. So they got us…I guess. But lo and behold: we would have the last laugh.

We tried all day to come up with a good prank that would be funny but forgivable, which is not an easy task. Finally at 10PM, with one hour left in One Republic’s set, we thought of a gem: why don’t we run onstage right before the last song when he thanks American Authors (he had done this consistently every show), and give him a big bear hug…in our underwear?! Take a look:

It took a little convincing for some of us, but we ran it past One Republic’s tour manager Mark beforehand, and he thought it was brilliant. We chatted with Ryan and the guys afterwards, and they thought it was hilarious. What a wild summer tour. Next up: European festival circuit. I’ll bring stories back, don’t you worry.

*Thanks to our Stage Manager JJ James for filming!

A Chat with Ryan Tedder

A few days ago in Kansas City we had the night off, and went off to explore the hip neighborhood of this Missouri town (some of us may have thought it was in Kansas…). The One Republic crew was hanging out there as well. I went to buy a round for the boys, and the lead singer Ryan Tedder was seated right next to me as I order the drinks. He is typically around only for show time, because he is constantly recording, producing, and writing with a handful of up-and-comers like Adele, Maroon 5, and One Direction. “Hey Ryan– you need a drink?” I asked. “I’ve been drinking bourbon…and I think I should stick with that. Bulleit on the rocks.” It’s not every day you get to buy a drink for someone who has written dozens of hit songs and is one of the biggest names in music.

He asked me about where we were heading after this leg of the tour, and I told him we were touring all over Scandinavia, and then we had a couple weeks off  in Europe to go wherever we wanted. He lit up like a travel agent and started to map out my whole itinerary for me: Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Turkish baths in Istanbul, this lake in Venice, that club in Prague, fly, train, drink, explore. I thought I was talking to Anthony Bourdain for a minute.

James and I eventually started picking his brain about music, and the hour-plus conversation that followed was easily one of the most enlightening and educational talks I have ever had (Imagine you were trying to start a small business and you got to chat with Mark Cuban; it was like THAT). He not only gave us some sage advice about the trajectory of American Authors, but also told us about his writing sessions with Adam Levine, partying with Harry Styles in London, convincing Chris Cornell to make a cameo in his music video, how Chris Martin splits up his songwriting points with the rest of Coldplay, and which instruments are miked up for live TV shows versus which parts are kept in the tracks for logistical purposes.

Justin Timberlake was playing a show in Kansas City that night too, and Ryan easily could have texted him to meet up, but he didn’t “feel like following Justin around all night doing only what he wanted to do.” So he kicked it with us instead it, and we are certainly grateful.

Yahoo! Music Debut

The filmmaker with his camera and subjects.

Before I blew a bunch of money at Berklee College of Music, I actually majored in TV Journalism at the University of Georgia, and I’ve always had a passion for film. Since American Authors hired me in January, I have been filming our adventures on my iPhone 5S, and recently started editing them together to make video tour diaries. My first completed submission chronicling our European tour actually debuted on Yahoo! Music last week. It has footage from Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and London; one hell of a trip.

It’s fun to capture our journeys and jokes along the road, but I just imagine what it would have been like if one of my favorite bands had this behind-the-scenes footage back when I was in middle school. If the guys in Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden had handheld video cameras with them at all times and I could watch snippets of them hanging out on their tour bus or doing vocal warmups, I would have been absolutely mesmerized.

So I hope the AA fans of all ages dig these videos, especially because I had to edit out all the raunchy parts (of which there are loads). I’ll perhaps upload the director’s cuts one of these days.

Here is the first one. Many more to come!

ZT Birthday Show on July 22nd!

It has been a pretty unreal experience touring around the world with American Authors over the last five months; that being said, I’m terribly excited to play with my band and my horns for my birthday! I turn 30 on August 14th (gasp!), but that day I’ll be blowing out birthday candles out of giant waffles at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium with AA. So Rockwood hooked me up with a show on one of the few days I’ll be in town in July, and boy oh boy, I’m about to wee myself out of excitement.

Zac Barnett is an amazing frontman; James, Dave, and Matt are also great performers, and they are all clearly an amazing team of songwriters, businessmen, and comrades. I have learned so much about the industry, radio plays, managers, great hooks, live performance, and connecting with the audience from working with these guys (not to mention functioning on a couple hours of sleep, taking selfies with tweens and/or cougars, and gunk to put in your hair to make it look more One Direction-y). I’m excited to bring some of these hopefully improved skillsets to my own show.

So here we go. The last few weeks of my 20s. I’m thrilled to have stuck around this long!

Here is the link to the event; hope you can make it.

Back in Beantown

Here I am back at Berklee practicing some advanced music theory. I know--that haircut!

Near the end of this leg of the summer tour, we played two nights at the Blue Hills Bank (formerly Bank of America) Pavilion by the Seaport in Boston. We all went to school right down the street at Berklee, so it was pretty amazing to come back and perform where we all met and where the band basically started. The last time I was there was in 2008 for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (insert omg super fan face here).

I had some drinks with my friend Kier Byrnes who I used to play with in a band called Three Day Threshold, and we romped around Davis Square, my old stomping grounds, which is two subway stops north of Hah-vud (say it out loud). I actually stopped by my old house, next door to Red Bones BBQ, and lo and behold: there was a letter for me in the mail chest! I haven’t lived there in three years, but the Boston University Dental School still thinks I do, and they’re still trying to get paid for that teeth cleaning all those years ago. Take a hint, BU. I ain’t paying it.

It was quite a walk down memory lane. Walking by the Square where I used to busk. Getting a coffee at Diesel. Meeting some old bandmates at Anna’s Taquería for lunch. When I lived there from ’08-’10, I was studying hard, writing songs, running the school newspaper, and moreover wondering what the hell I was going to do when and if I graduated. If you had told me then that I would have to work at a hotel in Manhattan for three years, but then get to tour the world with a multi-platinum rock band, I’m pretty sure I would have been OK with that.

Check out this article on Berklee.edu about me and the boys. Hope to catch you soon Beantown!

Summer Tour with One Republic & The Script

Red Rocks! Thanks to Margaret Bankoff for the photo

We just kicked off a summer tour with hit-makers One Republic and the Script; and we have said au revoir to the van and bonjour to our first tour bus! I had never been to Colorado before, and the whole tour started with a two-night stint at Red Rocks, perhaps the most legendary outdoor venue in the country. When we first got to our green room, there was a box of Voodoo Doughnuts (just really good doughnuts, no drugs in them or anything), and a note that read: ‘American Authors, Love the tunes! Welcome aboard. We are honored to share the road with you. Mi casa [es] su casa. The OneRepublicans.’

It is easily the most extravagant production we have ever been a part of. 10 bus loads of people and 5 semi truckloads of equipment get set up and torn down almost everyday in a different city. All the 1R staging starts getting set up round 7AM, then the Script gears up downstage from that, and then around 5PM, we squeeze our amps and drums close to the front edge of the stage, soundcheck, and then come back and play our set from 7:00-7:30PM. Not 7:01, mind you; they run a tight ship. Afterwards, we hang side stage and watch Danny from the Script run around the venue wearing an Irish flag like a cape, and then pop into the crowd and watch Ryan Tedder scoot around shaking his tambourine like a madman singing “Counting Stars” and other anthems. These guys are the real deal; we are definitely taking notes.

We have hit all the hot spots in the west coast, including a sold out Hollywood Bowl (during which a boisterous Gavin Degraw ran out onstage during “Counting Stars” and didn’t particularly know any of the lyrics), and there are plenty more dates across this fine land to come. Hope you can catch one! This is easily the best summer camp I have ever been to.

Check out tour dates here.

Schnitzel, Croissants, Fish & Chips

We  just got back from ten days in Europe, and I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in culture. We started in Berlin, and the people, street art, and history of the city was unlike any other. We stayed at the Michel Berger hotel, which is a couple blocks away from the largest standing segment of the Berlin wall that remains intact. In my opinion as a professional historian, some crazy shit went down in Berlin over the last several decades. We exercised the freedom to drink beer in the streets as soon as possible, crushed some schnitzel, and scoped out some underground clubs with the help of our local friend Hannah, who would explain to the bouncers that were hot-shot-rock-and-roll-america-wunderbar-partytime type people. Next up was Cologne, which was a quick stop, as we were excited to get to Amsterdam, where they have some very interesting coffee shops and window shopping.

If you don’t have your wits about you walking around Amsterdam, you will get sideswiped by an oncoming bicycle before you can say ‘red light district.’ Bizzerzoet was as cool of a club as I have ever seen, and the crowd was phenomenal. There were giant red stained glass windows of the devil caressing the buttocks of a young maiden; I’m not sure that would fly in most places in Atlanta. The fans were extremely enthusiastic and almost everyone stayed after the set to hang out with us and down a few Heinekens.

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Good Morning America

Zman vs. Spiderman

I made sure to text all of my friends to tell their moms to make sure to wake up in time to see us on Good Morning America a few weeks ago. We arrived at 3AM to start setting up equipment, and people were already outside to get a spot by the window, including a transvestite wearing a pink Power Ranger uniform, subbing miniskirt instead of tights. You know how everyone in the outside crowd holds up signs that they seemingly brought from home? There are people there who GIVE them the poster board and markers. The magic has been ruined.

Andrew Garfield a.k.a. Spiderman was the other guest that day, and we have always said Zac Barnett and he are twinsies; unfortunately Peter Parker shaved his coif, but the resemblance remains. I have yet to find this performance on the interwebs (if you find it please send it along!), so I’ll give you the rundown. They had Zac Barnett start outside in Times Square on his wireless microphone, and then walk into the studio through the droves of people and join us in the studio in time for the chorus. What you didn’t see was that his in ear monitors were going in and out, and our tour manager Jesse was behind the camera clapping along for him so he could sing in time. And he nailed it. That’s professionalism, baby.

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Vegemite, etc.

#koalaselfie

So I finally ponied up and bought a new Macbook so I can keep you more up to date with these misadventures around the world. Last month, we spent the better part of two weeks in Australia, and I had the best omen to start the trip: two open seats next to me for the 20 hour flight. We spent the first few days in Sydney in the Surrey Hills neighborhood, and kicked things off with a performance of ‘Best Day’ on Sunrise TV, which is more or less their version of Good Morning America. We had some time to explore Sydney, and man–those Aussies do NOT mess around with their eggs and coffee. The next day we went on a wildlife adventure tour and got up close and personal with kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, giant fire ants, pythons, and a bunch of other indigenous creepy crawlers down under. I may or may not have let/made a kangaroo eat out of my belly button (don’t you dare judge me). The view of the shoreline along the Tasman sea was easily the most breathtaking I have ever seen; lucky for me I was there to soak in this romantic panorama with a bunch of bros.

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I Got Slimed!

Seth Meyers to SXSW to Mexico to London to Dallas to New Orleans to Atlanta. Thank God I bought that horseshoe travel pillow. The ATL show was the best show so far for many reasons, the first of which was feeling a bit like a hometown hero. Mom, grandma, and my brother Willy came. A bunch of high school and UGA friends turned up and got rowdy. We resisted the Clermont Lounge Karaoke and ended up at Church (the bar). Thanks for coming, guys.

After a sold out show in Birmingham, we flew to LA to perform at the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards. It was easily the most garish, decadent show any of us have ever played. Celebs adorned the orange carpet: the Hoff, Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Duck Dynasty, a bunch of Nick stars who I had not a clue who they were (but the tween girls wept hysterically when they waved), and Mark Wahlberg was the host. We actually closed the show moments after Marky Mark got slimed, and Nickelodeon definitely helped us pull out all the stops: we had a drumline of neon Oompa Loompas, balloons, confetti, crazy lights, and of course…SLIME! There was a slime fountain directly behind my amp, and some residual pink and green splatter remains on my shoes and jeans, which I will forever tout as a trophy.

Since then, we finished up our first headlining tour through the Carolinas, Nashville, Ohio, and Milwaukee (which is Algonquin for “the good land”), went skydiving in Palm Springs, played a Coachella party, hit Arizona and Nebraska, and we’re now off to Australia for a couple weeks.

Believe it or not: this job remains better than carrying bags at the hotel for a bunch of snobs. Catch you blokes and sheilas when we return from down unda!

Check out the KCA video via our super fan Perez Hilton here.