FLASH SPECIAL: Cheyenne Jackson's Summer Singles
As a super-special prelude to BroadwayWorld's forthcoming InDepth InterView with Cheyenne Jackson, today we are shining a light on his two infectiously catchy and frothily pleasing pop confections from a forthcoming EP tentatively scheduled for release later this year - "Drive" and "Before You". Particularly given this week's world premiere of the eye-grabbing new music video for the instant earworm "Before You", this was the perfect time to catch up with one of Broadway and Hollywood's biggest rising stars as he prepares for his roles on the new NBC reboot of THE MUNSTERS - created by PUSHING DAISES and upcoming HANNIBAL writer/producer Bryan Fuller - titled MOCKINGBIRD LANE, as well as his part in the new star-studded Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO Liberace biopic BEYOND THE CANDELABRA - co-starring Oscar-winners Michael Douglas and Matt Damon - all about his many exciting endeavors. While the InDepth InterView covers those fresh topics as well as his new songwriting career and upcoming EP - as well as much, much more - today we are focusing primarily on the two new summer singles, some live performances of them, and, of course, both of their subsequent uniquely effective music videos. The music video for "Drive" is an instantly visually arresting animated road-trip travelogue depicting a cartoon Cheyenne navigating life's highways and byways while casting the occasional glance in the literal and proverbial rearview mirror, whereas "Before You" is a slightly ROCKY HORROR-esque, almost entirely black-and-white throwback to the frivolous sci-fi and horror-themed cheesy B-movies of the era - complete with a house of horrors featuring zombies, mummies, monsters and Rachel Dratch in a bizarre bird-themed hat. Both videos go the unexpected route in the methods by which each delivers the song's messages and themes, yet each hits their target square on in managing to showcase Cheyenne's considerable skills to their very best advantage while also providing an interesting and striking visual accompaniment, as well.
A Reason To Sing
Enjoy this portion of next week's InDepth InterView with Cheyenne Jackson below in which we discuss the singles "Drive" and "Before You" and their respective music videos, as well as Cheyenne's many musical inspirations and his thoughtful perspective on pop music today.
PC: The music video for "Drive" is stunning - so eye-popping and befitting of the song; the final third is particularly fantastic and emotionally applicable, I thought.
CJ: Thank you. I knew it would be risky, I knew it would be different and I purposefully didn't put myself in the video because the song is so personal. The lyrics came to me all at the same time and I always know that when that happens it is a very special, personal thing and I really wanted people to listen to the words and to feel the emotion of where the song came from. I think that by putting myself in the video that it would become, I don't know, more about me than about the song. So, I found this wonderful animator/artist/short filmmaker from Austria - I love to really foster new talent and people that haven't really been discovered. I really liked his style, so I contacted him and I showed him the song and I said, "Would you create this for me, with me?" And I am so happy that he said yes!
PC: Aren't we all!
CJ: I am so happy with it. It's been kind of a slow build, though - at first, people have been like, "I love the song, but where are you?! I want to see you!" And I'm like, "Oh, I'll be in the next one - just give me a second!"
PC: You want to let the song speak - and sing - for itself.
CJ: Exactly. So, yeah - I am really, really glad that you like it and I am really, really happy with it. The video turned out great.
PC: How have you approached singing these pop singles versus your prior vocal work onstage and elsewhere? It's a more upfront, intimate sound you achieve on these two singles, it seems - I'm sure the production factors into it all considerably, as well.
CJ: Well, I've always sung in a lot of different styles - I consider myself a singer first. So, you know, on Broadway, you have to sing to the back of the house and you have to fill the space. A sound engineer told me recently, "You know, it really is a different style and technique and you have to get used to the imperfections in your voice." I remember once another engineer said to me, "I want you to get so close to the mic that I can hear what you ate for breakfast."
PC: Invasive - but effective, no?
CJ: It is a different muscle to use - for lack of a better term - but I am really loving it; I am loving embracing the crunch or the imperfections with the sound. Sia has helped me a lot with that, too - you know, her whole thing is, "You can sing anything as long as you sing it cool." That's what she always says. It's all about the vibe.
PC: What a fascinating insight.
CJ: Yeah, because when you are listening to someone on a record, you aren't seeing them, you are listening to them - and you are feeling what they are singing about. So, I didn't worry too much about what my Broadway fans would think of this sound, but I am glad they are embracing it anyway. This is really for me, though.
PC: Have you gotten receptive reactions to the singles so far?
CJ: Oh, yeah - absolutely. People have been very, very supportive. Remember, I did this all kind of under-the-radar and all kind of on my own because I really didn't want the pressure of, you know, "When's it coming out? What's it going to sound like? What's your sound?" I just wanted it to happen in the way that it was supposed to happen.
PC: And, now, here we are with the second single.
CJ: Yeah, people have been really supportive and some surprising people have been picking up on it, too. It's been a really slow, great build. Obviously, "Before You" is a more commercial single and that's going to be the one to get radio play hopefully. The video has me and Rachel Dratch in it and it is really funny and fun, so I bet that that will be the one to get the most attention of the two. But, to me, every single song is its own entity - and that's what's exciting about it all.
PC: Stevie Nicks has said that you have to love your material if you plan to introduce it to the world and have them love it so that you can continue to perform it for an audience forever. Do you want to have a song catalog you can continue to sing and enjoy like that?
CJ: Oh, yeah! I want to be able to sing my songs forever. I was lucky enough to sing at the recent BMI Songwriter's Hall Of Fame induction ceremony - joining all these great songwriters together - and Stevie Nicks was there, actually.
CJ: All the people there, their whole careers had led up to this moment - of being inducted. So, yes, I absolutely want to be known as a great songwriter and not just a great singer or great actor or whatever people know me for. I know I have it in me and every time I write it just lights a fire in me and inspires me to be better and better.
PC: Who are some of your major songwriting influences? When we spoke last time we discussed Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and some others. On these two singles, I can hear some Elton John, some Bee Gees even.
CJ: Totally. It really runs the gamut - I guess those are some of my older references, but that's because my voice is more old fashioned; you know, some people liken it to Chet Baker or Harry Connick, Jr. or whoever. I think that George Michael and Freddy Mercury are probably tied as my favorite male vocalists, though - I really love them both a lot. I love Sting; I love Chris Martin from Coldplay; Elton John, of course, too. And, KD Lang has, I think, the most beautiful tone of any person ever.
PC: You embrace it all.
CJ: I do. I can't help but feel that, as artists, we are influenced by everything around us, so I try to listen to everything that's new and everything old, too. That's why I particularly love "Before You" - because it sounds retro, I think, but still fun and fresh and current.
PC: Unquestionably. In viewing the video, I detect a bit of a ROCKY HORROR vibe - a musical you once did way back when, actually. Was that reference intentional?
CJ: Somebody else said that to me, too! I never thought of that. Nick, the director, and I both have this affinity for movies from the 40s and 50s, and, also, the kitschy ADDAMS FAMILY/MUNSTERS kind of thing - which is ironic because I just did this Munsters reboot pilot callEd MockINGBIRD LANE.
PC: I was going to ask: is the "Before You" video a tie-in to that or is it a sheer coincidence that they tread similar territory?
CJ: I know! This was filmed months ago - way before MOCKINGBIRD LANE; which is hilarious!
PC: It really is.
CJ: What's really funny is that, while I was filming MOCKINGBIRD LANE, I showed the creator, Bryan Fuller, a cut of the "Before You" video and I said, "You are not going to believe this, but watch this music video that is going to come out next week." And when he saw it his mouth was just agape!
PC: I bet.
CJ: We filmed it at the same place where the new Tim Burton DARK SHADOWS was filmed - it is similar in tone to that, I think.
CJ: You know, we wanted it to be fun and kind of kitschy and also kind of an homage to PSYCHO and that whole genre. I am so happy that Christina Cole is in it with me - a beautiful British leading lady who I was lucky enough to do a movie with last year; and, also, Rachel Dratch, who is such a bud and always, always helps me out. Rachel actually had food poisoning the day that we shot it.
PC: No way! What effect did that have on the shoot?
CJ: None at all, really! She would hit her mark and totally kill it and be great and then she would go and puke in a bucket. [Pause.] See kids? That's showbiz! [Laughs.]
PC: She's so hilarious - another one of your 30 ROCK alums.
CJ: That's right. I adore her and she totally came through for me - again.
PC: These singles are a refreshing diversion from the content of most current pop music. How do you compare your music to the current top acts that feature heavy European dance and hip-hop sounds and often nursery rhyme-level lyrics?
CJ: Well, I really think there is something for everybody out there. I think that the fact that Bon Iver won the Best New Artist Grammy is a great sign that there is good songwriting being done out there and good, old fashioned melodies and stuff are really coming back. You know, there will always be a place for Katy Perry and the great bubblegum stuff and also the darker stuff, too. You know, not all of my stuff is going to be funny or fun - some of my songs are super-dark and I have a lot to say. It just so happens that the first song was "Drive" and that was wide and expansive and dark and deep, and, the next one, "Before You" is light and fun and summery. But, maybe the third and the fourth will be both be super-sad. Who knows? Each one is a beginning, a middle and an end and that's what's so infinitely exciting about this process for me.
Now, check out the music video for "Drive" featuring the idiosyncratic animation and direction of visual artist Christian Horlesberger.
Following that, see Cheyenne perform "Drive" live to thousands of adoring fans at the 2012 Lifeball in Vienna, where he shared the stage with Scissor Sisters and Gloria Estefan, among others.
After you have enjoyed the first single from the sure-to-be sensational new solo effort, witness this live performance of Cheyenne's brand new second single, "Before You", as performed on GOOD DAY NEW YORK on Wednesday.
Without further ado, here is the brand new music video for Cheyenne Jackson's "Before You", directed by Nick Everhart.
A frequent 30 ROCK featured guest star, here is Cheyenne singing the theme song for the first live episode of the mutil-Emmy Award-winning comedy series back in 2010 taken from the West Coast feed.
As the first of today's triptych of bonuses, here are fellow InDepth InterView participants Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson flaunting their enviable rapport in the stupendous 2007 Encores! mounting of the classic Tony Award-winning Richard Adler/Jerry Ross musical DAMN YANKEES - knocking the devilish duet "Two Lost Souls" straight out of the park; and City Center, too!
As a special pop music-related bonus, here is Cheyenne giving his own spin on the international smash hit single "F*ck You", as originally recorded by Cee Lo Green co-written with Bruno Mars and later popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow in her recent Emmy Award-winning turn on GLEE.
As one final bonus, watch in amazement as Cheyenne and Jai Rodriguez perform a spine-tingling, gender-bending take on the celebrated, epic "Elephant Love Medley" from MOULIN ROUGE.
So, which of Cheyenne Jackson's summer single earworms are you having the most difficult time getting out of your head? Does "Drive" inspire you to take a long road trip as the mercury rises and the comfort of a cool car becomes more alluring or does the effervescently sweet and effortlessly wacky vibe of the weird and winsome "Before You" video win you over ultimately in the end? It's a difficult decision! One thing is for sure, though: if the rest of Cheyenne's forthcoming EP is half as refreshing, inspired and just plain entertaining as these two instantly appreciable first entries in his pop oeuvre, then we definitely have a whole lot to look forward to in the coming months!