Ohio-bred pop artist Spencer Anthony joins us at The Perky Nerd in Burbank, CA to discuss his upcoming collaboration album with Justin Burke, the pressures that media and fans tend to place on artists, and never forgetting the impact that music makes in our lives.
You recently released your latest single with Justin Burke called “Caught Love,” wanted to say congratulations!
Spencer Anthony: Thank you!
Would you like to share a little bit of insight behind the story of the song, and the instrumental elements that you decided to include?
Spencer: Of course! So that song is part of a collaboration album that’s going to come out soon with my friend and collaborator Justin Burke. We had been writing a lot of songs for the record, and at the end of the night we were both pretty tired from writing songs for a few hours. He was like, ‘Why don’t we write an acoustic love song?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it!” We started noodling around, and it just came very naturally. I think we wrote it in like twenty or thirty minutes actually! *laughs* We decided to record it on the spot with my harmonies and guitar parts, he did his vocal tracks the next day, and it was as good as done. It’s was simple songwriting that felt very off the cuff and honest. And that’s what I love about it.
And how would you say that writing and recording process for “Caught Love” was similar or different in that of the other works that you’ve done?
Spencer: It was totally different. Everything else that I’ve done has been carefully calculated over the course of a couple of months at least. Like, with the previous EP, there were sparse sessions of demo-ing and writing and recording that took place over the course of a few months. With “Caught Love,” there was no demo because we wrote the song and recorded it right away. It was 100% raw and natural, and I feel like it taught me something because we had to rely on the skin of our teeth. It made everything so much more natural, and truthfully, I feel like it made a more honest product. In ways that it was similar, I mean, the passion and excitement for the song was definitely there. But I was also reminded that the recording process of an acoustic guitar is one of my favorite things because it sounds so real.
Plus it’s the basis for how songs are started most of the time!
Spencer: Yeah! Acoustic guitar! Most of the time it is acoustic guitar. And most of the time, if the song sounds great on the acoustic guitar, then it’s a great song.
It kind of goes into the idea that as long as you can play it live, then it’s a real song.
Spencer: Exactly! Exactly!
If you had an unlimited budget to do a music video for “Caught Love” what kind of concept would you do?
Spencer: I think for this song specifically, with an unlimited budget I would want to showcase the song being about falling fast and having self-awareness of how fast it’s happening. I think it would be cool to show a couple going around the world to all these different places together and having these amazing moments with me and Justin hanging around in the background of each of those moments.
You guys could be the traveling street performers in the background!
Spencer: Yeah! Or even, like, traveling video-bombers! *both laugh*
Now you had already mentioned that you’re working on an album that you’re planning to release soon. Care to give us a little sneak peek as to what we should expect?
Spencer: Yeah! So the new album is entirely collaborations and duet style songs that were written by both Justin Burke and myself. As far as what the album’s like, it’s an ode to what we think pure pop music in 2019 is. It’s a lot of fun, and at certain moments it gets pretty dark.
Such is life.
Spencer: Such is life, yeah! The whole album’s an earworm, which falls into that overarching ‘pop’ umbrella that I’m referring to, and the catchy hooks are the glue that holds the album together in a sense of how strong they are. Ironically, “Caught Love” is the most low-key song in the whole thing, which makes it even more ironic for it to be the first single. *laughs* We figured that we’ll release “Caught Love” first and then hit them with the upbeat stuff later. So yeah, we’ve got some pretty cool stuff coming up that will be really awesome for people to hear.
Cool! And speaking of collaborating, you’re clearly no stranger to working with other musicians. If you could choose three artists to collaborate with who would you choose?
Spencer: Ooooh! The first person I would collaborate with is Alex Gaskarth from the band All Time Low. They’re one of my favorite bands, and they’re really the ones that made me want to start doing music. Even with the work that he’s doing now with Mark Hoppus in Simple Creatures and all of the co-writing he’s done, I feel like just being in a room with him to write a song would be insane! Maybe even doing a duet together or something would be cool! He’s an artist who’s influenced me in so many ways and it would be such an honor to work with him. The second artist that I’d love to collaborate with would be Claudio Sanchez from the band Coheed and Cambria. He’s another one of my favorite songwriters, and the music that he’s created is just so deep and lend themselves to repeat listens. There’re so many songs that they’ve written that I just keep coming back to. Actually, the first song that I played on guitar in front of an audience was their song “Welcome Home.” It’s such a beast of a song to play on guitar and a really fun way to have my first taste of live performance. I’d really like to collaborate with him, or just truthfully, ask him about his process and how he wrote some of his songs so I can pick up some things from that. I know he doesn’t really collaborate with other artists as far as songwriting and stuff like that, at least he’s never said that publicly, so I’d love to write with an artist who presumably hasn’t written with another artist before. And for the third one, I really want to do something out of the box. I think in the 21st Century, the stamp of being an established artist, and having a great song in general, is having Hayley Williams sing on it. *laughs*
On my God it’s so true though!
Spencer: Yeah! I mean, we’ve got “Airplanes,” which is by far B.o.B.’s greatest hit, and then she did that “Stay The Night” song with Zedd, she’s just featured on so much amazing stuff!
More than you think she is too. If you take a look at all the stuff she’s featured on you’re like, ‘Woah! Didn’t realize that she was on this song!’
Spencer: Right!?! When you really dig in, you find out that she’s done so much. Paramore is such an amazing and era defining band, and she’s just this incredible force as far as a songwriter and a vocalist. She’s incredible, and her lyrics, man, they really make the bank! So I think that those would make my three, at least for the moment. *laughs*
And kind of going into the idea of bodies of work. Modern music listening, at least to a lot of music consumers, feels like it’s all about the singles and the shorter EP releases. Why do you think that is right now?
Spencer: I think the past fifty years of music has kind of been this way. If you think about it, the same sort of pattern has stuck since the sixties and seventies. The Beatles put out an album every year when they were at their height, and now we’ve had bands like One Direction who also put out an album every single year. I think short attention spans, more than people want to admit it today, have always been a big part of music. In those examples, you were getting twelve or fifteen new songs every year. Now, the nature of the release itself has changed. As an artist, I actually like the structure now a bit better because when I was growing up, I found that if an album sounded too similar I would only really listen to the first few or the last few songs at different times. I like EPs because when there’s less songs you can show more colors, whereas if you’re doing a full-length record, you’re putting out so many songs that can run the risk of staying within the same habits. I think,as far as the way that music has changed, with so many artists that are independent now, releasing singles just makes more sense because of budgeting. I think that they’re a good thing, but to be an artist in the game right now, if you’re going to do singles,you have to release them consistently. Truthfully, if you’re an artist who’s focused on singles, you’re gonna wanna release five singles within six months. Every single time you put out a song, you’ve got a chance to pop and you’ve got a new chance for a hit. I think the shift that’s going on now is interesting, but the way to be successful in the new space is to adapt with it and use it to your advantage. You see a lot of bands that are still trying to put out full length albums every two years or so, and unfortunately, sometimes you see it just not working out as well as you think it would. It’s a bummer to be like, ‘Yeah! I can’t wait for twelve new songs from my favorite band!’ and then it comes out and you see it struggling to sell. It’s just hard seeing your favorite artists struggle, you know?
Do you think we kind of put an expectation on our favorite artists to either have or stay within a certain style?
Spencer: In all honesty, I think we do regardless of if we realize it or not. Like with Blink-182 for example, everyone loves Enema of the State, but when they get to Neighborhoods it was like, ‘This is not what I listen to Blink for!’ And don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to their opinion, but what so many fans don’t understand is that you were obsessed with Enema of the State when you were 17, now you’re 27, and Blink is also ten years older as a band. They’re trying to grow and expand and try new things, we keep expecting them to just do the same thing so we can go back to them for the same feelings that we felt when we first fell in love with them. In a way, it’s almost like you’re kind of not willing to allow the band and yourself to grow.
It’s definitely a crazy thought to ponder.
Spencer: Totally. But there’s some bands that grow and evolve and people accept that. The 1975 is a good example because each one of their albums symbolizes a chapter of growth or a new layer to who they are as artists. I don’t think that The 1975 in 2013 would have done a song like “Sincerity” or “Scary” or some of the songs that are different soundscape-wise. I think that in general, bands and artists need to evolve and change, but fans at a certain point put an expectation on them to stay the same. It’s the same with All Time Low, they’ve evolved and changed so much! And as much as there were a lot of fans who were there for it, there were just as many fans who weren’t. That’s the nature of growth, just like when you’re growing up in your own life. Like you’ll be in high school and you think that you’re gonna have the same friends forever…
…And then you get old, and you realize that you have no friends! *both laugh*
Spencer: It’s the truth though! And the funny thing is that sometimes you realize that an unexpected person is still your friend after all these years.
And then some people kind of fall out of touch and they’ll get together and it’ll feel like time hasn’t passed a day.
Spencer: Yeah! And it’s the same with music. I’ve fallen out of love with some bands and will re-fall back in love with them at a later time. It’s a big thing with The Maine for me actually. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop was around the same time I was listening to All Time Low, and absolutely loved that album. Like “Into Your Arms,” “Everything I Asked For,” they’re just amazing songs! And then when they did Pioneer and Forever Halloween, I think I might have been too young to fully understand them. I didn’t hate them, I had respect for them, but they weren’t my favorite to listen to. When they put out American Candy in 2015, I was like, ‘This is like the best pop rock album ever to exist! This is insane!’ *laughs*
Yes! It’s so good!
Spencer: Ah! I just love it so much! Now that’s an album that I have no problem listening to the whole way through. It’s got enough ebbs and flows, and the songs are different enough yet with familiarity from their original stuff. That’s the amazing thing about music, you just never know what a band’s gonna do next. Sum 41‘s another good example. They started with All Killer, No Filler, which was super raw and fantastic, then the next album was pretty similar, and then they tried some other things that were still really great, but by then fans had disconnected from it. Now they’re coming back and they’re hitting harder than ever, and the fans are all there for it! There are so many awesome journeys that I can bring up, but I feel like a fan’s only expectation for an artist should be for them to grow. Unfortunately, it’s a hard thing to accept because you want your bands to keep doing certain things like they used to. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Yeah, I definitely feel the same way. I actually wrote a whole editorial piece in regards to that whole concept of wanting change but not wanting at the same time with music. I got a little inspired by Chester [Bennington]’s death and his journey with Linkin Park and how people hated on One More Light because it was different.
Spencer: The same thing happened to Minutes to Midnight when it first came out too.
Right! And that album went on to be one of their most successful albums. It’s crazy that now that Chester’s gone people are listening and dissecting the lyrics, especially with One More Light.
Spencer: It’s crazy, because I remember when that album came out and thought the same thing. So back in 2016, I had realized that there were a lot of bands that I either loved growing up, like Linkin Park, but I only heard like four or five of their songs. Ok, maybe more like nine or ten songs, but I had never gone through Hybrid Theory to Minutes To Midnight to The Hunting Party from front to back. I decided to take all of Twenty One Pilots, Green Day, and Linkin Park’s albums and listened to them front to back. Like with Green Day, I literally went from Kerplunk! to, at the time the last part of their three-part series, ¡Tré! So I did that, and I was like, ‘Oh my god! Green Day is one of my favorite bands of all time!’ Then I did it with Blink, and that was great. I wanted to do one with Twenty One Pilots because I never really understood their ‘thing,’ but after I listened to everything I was like, ‘Wow! They’re awesome!’ Plus, with being from Ohio, I used to play the same venues that they did when they were first starting out, so in a way I felt like I could identify with them because we were just a bunch of suburban kids from Ohio. *laughs* But when I listened to everything from Linkin Park, when One More Light came out, I really did enjoy it. Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I didn’t fully appreciate it until after he had passed. It was an awfully sad thing that definitely shook the music industry. I mean, when they first came out on the scene it was such a huge deal in the music industry. There is just so much depth in their music, and it really is a shame that when they were releasing albums that they got so much turmoil for just simply growing as musicians.
Or even just trying to change some things up because they want to.
Spencer: Right. People kept saying, ‘Oh, you’re going too pop’ after Living Things, which I think is one of their best albums, and then they went and straight up did a rock record with The Hunting Party to prove that they could still do that it. I think it’s a shame how the internet, and fans, go after artists when they do something that they personally don’t like.
Yeah. I know they’re trying to support this artist that they like, but they also don’t need to constantly voice their dislike for what that artist put out because everyone processes music differently. Just because something isn’t necessarily your style sound-wise, some other person might think differently.
Spencer: Right. And when you think about, we’re really more connected to the lyrics as opposed to how the songs sound. That’s why we love the artists that we love.
Absolutely. I actually had a similar conversation about Sum 41 and their new album.
Spencer: 13 Voices?
Yeah, 13 Voices. He didn’t really care for the album because he was hoping it would be more like Chuck sound-wise, and I mentioned that lyrically the album was derived from Deryck [Whibley]’s experience in rehab. Like, if you really listen you can just hear the emotional turmoil from the words and even from the instrumentation.
Spencer: That’s so interesting to me, because instrumentally and vocally I think that album is heavier than Chuck. It’s weird to think about the fact there are bands still keep their grit, but somehow people still don’t like it and complain that they need to do something different.
And then those same people complain that they sound ‘too different.’
Spencer: Right. But everyone’s got a different opinion about music and there’s more to be said for respecting differences in opinion.
Absolutely. And since we were just talking about how wonderful the internet is, let’s talk about how social media plays into that.
Spencer: Oh geez. *laughs*
Do you feel that social media has made it easier or harder for artists to break out into the industry? Especially independent artists that aren’t on a major label that handles everything for them?
Spencer: Speaking from personal experience, yes, I think it’s made it way harder, but there are definitely good and bad things about it. The good thing is you can release your music anywhere and you can have access to the same audience everyone else does without paying for mass distribution or without paying for a ridiculous amount of CDs and stuff like that. The unfortunate side of things is that everyone and their brother or sister makes music.
Even dogs now! *laughs*
Spencer: Yes! Even dogs and cats! *laughs*
We’ve all seen the viral videos!
Spencer: You know, there’s been a couple of bunny mix tapes floating around lately that I’m just amazed by. If they can get a million streams, why can’t I?!?
Put on some bunny ears!
Spencer: That’ll be my new thing! *laughs* But in all honesty, I think that someone needs to shift the paradigm in order to shift the focus. It puts a lot of pressure on artists, and it gives a lot of merit to feel bad about themselves or what they do because it’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else. When your passion is commercializing art and you’re not finding an audience, it can be a really sad and tough thing to manage in your life. But just like in every period of musical history, if you keep going at it, you’ll get there. You just gotta keep doing it, and as much as there’s a million artists out there now, there will be just as many people who make an EP or a record and then just don’t do anything afterwards. Even if it doesn’t hit the first time, you’ve just gotta keep doing it and eventually something will happen, eventually you’ll have your dream. That’s what I believe.
Just gotta keep truckin’ along!
So a fun question for you, if you could go on a world tour and bring three artists with you, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Spencer: Oh gosh! So on the tour would be: me and my solo band, All Time Low, because of course they’d have to be on there, and then…hmm…do they have to be bands that actually exist?
I mean, you can totally bring people back from the dead if you want. This is your dream tour!
Spencer: Dream tour, yeah! *laughs* I think I’d bring Simple Plan from 2001 and then Linkin Park from 2007. Yeah, that’s who I’d bring!
And what would you name your tour?
Spencer: I would name it the ‘Ear Stuff Tour’ because music, if you think about it, is stuff for your ears. *laughs*
That’s very true, and we love ear stuff here! This is why we are a blog! *laughs*
Spencer: Yeah! *laughs*
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life.
Spencer: It’s hard because my family is back in Ohio, but I’ve been lucky enough that I’m in a profession where the two have come together. All of my friends are actors, or singers, or both. I’ve got a lot of friends who I consider family, so I’m really lucky in that regard.
Your L.A. family.
Spencer: L.A. family, exactly! It’s great, but it’s also a balancing act because if you turn too much to one side, like if I decide to stop right now and go home for five months, I’m missing a golden chunk my career. But if I’m away for too long, then I lose a connection with the most important people in my life. So balance is a challenge for sure.
If you could give your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far with music, and with entertainment, or even just life stuff, what kind of advice would you give him?
Spencer: I would tell sixteen year-old me, who had just formed his first band and started singing, to stop worrying about hitting the notes and actually learn how to sing. *laughs* It’s so specific, but it’s true! I didn’t know what I was doing, but if I had taken the time to properly learn how to sing it would have totally changed the game. I took voice lessons and realized that there’s a huge difference between singing just to sing and really singing. With this new record, there’s a lot of actual singing, not just me trying to go for notes or whatever. So yeah, I’d tell him to stop trying to scream and yell and just learn how to sing.
And what do you hope your audience will take away from your music?
Spencer: In general, the most important thing about music as a whole is the connection that it makes between the song and the listener. As an artist, you should be asking yourself, ‘Would this song mean something to someone?’ In specifics for the new record, the most important thing is I want these songs to be able to create memories. What we were going for with the songs was to create them in a way so people will want to play them at school dances, have their first kiss to, and just lend themselves to a bunch of those moments. I really hope that these songs can be associated with memories, or at least be associated with a good thing in their life or as something that got them through a rough time. I know for me, when I feel something from a song it’s either A: because of the connection in general to it, or B: because I associate it with my past in some kind of way.
Absolutely! I kind of feel like that’s why we always go back to these artists that we’ve loved since we were younger because of that aspect.
Spencer: It’s crazy right?!?
Oh totally! You’ll be sixteen and all moody and ‘no one understands me!’ Then you become an adult and you still hate your life.*both laugh* It’s like, ‘Alright, time to go back to some Simple Plan.’ *laughs*
* Spencer sings Simple Plan’s “I’m Just A Kid” *
Right?!? We’re all kids and life is still a nightmare even when you’re old! *laughs*
Spencer: If someone younger is singing this song, just know that you will always feel like you’re a kid, and it kind of sucks when the world tells you that you’re not. *laughs*
I’m just a grown up kid! *laughs*
Spencer: Yeah! *laughs*
So apart from the new album that’s going to be coming out soon, what other exciting things should we be expecting from you?
Spencer: Some new shows for sure, we’re planning a lot of fun stuff in the concert department. Beyond that, new solo stuff after this album. I’m writing every day, so there’s a lot of cool things that I’m excited to get out there. I feel like the first few records were there to feel out my own songwriting process and figure out what I wanted. Now that I’m there, I want to take this to the next level and make a strong, uncompromising, creative statement of who I am as an artist. So yeah, lots of shows and lots of new music coming your way!
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