In the following phone interview Michael Shepard chats about his exciting new Boys on the Radio band, the future of Lovedrug, and whether he has any regrets on never making it big.
So I guess weíll start at the beginning of this project. Lovedrug released Wild Blood in 2012, and you spent most of the year touring behind that. After that cycle was wrapped, how did you get from there to Boys on the Radio?
It was kind of interesting towards the tail end of that Lovedrug tour for Wild Blood. We had talked about maybe taking a break from touring, everyone taking a look at some other projects they were wanting to be involved in. So when we got home, that short break turned into a long break. The other guys really got involved in some other projects.
I wonít say I was losing faith in Lovedrug, by any means, but I think it was just time for a hiatus. Iíd been working on some material that was very, very different from the Lovedrug material. I knew I wanted to try and do something with it, I just wasnít sure what. Initially, I went into the studio with this producer to make what I thought was going to be a solo album. It very quickly snowballed into a full-fledged new band.
Were the other guys just local musicians from Nashville that you picked up?
Yeah, yeah, just kind of friends of friends. When I realized that I wanted to put another band together and do this thing for real, I just asked buddies around town who were connected to the machine and working in studios and stuff. Met one guy who knew another guy, and before I knew it I had a room full of musicians who were killer and wanting to play with me. I feel pretty lucky about it.
I know a lot of Lovedrug fans are going to be curious about how this compares with that band. What would you say are some similarities and differences between Boys on the Radio and Lovedrug?
Well, I would say the similarities are itís still very much rock and roll. Itís not a stray from that, in a sense. Itís still got a very edgy, loud feel to it. My voice is still very prevalent and a lot of the elements are still there. I would say what balanced out Lovedrug, as far as the writing was concerned, was the other guys in Lovedrug were very much more into the indie side of music, the cooler, underground music. I was always kind of the pop guy who brought some of the hookier stuff to the music. So when I sat down to do a record by myself, essentially Iím writing pop songs.
Iíve been going through this huge Ď80s thing lately. I was largely influenced by artists like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, stuff like that that I grew up loving, kind of writing from a modern standpoint but with a little bit of that tinge to it. Basically, I would say itís rocking, but itís definitely a lot more pop and has a pretty big Ď80s influence to it, but itís got my voice over top of it. Thatís what they have to look forward to.
Yeah, it definitely has an arena pop-rock throwback feel to. So I knew you used Pledge Music for the Wild Blood album and you used it for this as well. What did you learn from the first go-around that you then applied to this project?
Honestly, the reason I even did it a second time was because we had such a positive response from the fans the first time around that I realized the system could truly work. It gave me enough belief in it and enough faith in it that I could try it on obviously a slightly smaller scale. Still, I was so pleasantly surprised by how many of the fans came through for me and pledged to make this new project come to life.
What made you decide to use Pledge Music over something like a Kickstarter? Are their advantages of using something thatís just geared towards music?
Iíve researched Kickstarter a little bit, but honestly itís mostly just the personal relationships with the people over at Pledge Music I had established through that last time we did it. They have a really great staff. They care about each project individually, so you essentially get assigned someone who works with you directly on your project when you start one, whereas I donít think Kickstarter works like that. Itís completely independent and you do everything yourself.
With Pledge, theyíre a little bit more hands on with helping you reach out to your fans and make sure your page looks right, making sure youíre dotting all your Iís and crossing all your Tís, so youíre getting the most out of your campaign. I really appreciate that about Pledge Music, not just because it is solely music, so itís a little bit more concentrated, but that they are a little bit more hands on with helping you reach your goal.
Theyíre not like Kickstarter, where you only get the money if your goal is fully reached, right?
No, they are like that now. They didnít initially do that when they first started, but they do do that now.
Oh, they do, gotcha. So the record is completely done and everything. What is the plan now to get the music out there? Will you be partnering with a label or anything like that?
We are. We actually are talking to a few different labels at the moment and basically assembling a new team to get this thing launched. Weíre going to independently release two singles off the new record, and those are going to be released this Thursday, the 27th, which will go along with our first hometown show here in Nashville. Thatís going to spearhead the whole thing, and then weíre hoping to potentially sign with a label here midyear and get the full record released before the end of the year.
I would assume there will be some tours going along with all that as well.
Yeah, absolutely. Weíll be touring to support it and all that good stuff in due time, absolutely.
I believe the two tracks you selected to release first are ďYouth AnthemĒ and ďYouíre the Remedy.Ē What about those two jumped out at you that made you choose them as the first two?
Thereís a lot of tracks on the record that are very radio friendly, very synchable, I guess you could say in the commercial sense. It was kind of a tough decision, but really it came down to a consensus. We gave a few select tracks to a bunch of people we trusted, just in the industry and friends, family alike. The unanimous vote was those two stood out a little bit, just slightly, just a few more votes than some of the others. So we were like, ďWell, weíll just run with those.Ē We donít really have another game plan in mind at this moment. We want to get some music out there, so letís run with those two. Itís as simple as that.
As far as lyrically goes, did you have a different approach when writing this album than you did on some of the Lovedrug stuff?
Yeah, absolutely. With the Lovedrug stuff, I kind of had my own style I favored over the years. I was slightly more bent on the darker side of things, a little bit more metaphorical. I chose this producer, Allen Salmon, to work with on this record because I knew he would stretch me in ways I normally havenít been stretched, and lyrically was one of those ways, definitely.
He really made me reapproach the process of writing the lyrics. Who am I appealing to? Whatís the message Iím trying to get across? Is it a little too metaphorical? Is it not metaphorical enough? He really stretched me in ways, where normally with the producers Iíve worked with in the past never meddled with my lyrics whatsoever, and I loved that he pushed me to think maybe a little more outside the box. I would say if anything, this band, this record is far more universal than some of the Lovedrug stuff was.
I have to ask about one song in particular, which probably wonít be officially released for awhile, which is the last song, ďBound for Heaven,Ē which is my favorite off the record. It ends with this epic sax solo, which I didnít expect at all but works so perfectly. How did that song come together?
That was actually a song I had written awhile ago on piano. It was a heartbreak song, coming out of a rough relationship situation. I had the general lyric outline for it. It was really just a broken-down piano song, probably could have been on Lovedrugís first record, that kind of vibe. When I brought it to the studio, Allen kind of took it and said, ďLetís just go super Ď80s with this. Give it the whole electronic keyboard vibe.Ē We would go back and forth trying to one up each other on the whole Ď80s theme, so I was like, ďDude, we got to throw a saxophone solo somewhere in here [laughs].Ē So he called a guy who came in and nailed it in one take, and I was just like, ďYes.Ē That was the cherry on top of that song.
Did most of the stuff you do on your own before the other guys were involved, or were they also able to contribute?
As far as the bandís concerned, they kind of came into the picture after the record. The entire record was written and made when I put a band together, so it was just me and the producer who made the album. We played everything on it ourselves and put it together. It was really at about the three-quarter mark where he sat back and looked at me and was like, ďI know youíre thinking about doing this as a solo album, but itís turning out pretty epic. Maybe you want to try and get a band together and do this legit.Ē
Thereís that feeling that I had, like ďOh, man. Youíre totally right, even though I so do not want to start another band.Ē It was like the last thing on my list, but I couldnít deny it. I was so stoked with how the album turned out, I wanted to give it a go. Finding the right guys happened pretty quickly.
Another song I wanted to ask about is ďRed Hot,Ē and that chorus is one of the catchiest I think youíve written and really gets stuck in your head. How did that one come about?
I started that one as a co-write with a friend of mine here in Nashville named Adam Agin. Weíd been doing a few songwriting sessions together and I had this little riff that ended up becoming the chorus of that song. We started talking about how provocative a lot of pop songs are today, especially the ones being sung by female pop artists. Itís like, ďMan, the dudes donít get enough of that provocative song material to bring forward.Ē So we kind of sat down jokingly, lightheartedly, writing a song about this chick that youíre crazy about who has this red-hot lipstick, or whatever. We ran with it, and it turned into one of the poppier songs on the record. I love it.
One thing Iím curious about is being that you havenít toured for awhile, as far as financially goes, have you had to get supplemental jobs to help you out or have you still been able to keep on making a living just doing music?
Itís funny because I think a lot of people have this notion of Lovedrug that it was this massively successful thing. We did well for ourselves. We had a great following and a lot of fans and stuff, but there were really only a couple years during that run where we were able to do it full time, and that was when we were on the road all the time. Any time we werenít on the road, we had to come home and get the day job thing, do that whole nine yards. Since Iíve been home and havenít been hitting the road, Iíve had to go back to the day job thing and do the music on the side. Iím open to switch that back the other way here shortly [laughs]. Itís part of the grind. When youíre trying to live that dream of playing music for a living, itís not an easy thing to do.
What kind of stuff do you do?
Iím a painter. I paint houses.
Do you ever see Lovedrug getting back together at some point down the road?
Yeah, Iím sure it will happen. It was too good of a thing to not let it happen. We had a great chemistry, those guys and me, and Iíd be sad to see if we never got together again. I just donít know when. Right now, Iím really concentrated on this project and excited about it, and I know the other guys in Lovedrug are definitely busy with their other projects.
But, yeah, I could see it happening at some point, maybe making another record or doing a tour. I know this year is actually the ten-year anniversary of Pretend Youíre Alive, which is crazy to think about, so I donít know. We had some talks about doing maybe a special release, a rerelease on vinyl or doing maybe a short run, but itís all talks at this point. Weíll see that happens.
You guys, and a couple other bands you came up with on Militia Group, like Copeland and Cartel, all seemed to be on the cusp of breaking out and yet looking back none of you were able to take that next step. Are there any regrets with how that worked out and not getting huge or anything like that?
Sure, of course. Ultimately anybody whoís in a band who writes the type of music that we do and Copeland did, you want to be successful. Thatís your goal. You want to make a living playing music, and you hope it exceeds your wildest dreams. Thatís always something thatís in the back of your mind as an artist. But, you know, I have to look back at it fondly because I got to do so many things that so many people in bands donít get to do. I got to tour all over the world, in Japan and Europe, and play fantastic festivals with some of our musical heroes. So many artists donít get to do that, so in my mind we were really successful and I look back on it fondly.
I mean, sure, would it have been fantastic if we blew up and we had been the next Coldplay or U2 or something? Of course, that would have been phenomenal, but I donít look back on it with a frown, thinking, ďOh, Iím so bummed out that that didnít happen.Ē I look back on it and I say, ďThat was such a great ride. We got to do so many things that so many people never have an opportunity to do.Ē I feel very grateful, I guess is the bottom line.
Well, Iíll wrap this up with one last question. What are your goals and aspirations for Boys on the Radio and this Horizons album?
Ultimately, weíre hoping to procure a label and management here in the next couple months, get the record out there and start plugging away. The goal is just to take it as far as we can take it, kind of the same goal it was with Lovedrug. I wanted to ride it as far as we could ride it. I feel like we made an album here thatís pretty incredible, and I think a lot of people should have the opportunity to hear it, so weíre going to go for it as much as we can.