At this time in music history, our airwaves are dominated by music that lets us wallow in our sorrows (Hozier, Sam Smith, Sia) or music that we hope will make us forget our sorrows (Mark Ronson, Ellie Goulding, Walk the Moon). As many older genres are slowly permeating the Top 40, many established artists are going back to their musical roots, as going retro is now considered cool. But way before it was considered cool, Drake Bell had been waiting his whole life to make a rockabilly record. Finally, on April 22, 2014, Bell released “Ready, Steady, Go” and he’s finally playing the music he has always wanted to release for his fans.
Sadly, a few months ago, his dream was sidetracked as he seriously injured his left wrist. Doctors told him it was unlikely he would ever play guitar again. But Bell could not let that happen and jumped right into
physical therapy; he is already back performing.
Now almost a year after the release of “Ready, Steady, Go,” Bell is back in Los Angeles and recently performed as a featured guest alongside Aaron Carter at the El Rey on March 27th. After the show, we got to catch up with Drake Bell and found out what it was like to record with his idol, how he handles online bullying, his obsession with the 50s, and why it took so long for him to release the music he loves.
Q&A with Drake Bell
You got to work with Brian Setzer to record your latest album “Ready, Steady, Go!” How was that experience for you?
Working with Brian Setzer was amazing. It was a dream come true. The guy was all I wanted to be. I wanted to look like him, sound like him, dress like him. I wanted my tone to sound like him. I was obsessed with him.
Did he know that when you were recording with him?
I made it privy to him. I was a little bit of an obsessed fan. But Brian and I have become really good friends over the years, which is weird being such a fanatical fan. But it’s great! If you would have told 14 or 12-year-old me that I was going to make a record with Brian Setzer, I would have been like…you took the brown acid. You’re crazy.
The coolest thing was when we got into the studio [for the first time], we had all of his gear come in before he showed up. So I saw his amp, his guitar, and his set-up. I’m sitting there going…he’s about to come in. The king is about to arrive…el rey is about to arrive! When he came in and played, it’s hard to describe my reaction. I’m sitting there going…’You’re God.’
Your rockabilly sound is definitely a change from
your 1st two releases. Why are you so passionate about this genre?
[My first album] was very angsty and emotional..[it was more] I’m 15 and I know what’s best and everything sucks. The next record was, oh now I’m growing. I understand what makes me happy, what to appreciate in life. This new record is me getting back to my roots as a kid. When I started playing guitar, I was obsessed with Elvis [Presley], Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Chuck Berry. I was all about the ’50s. My parents thought I was crazy. [They would say] ‘Why do you want to make your room like [like mine] when I was a kid?’ I was obsessed with ’50s culture, hot rods, pin-up girls, all of that. But there was no way to do that music and become successful, so I decided [to do] pop. With the last record, [we decided] let’s go back to the roots and make some good rock and roll. That’s what needs to come back. That’s where I got caught up.
You have a wonderful sense of humor on social media but we all know that you have been on both the good and bad end of social media. You have wildly passionate fans of your own and then you’ve had people tweet you to defend other artists. How do you handle those kind of people on social media?
It’s like water on a duck’s back. I have two ways of approaching this. Social media is a very dangerous place for a lot of young people and it’s bad. But it’s also an awesome tool to engage with people you would [otherwise] never meet. When I come into contact with haters or anything like that, I try to trip them out with intellect, comedy, or just try to remind them that I’m a comedian. If I say something, it’s never in malice, especially towards another artist. John Lennon made fun of The Rolling Stones, but [then] they go have dinner together. Sometimes John Lennon would [say] ‘Hey Mick! Don’t do that on stage. That’s really stupid.’ So that’s just me saying, ‘Hey Justin!’ or ‘Hey…these guys, do this instead.’ But that doesn’t mean that there’s any hate towards them or disrespect. Obviously, you have to respect Justin for becoming an Osmond and doing that kind of thing.
Find out how Drake Bell is recovering from his injury and about his ’50s style on the next page!