Drake Bell Interview: Singer Talks ‘Ready Set Go,’ Battling Beliebers + More [EXCLUSIVE]
Drake Bell is a throwback — a musician who pledges his allegiance to ’50s and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll.
The singer (and star of Nickelodeon’s ‘Drake & Josh’) is also somewhat of a preservationist, one who cares about making real music and getting today’s kids excited about songs made by instruments, not computers.
He is releasing the retro and rockabilly ‘Ready Set Go’ today, April 22. The star is super excited for his fans to hear the album and to introduce his fans to this musical style.
In this exclusive interview with PopCrush, Bell, 27, was candid about carrying on musical traditions. He also shared how he feels about the Beliebers who went on the defensive and tore him a new one when he dared to criticize their hero, Justin Bieber and his behavior.
It seems like you are trying to keep the classic rock ‘n’ roll spirit and music alive with your new record.
I would rather be on stage playing to 25 people with a band I love and the music I love than learning dance moves I don’t want to do for 25,000 people. After that, I’d go backstage and be like ‘UGH!’ But after performing for 25 people, I would be sweating and hanging out at the bar. If I can bring this music to a bigger audience, then that’s a dream come true.
The music on your album has a rockabilly, retro vibe, too. How did that become a part of your history and preference?
I grew up listening to that kind of music. I was raised on Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly and discovered the Stray Cats when I was 11 or 12 years old. I fell in love with ’50s hot rod, pinup girl culture. Having the opportunity to work with one of my idols, Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, is amazing. I got to make the record I wanted to — a stripped down rock ‘n’ roll record.
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How did you hook up with Brian Setzer? Did you or your team simply make a few phone calls?
I am fanatical, as a fan. I saw him when I was 12 or 13 in Las Vegas and ever since then, from age 12 to now, I would go see him constantly. When I was 15, a friend of mine owned a club and Brian played. Even though Brian was playing big venues at that time, for him to play a small venue was odd, but he did to try something out before going out and doing it on a bigger stage. I asked my friend [who owned the club] to meet him. So I got to meet him, and he signed my guitar. Like a fan, I made my way backstage more times and became a familiar face. Once I was familiar, I approached him and asked about making a rockabilly record and he was like ‘Wait, what?’ He knows me from ‘Drake & Josh,’ and his kids know me. I was like, ‘What kind of record do you think I want to make?!’
How did you bring it up to him?
It was offhanded, and I never thought he would do it.
You must have built up and idea in your mind about what it would be like to work with your idol. How did the reality live up to the fantasy?
He flew from Minnesota to Nashville to work on it and to play on it. Listening to his guitar tone come out of a monitor with my vocal… it was just a trip. I was in shock. I have been blessed. I got work with [Beach Boy] Brian Wilson, one of my biggest idols. He came into the studio, and I got to hang out with him. It was for one of Brian Wilson’s albums. To have those experiences, I can’t explain them. It’s like they didn’t happen. It’s like I dreamed them up. When I was 12, I was obsessed with vinyl and listen to ‘I Won’t Stand In Your Way.’
This sound and style might be new to your younger fanbase. Will they “get” it, or will it go over their heads?
There is an episode of ‘Drake & Josh’ that is about having an autographed copy of ‘Abbey Road’ and guarding it with my life. I am showing the coveted album ‘Abbey Road’ to a generation of Nickelodeon fans. I tried to keep that alive on ‘Drake & Josh.’ His walls are lined with Beatles and Elvis. We keep that in the show since Dan [Schneider] and I love that type of music, from the ’50s and ’60s.
You are a throwback! It reminds me of the oral tradition — this is how classic music is being passed on and preserved. A lot of today’s sounds are instant, here today, gone tomorrow.
I loved John Lennon. I read interviews, and whatever he said he liked, I would go and listen to them. That is what I want to do with my fans. I did a few covers on the record, but kids have no idea that these are not originals. So it’s almost like I can be a music historian for my fans.
Acting vs. movies? Which do you prefer?
I’d love to do both. Elvis, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles all did both. I want to act, produce. I directed episodes of ‘Drake & Josh.’ I loved the Lucille Balls and Charlie Chaplins of the world. He had to write, direct, product and score for his films. If he didn’t, who would? I look up to the them.
You recently made headlines for criticizing Justin Bieber and taking on his very vocal and ardent fanbase. Did you expect the backlash and to be met at the airport?
I was being told to go die in a hole, but that’s just people spouting off. We don’t sign up to be role models, but we kind of are. If I do say something on Twitter or call out a someone’s behavior, I think that we should think about who our fans are and what they listen to and how they respond. Is it about what we say or do? If I get people saying horribly awful things to me or about me, that’s like being on the playground. You just gotta feel bad for that person who is saying that stuff. But those [are the] things that make headlines, the things people choose to report.