The Last Fears : A Conversation With Teddy Geiger, Plus Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale and Highness Exclusives


A Conversation with Teddy Geiger

Mike Ragogna: Hi Teddy, how are you?

Teddy Geiger: How's it going man? It's good to talk to you.

MR: Nice to talk to you too. New album, The Last Fears. Say more, sir.

TG: Well, it's kind of about that moment, or any time you're following your dreams. Like the first time I went on a roller coaster, I was really excited, and then there came a time when I saw it and it was huge, and I started freaking out and didn't want to get on. Then by the time we're actually in the car and going up the hill, I'm breaking into tears, and my dad's looking at me like, "This is why it's fun. You'll get it." As a kid, you don't get that you do these things because they kind of freak you out a little bit. Then there's that moment coming down the hill when all of those fears kind of turn to joy, and it's kind of the same thing every time I get on stage, or when I'm pulling together songs for a new record to put out. Following up this last record, which had a bit of success--not that it really matters--but part of you is afraid that what you put out won't be as successful or what if people don't like it?

MR: You started your career pretty young, and now that you've had some years to absorb the concept of that success, what do you think about it?

TG: It's hard to say. I just feel glad to be able to be working with music, doing stuff creatively, and supporting myself doing that because it's just what I love to do. My life's goal is to just stay involved in creative work and to keep developing myself as someone who is doing creative work. It's just cool to have opportunities to meet other people who are at a much higher level than me, and to always be learning. That's the best part of the whole thing for me.

MR: When you wrote the songs for The Last Fears, did you sit down and say, "These are songs I'm writing for my album," or are these all songs that you've been writing for a while?

TG: It's kind of both. I mean, I definitely said, "I'm going to sit down and make an album that is guitar, piano and minimal production." It didn't end up being as minimal as I originally thought, but that was the goal. I just tried to write songs that I could sit down and play on guitar or piano and just kind of let the songs live that way. Usually, my process for coming up with subject matter is that I kind of just start mumbling stuff over the songs and there will be a couple of key words that start popping up, like a theme. I'll just record me mumbling over the song, and then eventually, that turns into some lyrics, and I'll write some additional lyrics, but a lot of it just kind of happens. If you're playing the song all day, trying a bunch of different stuff... Like with anything, you start to get a feel for what the song's sounding like, and something happened to you the other day, and you put two and two together and it's like, "Oh, s**t. I have a song."

MR: What programs do you use for your recording process?

TG: I use ProTools primarily, and I've just started getting into that program, Ableton Live. It's pretty cool. There's so much stuff you can do in it, but I know the basics, and I've been kind of getting my electronic, dance, DJ vibe on.

MR: [laughs] Teddy, you worked with Larry Campbell on The Last Fears, who happens to be one of my favorite string players and arrangers. Who else is with you on this project?

TG: It's me, my manager, and a couple of other people who have co-written some of the songs with me. Then the drummer in my band played on a couple of songs and I had a few other friends come over and play some guitars, bass and stuff like that.

MR: So your approach to this album was more personal, focusing on you as instrumentalist as well as vocalist and songwriter.

TG: Yeah, totally.

MR: Okay, history lesson time. You were pretty young when you put out Underage Thinking.

TG: Yeah. I was writing songs in the basement all the time and kind of neglecting my homework. My grades were slipping and I was kind of increasingly devoted to music. My mom saw this happening, and she also saw an ad for a reality TV show. She was like, "Alright, we have to get you doing music more often because it's obviously what you want to do, and school's not working out so great, buddy." So she wanted me to do this reality show, and I was like, "Nah." Then, she was like, "No, you HAVE to do it." I had a girlfriend at the time, in high school, and I didn't want to leave for that reason, and a bunch of others. So I'm in tears and she's forcing me to do this and it ended up kind of being the big break that started the whole ball rolling.

MR: Was that In Search Of The Partridge Family?

TG: Yes.

MR: Now that's something we have in common. I also got my break, so to speak, from the original Partridge Family.

TG: Oh, s**t!

MR: Yeah, Cashman & West developed me as an artist in my teens, and they did a lot of writing for the show, which was kind of loosely based on The Cowsills. The sound they were going for was kind of a mix of Cowsills meets Beach Boys, so if you listen to those songs, there's often a kind of faux Beach Boys harmony going on with the background vocals.

TG: Yeah, those are a lot of really great songs. Some of them have that kind of haunting background vocal. I didn't even notice that.

MR: One of my favorite subjects, glad we brought it up. [laughs] So you also were on the show Royal Pains.

TG: Yes, just recently. That was a lot of fun.

MR: And of course, there was the series Love Monkey.

TG: I play musicians well, I think. If it's a musician's role, I'm down.

MR: Do you enjoy acting as much as you enjoy making music?

TG: I think music kind of always comes first. I've just spent a lot more time doing it and being drawn to it. But I've always been interested in films, me and my cousins would make little movies when we were younger. But I was never into musical theater and I feel pretty inadequate as an actor. I feel like I don't have the practice and the time in, so part of me just feels kind of like a fish out of water. It's also fun to go in on auditions and work with people on acting stuff, but it definitely doesn't feel like my first love.

MR: That was the Tom Hanks' show, right?

TG: Yeah.

MR: What was the feel on the set like, not just with Tom Hanks, but just in general?

TG: It was cool. Everyone on set was fantastic. It's cool when everyone gets along and people are having a good time at work, you know?

MR: Yeah. And I bet it was the same kind of vibe on The Rocker project.

TG: Yeah.

MR: What is in the future, Teddy? What's your goal?

TG: I feel like, in the end, I'd like to be primarily songwriting and producing because my favorite stuff is that initial spark of creativity in the studio and coming up with new ideas that you bring to a full song that you can sit down and listen to. That's kind of my favorite thing in the world. I enjoy the touring side of things as well, so it would be cool to be able to support myself with only writing and production and then be able to do little tours here and there. Writing and production is what I love to do.

MR: Dude, at the time of your big hit, "For You I Will," you were on the cover of Seventeen. What was your reaction to seeing yourself on the cover of a magazine?

TG: I mean, I don't even know. It was so surreal. There was a lot of that sort of thing going on--seeing myself. Initially, it doesn't make sense, it doesn't feel like a magazine that's going out all over the world. It just feels like I'm looking at something I made in Photoshop at my house. The reality never really sinks in necessarily.

MR: Have you had some co-writing opportunities over the years, have people approached you to collaborate?

TG: Yeah, I've been trying to do more and more of that sort of thing. There are a couple of songs that people have cut which I had written, and I'm trying to do that more and more, as much as possible.

MR: I look at songwriters out there like Bruno Mars--

TG: ...he is so f**(king good.

MR: [laughs] I know, and I've been trying to score an interview with him for years with no luck. Just sayin'. But I wonder what the collaboration between you two would be like. You both have such a good and natural sense of pop.

TG: I mean, yeah, I would love that. He'd be right at the top of the list.

MR: Are you going to be touring for this record.

TG: We're doing some dates in May with Tyler Hilton and Ryan Cabrera, then I have some stuff booked for September and we'll be filling in the summer. The record just came out, so we're sending that out to people to see what happens.

MR: Tyler Hilton. One Tree Hill.

TG: Right.

MR: That was a guilty pleasure show for me. It was like Dallas for teens. But the concept of artists acting on TV shows. It's interesting to see how many musicians out there are crossing into other forms of media all the time. I guess it's part of our culture now, where you can be a YouTube sensation over night.

TG: Yeah, that's crazy. People can just blow up on YouTube. That's like the new American Idol.

MR: Teddy, what is your advice for new artists?

TG: I guess just to write as much as you possibly can, and continue to play out and push yourself, even if it feels awkward and weird. The more you're playing out and the more you're writing music--even if you hate what you're writing... When I first started writing songs, I didn't like any of the songs I was writing. But my mom did. She liked all of them. [laughs] So find people who support what you're doing and can also give you feedback and criticism that you can appreciate. Also, find the best players in your school and start hanging out and playing music together. In school, I had a lot of other musician friends and we would all push each other to get better, playing each other's stuff. That, I think, is always really helpful.

MR: Sweet. Teddy, all the best with this new album and let's talk again in the future.

TG: Sounds great. It's been good talking to you.

MR: With you too, thanks.

1. Happier?
2. Shake It Off
3. One More Night
4. Ordinary Man
5. Save Me
6. Sunshine Fires
7. Walking in the Sun
8. Home
9. Return to Me
10. Carousel

Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney

Also, check out Teddy's "Walking In The Sun Video":



Why look at that, an exclusive song presented here for the first time in the universe and a paragraph by Mr. Jim Lauderdale.

"When Buddy Miller and I decided to record our own album after talking about it for 30+ years. I began hearing him play guitar and harmonizing in my head, and was inspired to write for the two of us. 'Vampire Girl' actually came together right before our last day of recording, so day two of the three days we made the album. The song is about a fellow who can't quit this woman, even as the centuries roll on."

Curious, ain't ya? Okay, okay, here it is...

Want more info, like of the touring kind? Of course you do. Here ya go...



Why look at that, an exclusive song presented here for the first time in the universe and a paragraph by Mr. Jim Lauderdale.

"When Buddy Miller and I decided to record our own album after talking about it for 30+ years. I began hearing him play guitar and harmonizing in my head, and was inspired to write for the two of us. 'Vampire Girl' actually came together right before our last day of recording, so day two of the three days we made the album. The song is about a fellow who can't quit this woman, even as the centuries roll on."

Want more info, like of the touring kind? Of course you do. Here ya go...

photo credit: Ebru Yildiz


Guitarist/vocals Eric Richter says of the song. "When I was a kid in Colorado, I remember driving with my mom and having a big view of the sky wherever we went. I would often see shafts of light breaking through the clouds that descended towards the ground. My mom and I would almost always point them out to each other. One day I asked her what they were. Her answer startled me a bit. She said that they were lights from heaven and the sky was opening up to let someone who had just passed away in. Every time after that conversation I saw crepuscular rays I would wonder who was being invited into heaven. Later that same year my best friend's baby sister drowned in a pool they built in the garage. They owned a pool company and decided to remodel the garage into an intricate rock-based pool with a waterfall. Someone that day didn't lock the door that lead into the pool and his sister wandered in and fell into the pool. By the time she was found it was too late. That night as the sun was going down I saw the rays above our houses. It was obviously just a coincidence, but I was only 7 or 8 years old at the time and believed the sky opened up to invite her in."

Guitarist Brent Eyestone elaborates on the songwriting process, explaining, "This song really exemplifies the 'good kind' of studio experimentation that I personally enjoy when making records. We went in with the verses, choruses, and bridge sorted and rehearsed, but the intro concept was a bit more amorphous. Ryan knew he wanted to create some sort of layered drum part to build up to a more traditional song intro. While tracking, we had the idea of seeing what guest drummers might be in the area. It turned out our friend Balazs Pandi from Hungary was around, so we had him come in. The two of them knocked some stuff around for a bit and we pressed on."

He continues, "At the end of principle tracking in Gowanus, and in listening to roughs, we knew that there was still some work that needed to be done and a bigger concept to emerge from that intro part. Andrew (Schneider, engineer/producer) was so kind as to give me isolated tracks to experiment with back at home in Virginia. When I pasted drum tracks into my editor, they copied in slightly out of phase with each other, which gave the intro this new, crazy, polyrhythmic feel on playback. I loved it, even though it was not intentional! That odd beat inspired all the insane electronic noises that I then created and recorded at home and brought back up to Brooklyn for the mixing. I was happy to find the rest of the guys completely on board with the concept, as I absolutely took a sharp turn from what we originally had. We've since learned how to pull it off live, which was equally fulfilling to figure out."

Adds Richter, "The verse melody is based off the Steve Miller song "Serenade." I had heard it earlier that day and it was stuck in my head. The chord progression on the verse was perfect for me to try an interpretation of that melody and feeling. Two nights later I sat in my living room in Brooklyn and attempted to write lyrics. I have a really good view of the sky from my kitchen table and when I looked outside I saw rays breaking through the clouds. It's more or less a twisted love story. I was particularly proud of the line 'I want to take you home and rub stars on your face.' Something about that makes me smile."

I got nothing after that line "...I want to take you home and rub stars on your face," so here's the track...