Interview – Hot Chelle Rae’s Ryan Follesé
– by Ria Nevada
With pop stars blossoming every second, it’s hard to keep track of what the kids are listening to these days. With their insanely infectious hit “Tonight, Tonight”,
Hot Chelle Rae – a band formed by (mostly) sons of Nashville songwriters – seems to be the latest sensation amongst middle to high school girls all over America. I like to think that my teenybopper days are long gone (except for when New Kids on the Block roll into town), but within seconds of meeting Hot Chelle Rae’s guitarist and singer Ryan “RK” Follesé, I could see what all the little ladies are gushing about.
At Venue in downtown Vancouver, before the band’s show that night (Feb 17), the sweet, handsome Southern boy spoke excitedly about their headlining tour and the new direction of pop music, showed a deep appreciation for the band’s adoring fans, and beamed about his hometown and close-knit family.
Ria Nevada: So tonight’s your big show here in Vancouver and you’ve got a very enthusiastic group waiting for you. Your music tends to draw in the tween to teenage crowd, and they certainly don’t hold back with their excitement over you guys. How do you guys react to all the screams, the “I love you’s”, and neon posters?
Ryan Follesé: We love it! I mean we’ve been waiting our entire career for this moment, this headliner tour. So to have people come out and care and want to scream and dance and have fun and clap? That is the name of the game. That’s what it’s about. I love it. It’s strange and it’s just so gratifying.You know you put so much hard work into something and then to go out and see that? That being the benefit of what you’ve done? It’s just amazing.
RN: So I did a little bit of snooping and found some of the fan fiction out there inspired by you guys. And these girls paint you guys not just as performers but as love interests and objects of affection. How do you respond to things like that?
RF: It’s really a compliment. It’s really cool that someone would take your identity and write you into any kind of a story, and take the time to do that. We appreciate all facets of fan fiction, fan art, all that kind stuff. Like just the other day, I took a picture of something that someone drew of me. And it’s just like, anyone who takes the time to do that, or go vote for you on a contest… it’s an overwhelming feeling.
RN: So you never get the stalker vibe from some fans?
RF: I don’t think so. Our fans are actually really, really cool. It’s not like Bieber fever. I mean, they’re just as supportive, but they’re just cool!
RN: Have you read any of these stories?
RF: I’ve read some of them before, yeah!
RN: Have you had competitions to see who’s got the best story?
RF: We haven’t! But that’s a good idea!
RN: So let me turn the tables on you now. Have you had any celebrity encounters at awards shows, or on the road that has brought out the fanboy in you?
RF: I was freaking out on the inside when I met Beyoncé at the MTV awards. It was pretty weird. It was Lady Gaga talking to Beyoncé, and it was just so crazy. I couldn’t believe it was real. It was amazing.
RN: Your breakout hit “Tonight, Tonight” has taken you to many stages all over North America, you’ve won an AMA, and have been praised for having some of the catchiest anthems around, according to USA Today. Do you ever feel pressured to live up or even play up this upbeat, goofy and fun image?
RF: We just write what we like and do what we do. We have a few ballads coming out this year, so we’re going to be showing people a more serious side of us as time goes on. But we never feel pressure. It’s more of a challenge. It’s really fun. It’s our job and it’s a wonderful thing to be challenged to write something better than the last thing you did. So it’s good!
RN: Well next month, you’ll be touring around Australia with Taylor Swift. That must be exciting on so many levels.
RF: It’s very exciting. It’s our second time going back to Australia and we’re exciting to go back with her. It’s going to be much bigger and fun. And we’re great friends with Taylor; it should be just like the best time. Australian summer is going to be pretty awesome.
RN: No kidding. So she’s a little bit country and you guys are the rock and roll. And you guys mix in a bit of hip hop flavour in your album Whatever as well. Do you think kids today are more open to different genres and styles of music, compared to when you guys were in middle school?
RF: Yeah for sure. I mean when we were growing up, it would be so weird for a rapper to be on a band’s song. But these days – Taylor’s a good example. She’s country here, but she’s pop everywhere else in the world because they don’t really have country in all these places, and she’s massive. She’s helped blur the lines, and I think it’s amazing.
It’s not weird for us to have New Boyz be on a song. Kids don’t know the difference anymore. They think it’s cool, and I think it’s cool that we are able to collaborate with a wide spectrum of artists. I think that change is the format of music.
RN: I have to say that as soon as I heard “Tonight, Tonight”, the chorus was ingrained in my head for days! When you were writing this record, was it a conscious effort to make it really upbeat, catchy and pre-teen friendly?
RF: No, I mean to be honest, if the music appeals to that age group it’s more a coincidence than it is purposefully done. We don’t sit in a room and think, “How do we get 13-year-olds to like us?” We just write pop music that we like. The way that it comes out is the way it comes out.
Video – Hot Chelle Rae, “Tonight Tonight”:
RN: Because you do cater to this younger audience, do you feel like you have to keep the songs pretty clean?
RF: I mean, we make a conscious effort to make it semi-clean but we don’t ever want to sell ourselves short about who we are. So it’s like, I don’t want fans to not know that I drink, or to not know that I go to parties, because you set your fans up for disappointment if they don’t know that stuff about you. So we try to keep it fairly transparent without dropping the F bomb every five seconds like a lot of bands do.
RN: Finally, I’ve never been to Nashville, your hometown, but I’ve always been fascinated with the rich culture down there. When you’re on tour, do you take anything along with you guys to remind you of home?
RF: Um, I don’t know if I take much to remind me of home. I mean, I love Nashville, but you you know, I think having the three knuckleheads [guitarist/backing vocalist Nash Overstreet, bassist Ian Keaggy, drummer Jamie Follesé] in my band with me is enough to remind me of home! And me and my brother are really close to our parents and we talk to them all the time. But for the most part, we’re kind of constantly reminded of home when we’re on the road.
RN: Well have a fantastic time on stage tonight, and good luck with the rest of the tour!
RF: Thank you very much!