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Artist Spotlight: Spencer Ludwig

Spencer Ludwig is the trumpeter of the indie pop band Capital Cities. The band was founded in Los Angeles in 2010, and they have been touring around the world incessantly for the past four years, performing for raucous sold out crowds at many of the biggest international music festivals on at least four different continents.

But this article isn’t about Capital Cities. It’s about a man on a mission. Ludwig has used his extensive experience over the past four years to carve out a unique sound and brand on the trumpet that stands on its own and, as of the time of this writing, has allowed him the chance to start recording his debut solo album.

Ludwig’s journey began with much more humble beginnings, as the son of Philippine parents in a hard working yet lower income household in Los Angeles. He credits his upbringing for his determination and his own crazy work ethic: “I was inspired to not only survive but to really thrive,” he says.

Ludwig then attended the prestigious California Institute of the Arts, studying jazz while supporting himself with teaching gigs and playing with local LA bands at night. “I was the trumpet player friend, so I implemented my horn into a lot of the music that was happening in LA at the time.”

It was at one of those local gigs when Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities saw Ludwig perform and, searching for a horn player, subsequently asked him to jam with them. Although Ludwig is skilled in a variety of instruments, as well as singing and songwriting, it was his prowess on the horn that got him noticed, and thus he ran with the opportunity. “When I decided that trumpet was going to be my main focus I kind of had to put everything else on hold due to the fact that when you’re a musician and you’re not only doing it for the love but also to survive, you really have to kind of go with the flow of work.”

Throughout the course of the interview, I got a sense of how important patience, timing, and “going with the flow” really is to Ludwig. Playing horn for an indie pop band is not the most common thing in the world, but his natural and seamless addition to Capital Cities clearly demonstrates that he knows how to make his dynamic fit in. “I feel like trumpet can find its place in any music,” he says. “I learned in my studies how to play tastefully so that you’re not taking over any part of the music. It’s about adding to it and supporting it.”

However, at only 24 years of age, already with four years of major tour experience under his belt, now is Spencer Ludwig’s time to stand out.

He is currently in the beginning steps of recording his debut solo album, which he’s eyeing for a fall 2015 release. He’s waited patiently for this moment, and he’s already got some tricks up his sleeve since the new year began. His monthly “Spencer Ludwig Trumpet Edits” series finds him adding his signature horn to whatever the number one song of the month was on Hype Machine. He remixed Vallis Alps’ “Young” in January and Coleman Hell’s “2 Heads” in February. It’s just another way for Ludwig to flex his creative muscle and bring awareness to how dope and necessary horns can sound in any style of music.

Still, it’s Ludwig’s vision for his debut record, in which he will be writing and singing for in addition to playing the trumpet, that has this writer the most excited. “I’m going for a sound that is heavily inspired by the Michael Jackson album Thriller but with a modern Mark Ronson type production,” he says.

Well then. I don’t know about you, but that’s really all I need to hear to anticipate the album’s release.

When asked to elaborate on the sound of his debut, Ludwig wasn’t shy to bring up the name of another musical legend. “The production is what’s going to make it relevant, but in the songs there’s a balance of singing and trumpet playing that I can best describe as, the way Stevie Wonder uses a harmonica is the way I am using the trumpet.” Ludwig went on to say, “Stevie did it so well. His harmony and his songwriting is so incredibly digestible and timeless and amazing, yet complex enough where every single musician is impressed. It’s kind of nuts.”

Ludwig’s strong musical background and schooling becomes obvious when he speaks about his own music. He is a music historian, drawing upon styles and influences from generations of artists that could be forty or fifty years apart.

But Ludwig’s wisdom translates far beyond just music. He definitely gives off a “wise beyond his years” vibe, which could be credited in large part to touring with Capital Cities. He admitted to partaking in lots of partying and traditional tour-life shenanigans his first go-around, but he quickly learned the art of “surviving the tour” by doing lots of writing, making traveling videos, and filling his time with other creative endeavors.

More importantly, playing in front of 50,000 screaming fans in sold out venues from Coachella (a “dream come true” moment), to South America (which he says has unequivocally the best music fans in the world), to his family’s homeland in the Philippines (where he met tons of family members for the first time) taught Ludwig the presence and long-term vision that an average 24-year-old musician hasn’t yet acquired. “I realized that this isn’t just a one time thing, it’s going to be a long time thing. You have to figure out how to make this a sustainable, professional job.”

(Sidenote: Ludwig hasn’t publicly announced this yet, but he will be playing Coachella again this year alongside RAC. You heard it here first.)

Ultimately, although Capital Cities has headlined its own shows, and opened for acts like Katy Perry and Phoenix, it’s Ludwig’s urge to stand on his own two feet that keeps him so hungry. “To start off 2015 with the opportunity to do a solo record, I’m just so thankful and I’m going to give it my all because truthfully I want to do everything I did in the last four years all over again… But in the driver’s seat.”

One thing is for certain, Ludwig understands what he brings to the table, and he realizes the steps he needs to take to solidify his position. “Having a really strong brand means that you’re not competing with anybody. I don’t want to compete with anybody as a musician, I just want to be able to be myself, and do that as a job.”

2015 is Spencer Ludwig’s show-and-prove, breakout year. Follow him on JamFeed to stay up-to-date with his moves as the year progresses. You won’t want to miss it.

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