Friday night was a special night for me in Austin. Its been almost 2 years since I first met Spencer Ludwig, and my co-worker Yunus and I picked him up at the Austin airport just before SXSW. Spencer and I spoke on the phone prior to this, and he was always very supportive of JamFeed and our mission to connect artists and fans. We interviewed Spencer in the car on the way to his friends house where he was staying, and to this day, it was one of the most interesting interviews of my career. Spencer has become a good friend, a mentor, as well as one of my favorite artists and entrepreneurs in the music industry.
It’s not just his music…its his personality, his drive, his commitment to his craft, and his willingness to leave a global touring band to try and break into the scene as a solo artist. As an entrepreneur myself, this is what I admire most about Spencer. His willingness to take the risk, and put everything on the line for his own solo record.
I feel very fortunate to have watched Spencer go through this process as JamFeed covered the making of his first solo album through our ‘Taking Life by the Horn‘ series. This weekend I got to watch the live version of these last 2 years in the making, and it couldn’t have been much better.
I have seen Spencer play before with Capital Cities, but this was different. This was everything Spencer had to offer…not just his trumpet. He sings, dances, and has an amazing group of talented back up singers and musicians supporting this new era of funky pop music. To me, he’s my modern day Prince…the dancing, the singing, the swag….and the trumpet.
Spencer is now on his first solo tour, and his first single ‘Diggy‘ already has millions of streams online, but the real beauty of Spencer Ludwig lies in his live show. He’s an entertainer, and a talented musician who is dedicated to perfecting his craft.
We sat down with Spencer after his first solo gig in Austin at Emo’s to discuss his first tour, the transition from big band to solo artist, and how he is trying something new and different with Warner to break into the music scene.
You can check out a live video of Diggy below at his show at Emos in Austin, TX.
I sat down with Spencer after the show at Emo’s in the back of their van. It was only fitting to interview him again in the car considering that is how we met 2 years ago. This time around though, he was on his own tour, and seemed more confident and excited about his music than ever.
It’s been almost 2 years since we first met in person, since Yunus and I picked you up from the airport and interviewed you in the car…You were just about to sign with Warner, and now here you are on your first tour as a solo artist…really awesome to see how far you have come, so first off congratulations!
Thank you, I really appreciate it!
Throughout this process…what has the experience been like of transitioning from big band to solo artist?
The grind is as interesting as it is challenging. It’s a complete mystery and puzzle on how to break an artist, but we are all trying to figure it out, even the industry veterans, because everything is changing so fast. Breaking a new artist is an incredible, incredible challenge, but its also a really fun one. I am really proud to be a part of this challenge. I wanted something new cause I was bored, I was tired of just being a hired gun. I really wanted to be a part of the entire spectrum of being an artist.
You went from being known as a trumpeter but now you sing, dance, and still play trumpet…how long have you been wanting to sing and get your voice out. Was singing something you’ve been doing before going solo or was the trumpet always the focus?
I sang, you know, in my own spaces, but never really in public. There was a couple times in high school that I sang, but professionally, once I got to college, it was all about the trumpet, and after that it was all about making money playing the trumpet or teaching the trumpet. Singing I didn’t even really think about really…but back in high school I did perform a few times , you know like talent shows and played with a small band in high school and sang a little…but that was that. To me, as long as its music, I’m going to be happy you know? And the trumpet was what allowed me to stay in music professionally, so I went with it. But ya, it’s always been a passion of mine to entertain, I love to entertaining. That’s what I love doing…curating a moment.
Well you sure know how to do that well with your combination of singing, dancing, and also busting out trumpet solos…I feel like you really know how to work with and engage a crowd, and that is what entertainment is all about. You didn’t look like an artist on his first solo tour, you looked like an artist who was on his 3rd solo tour. You looked super comfortable up there and just excited to be playing your own music for people. Let’s talk about the last song you played, your newest hit single ‘Diggy’ – 1.5M streams on Spotify alone…congrats! When did Diggy come about in the process of this album? Did you know when it was done that it would be your lead single?
It started off in the very early stages, but with a different chorus. I re-wrote the chorus with a friend and that was towards the middle of the process (pre-production) but we were just continuing to play with the demo. But once we finally had the melody and the lyrics right, we felt like we could build around it however we wanted. That’s when I went in with RedOne, and Red when he heard it, he immediately was like “thats a single!” and I was like “ya? ok…” and then we started working harder on it. It’s still a focus track, and I think it will another take a year or two until Diggy has reached its full potential. You gotta let songs breathe and put a lot of love into them by promoting them, sharing them. The goal is to take it to radio at some point this year.
Well it turned out to be a hit, and I think it is only going to keep growing as more people see you play live. It’s got all the elements of a great single.
I also want to talk to you about another new song you wrote called ‘Good Time People’ – it’s one of my favorite songs you’ve written so far. I could especially see the passion in your voice and your body when you played it live. We all know these type of people that want to be around you when your buzzing, but never seem to be there through the struggle…when we really need people. I’ve seen this happen with me and my life, and my company, so tell me about your experience in the making of this song.
Well it happened right after I got a record deal….certain people starting showing up and making claims to me about what they thought they deserved from me, and people starting to be over-friendly with me, and it didn’t feel real. It was kind of the heat of the moment when I got the record deal, just so many people contacting me. And these are people that I wouldn’t want to work with you know? And it was just funny to me that people would think that I would just let them back in because of my new status or something…and really one day I was just tripping on some texts and emails I got, and that is how most of my songs start off, just conversationally when I am working in a room with someone on a concept. This particular song, I had just gotten this disgusting phone call, and I almost couldn’t believe it, almost to the point where I was just laughing about it….and it was just one of those moments where I just hit record, put on my headphones, and this song just wrote itself super fast.
Sometimes you just have to speak what is truly on your mind, and let it out.
I think that usually makes for the best songs too. They are usually the ones people can connect with most in my opinion. I love the name ‘Good Time People’ too and I could see and feel you letting those emotions when you performed it live.
So, for someone who has never seen or heard of you before, how do you describe the sound of Spencer Ludwig?
Well, I feel like words don’t work very well in describing music in general. But I just kind of say its kind of ‘Funky-Pop Music.’ The goal for me is I want people to feel the funk, feel the musicality, but also feel the pop sensibility and being able to sing along with it. I feel like that might describe a lot of music, and that might not really help separate me, but really you just gotta see it live. Since day one, this album was really meant to just be a calling card to the live show. It’s just flavors you know? Flavors of my live show…That’s why I wanted to go solo, thats why I’m doing this. It’s because I love entertaining and I love going through the process myself of the growth of an artist through live music more than anything. Obviously there was incredible growth in creating the music itself, but performing live is where I feel the most growth because I just love it.
I agree that seeing you live does change everything, especially for a show like yours where your doing so many different things musically, and have a band to support you now.
Are you still living in New York?
Yes, still in New York. Love it…love it, it’s great.
I also heard you announce tonight that the album is coming out this summer?
Yes! THE album. It will have the 6 singles that are out, and we are also doing a remix package for Diggy. We are very excited to put it out to our fans.
How did you decide to release your single / albums this way? Obviously we have all seen the industry change a lot over the last few years, and it continues to change so fast. Was this your idea to release singles, then tour, and then release the album? Or was this something that Warner brought to the table?
It was really the leadership of my project manager, who is brilliant. Her name is Lynn Scott. She said “you know what, your different, so we need to approach this differently.” And she took approach to the label, and the label agreed. And that is what is great about Warner, and working with their staff on how to break an artist. They understand how much everything is changing and they know we have to be adaptable to the changes. We know that we are starting fresh without any familiarity around me. Even with my tours with the Capital Cities, those weren’t necessarily MY fans. I mean, I had some fans of my own, but this was basically like starting over for me, starting from scratch. We needed to create that story, and so we are building that story right now.
Alright Spencer, I’m gonna end on one fun questions for the fans. When did the hat begin? And are we ever going to be able to see these Ludwig hats in the future?
Ooo…that’s an interesting idea. Definitely an interesting idea. One time I put this hat on when I was playing capital cities…I think my mom got it for me or something. I put on the hat, and in the pictures that people were posting, I was like “that looks sick!” There was just something about the silhouette and the trumpet, and it made me look so much more mysterious. I felt like at the time, without the hat, I looked very young, and I wanted to become a character and not just a kid playing trumpet. I wanted to create my own character, something to be remembered by. I also wanted to come into the character and build that character, so when I step into it, I am almost like another person or a different version of myself.
Yes I definitely see that, and you continually took it on and off based around different parts of your show. The hat always seemed to be on during those trumpet solos though…
Ya, you know, I want people to know the person under the hat as much as the person wearing it. I want them to know both. The hat to me kind of gets me into character and amplifies the character a little bit, but I want them to know Spencer too.
I feel lucky to know both sides of Spencer Ludwig, and both of them are genuine, driven, and very passionate about music.
Make sure to follow Spencer on JamFeed to be the first to know about his upcoming shows and his new album release this summer!