Exclusive: Interview with Rising Artist Teo

Almost a year ago, I did a post on my good friend Teo and his awesome music website.  Now I’ve convinced him into letting me interview him!  I even tried to be a photographer, and take some photos.  Read all about Teo, and his music endeavors below:

Teo - Blog 2

JC: What got you into music at first?

T: As a kid, we had piano and guitar classes that we took, but it wasn’t something that we took very seriously. It was just something that my mom was exposing us to. We studied classical guitar and classical piano, although my technique wasn’t very good. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time on my technique as a pianist and as a guitarist, but I was very lucky that my teachers made music fun. I hated guitar at the time, I still kinda hate guitar.

JC: But you’re so good at it!

T: I don’t know if I’m that great at it, but it’s definitely a very useful instrument and can get a lot done. So that was definitely the first time I experienced playing music. And then I think the first time I had written anything was on the piano to impress my piano teacher. You’d finish the song, I forget the exact system, but you’d get a certain amount of stars or whatever if you completed a song and you’d put in on your book. If you collected a certain amount of stars you could trade in for like a toy or something.

JC: That’s so cute!

T: The big thing was pog slammers.

JC: Pog slammers?

T: They were like these little cardboard circles that you’d put and then you’d slam them…

JC: OH! You Snapchatted one!

T: Yeah! I Snapchatted the slammer which Grey, who runs Press Cat Records, gave to me cause he was so excited about our session last night. And that was a big deal to get a pog slammer! That was a lot of songs. I can’t remember how many songs, but it was a lot of songs. So that was kinda the thing, like “oh, maybe if I write a song..”

Teo - Blog 4

JC: You’ll get a pog slammer! Okay, so that’s what got you into it. What inspired you to start writing as a professional artist?

T: In middle school I wrote songs to pick up girls, for sure that’s why I was doing it. And I had stopped playing music entirely for a long time up until that point. And then it was something that I just kind of continued to get interested in. You know, becoming a bedroom producer and realizing that I had the capability of doing it at home. I would put songs up on my Myspace just for street cred, just wanted people to think I was cool. At some point, some friend of a friend had a friend who was a promoter at a venue here in LA. They asked me if I wanted to play, and I had no idea how that game went. So I was like “Yeah, okay, I’ll just do it for fun!”

JC: That was at Keyclub, right?

T: This was before that, this was Room 5. I had to guarantee 50 people. Now, my extended family lives in LA, and I’m Mexican. So guaranteeing 50 people was an easy thing for me to do. So, I did that. I didn’t know music theory or production at all. I was just dickin around and the promoter thought that I had a following. So then they continued to try to book me for bigger venues which is why I did Keyclub and I had to meet the guarantee of way more people. All that was really exciting. Keyclub was cool…somehow the promoter knew Keunu Reeves. So Keanu Reeves was there…

JC: Keanu Reeves was there and I didn’t know it?

T: You totally missed it. I actually went up to him afterwards. His girlfriend or wife or whoever was with him at the time was very nice about it, she said a lot of nice things about what I had done. And Jason Reitman [director] did a DJ set before me and he was also really nice. The reason I’m saying these names is: A) because I like to name drop, B) I got freaked out! Cause then I would start playing these gigs, like I played on Herbie Hancock’s piano at this charity thing and in Malibu we did a show and Sting was in there the week before recording. And I thought, “Hey, at some point they’re gonna realize that I don’t know what I’m doing. That I don’t know my music theory and production.” Which is like, the most ridiculous thing ever.

JC: Yeah, nobody’s gonna say that to you!

T: Yeah, nobody cares about that. But I thought it was an important thing, so I just stopped. I pulled out, like “I’m not gonna do anymore shows, I’m gonna learn music theory.”

JC: I remember that. You kind of went dark there for a few years.

T: Yeah, so that’s what happened. Then I taught myself. I studied mostly jazz theory. I’m not a monster player but enough to get what’s in my head out. Then I was lucky to hang out with some really talented music producers and studio rats that taught me how to do that. There’s one guy in particular, that’s a very talented drummer and he was a studio rat and he taught me a lot of cool shit about my placement, choosing mics, my tone, and all that boring stuff.

Teo - Blog 5

JC: Fast forward then to present day. You have your website, teo.fm, and that has a few of your songs. What’s your plan for releasing more songs and the future?

T: I don’t really make music for other people, now. Back then I did. And now I just kinda do it because I want to hear something. There’s a loose schedule of releasing a song a month, but I’m not really too stressed out about doing that. There was a time when we first launched teo.fm where I was doing a studio recording and then I would do an alternate “live” version of that [the song] that I would film, where I would play all the instruments and there would be a re-arrangement. I think I got through 3 or 4 of them and I burned out. And this was before iPhone had manual exposure, so filming with it was very tricky. I had to do some stuff to trick the internal light meter to be the right exposure that I wanted it to be. I had like styrofoam, and a flashlight, and a light meter on a stick with tape…

JC: So when people say indie, you are the definition of it.

T: It was definitely independent. Very independent right now. And that was just out of necessity, not out of…well, I guess part of it’s part of my God complex.

JC: Your God complex?

T: Yeah, you know, like “Ahh, I wanna try to control everything, and I’m so brilliant and great!” So that’s kind of the plan now. Just to release as much cool music as I can, when I can. I think we’re gonna try to start focusing on doing music videos again. Eventually do some live shows. I might want to try to do some live stuff here [Press Cat Records], Periscope it.

JC: Live shows at Press Cat Records?

T: Yeah, hopefully we can swing it. Or some sort of venue and stream it. I guess the big goal for me is to make as big of a catalogue as I can. And kill it. Killin it on Snapchat.

JC: That’s something else I wanted to ask you. You are obsessed with Snapchat! And your stories are hysterical! Sometimes it seems like your Vlogging via Snapchat.

T: Yeah! I wanted to do a Vlog, like on YouTube. But I’m too much of a perfectionist that I know I would waste all of my time editing. So if I do it on Snapchat, it kinda edits itself. You know what I mean? And I’ve even thought of just downloading my entire story on Snapchat and then putting it up. But then, this is ridiculous, but then I’d have vertical videos, and that’s awful.

Teo - Blog 3

JC: There’s a couple different Snapchatters, yourself included, who do these continual storylines. Dillon Francis is really good at doing it too. It’s interesting because I’ve always thought that some people should take them off of Snapchat and literally edit them together and put it up on YouTube.

T: Snapchats blowing up right now, so that’s the thing that’s exciting about it. A lot of people are paying attention. The people that follow me on Snapchat and that I get to talk to everyday are from across the world. There’s somebody from Spain that I’m talking to, which is awesome, all part of the United States, and I’m pretty sure one person is in Italy. We can’t really understand each other too well. I think she’s in Italy, or maybe visiting, but she’s definitely in Italy. And that’s also really exciting about it because being on Ned’s [Declassified, Nickelodeon show], I didn’t really realize how much of a reach it had. I just kinda punted it, I didn’t really know what was happening and din’t realize how many people were watching or were affected. Some really nice people on Instagram have said that they’re fans of it from Brazil, and Mexico.

JC: Speaking of Ned’s [Declassified], going into acting. You do both, act and sing/produce music. What would be you dream as an artist? What are you most passionate about?

T: I think I gravitated towards music more than acting, in terms of passion, because I have more control over what I’m doing. As an actor, I’m reading somebody else’s lines, in somebody else’s story, for somebody else’s movie, and being directed by somebody else. Which is great, and that’s fun, and there’s a lot of talented people out there. But I can’t wake up in the morning and make a feature film. Or a television show. Right? I can Vlog, which I guess is kinda close. But I can wake up in the morning and write a song, record it in the afternoon, and release it at night if I really drank a lot of coffee. And that’s more exciting to me. But I don’t think of people that have creative skills, or creative talents, or any sort of passion to do “creative stuff”, I don’t think of it as them being forced or married into one art form. I feel like if they had to, they could do any art form. So it’s like, if you broke my fingers, and my legs, and cut out my voice box and I couldn’t make music anymore…I guess you’d have to take out my eardrums too, cause then I could just compose….I could be a photographer. Or if I had to do architecture, I’m sure I could find a way to become interested and excited about that the same way I love this [music]. I think that goes back to the whole God complex thing. I just wanna create things and feel like I have some sort of control, cause obviously I don’t.

JC: The sign of a true artist.

T: Right. And I don’t and that’s how I deal with the existential crisis of being a lonely human being. [As he laughs….]

Check out Teo’s website and follow him on Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter: @mesayteo