An Interview With SPENCER LUDWIG About His Experiences with Capital Cities, His New Solo Career, His Current Tour with Bebe Rexha and More!
Posted On 31 Mar 2017
Show-stopping and stylish singer, songwriter, and trumpeter Spencer Ludwig will support Warner Bros. Records label-mate and pop disruptor Bebe Rexha on tour this Spring. The month-long North American run begins March 1 at Trees in Dallas, TX, rolls through major markets across the country, and finishes up at Warsaw in Brooklyn, NY on March 31.
Spencer has been popping up just about everywhere recently. He performed on Fox TV’s NFL Honors special during Super Bowl weekend in Houston, TX, while Delta Airlines touted him in its latest “Artist Spotlight” as February’s Artist of The Month. The song “Legend” is featured in the recent promos for NBC’s The Voice. His breakout “Diggy” rocked a high-profile Target fall style spot as it cumulatively racked up over 2.1 million Spotify streams and counting between the original and the version featuring Latin songstress Sofía Reyes. He’s also performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers and at the NHL Winter Classic in addition to landing props from Billboard, OK! Magazine, OnesToWatch, and more.
A trumpeter, singer, producer, and dancer who rocks alligator shoes with smoking style and panache, Spencer Ludwig brings any party to life. Chances are, you’ve heard his lyrical lead trumpet soaring through the music of multiplatinum-selling indie pop act Capital Cities. Not only did the Los Angeles-born, half-Filipino vocalist-instrumentalist perform on their full-length debut In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, but he also crisscrossed the globe with the band, opening Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour and tearing up the stage at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and more. Following a whirlwind two years in the group, he returned to Los Angeles in December 2014 and commenced writing solo material that showcased both his trumpet talents and dynamic, diverse vocals. On his 2017 solo debut for Warner Bros. Records, he merges jazz virtuosity and pop palatability for a style that simmers and swaggers with soul.
Check out the video for “Diggy” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1Du2te2TBs
Learn more about Spencer Ludwig in the following All Access interview:
So how has 2017 been treating you and how does it so far compare to 2016?
Spencer: It’s moving very fast, and I love that. You know, I really believe in momentum and being able to control that momentum in your life. 2015, 2016 were heavy grinds. Those years where I was kind of building towards heating up that momentum and now I’m literally on the road with the music that I was creating up until this moment, and you kind of get to ride and enjoy the momentum that you created. So that’s what’s exciting about this year.
Now I’m enjoying the product of my hard work and not just do hard work and not get anything, but just performing the music and traveling and sharing it with people.
Growing up did you think that this would be something that you would do? Did you always aspire to be a musician?
Spencer: I always wanted to be an entertainer. Music really started to become a professional thing for me towards the end of high school when I was studying what I wanted to study in college. When I started thinking about what I wanted to major in, that connection of what I wanted to major equaling what I would do post-college was when I started to get really serious about it. It was more of a hobby thing for me. I was very involved in a lot of different extra-curricular things after school that I would do. But towards the end of high school I started to take it more seriously and then I ended up going to the conservatory for music which seals the deal with what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
I didn’t know that I would end up pursuing the pop star career, but that became more apparent to me and more attractive to me as I went through the motions of life being a professional musician and seeing the potential of each opportunity. It felt like everything except for being a front man had a feeling to it, and I just felt like what was so often about pursuing a career in music was trying the limit of the amount of people that you can reach as specifically a solo artist is infinite. You can actually never reach everyone. You can try, and I think there might be somebody in the hole in the wall who doesn’t know Michael Jackson or whatever.
Even Michael Jackson could have still continued touring. You can still keep going forever and ever. That’s what I love about it. The pursuit to inspire the world.
I’m curious to know how you think your time with Capital Cities has prepared you for this new solo career. Do you look back on that experience as completely important to your life now?
Spencer: Totally. That experience is what gave me the hunger for what I’m doing now and the curiosity for what was next. Had I not experienced that I don’t think I would have desired to go for the bigger and better version of what I was doing. So it gave me a taste of what was possible and it allowed me to [inaudible 00:04:58] really the potential of the trumpet, it taught me the potential of myself and the music world and what I could really contribute.
It really helped me with gaining my confidence as a performer onstage and I got to have a really great taste of what it’s like to tour the world and play music which … That experience gave me the bug. I’m totally, fully addicted to traveling and playing music and living that sort of lifestyle. All of that whole experience was the best post-college experience I could have asked for. I literally when right from school to touring and it was almost like a master’s degree in being a pop star or something.
Do you think that your music, the sound on your debut record compares to Capital Cities music at all. Or is it completely different?
Spencer: I think it’s completely different, but I will say the similarity is also there in the trumpet because that was what my contribution to the band was. So to embrace the trumpet in my own music and I do try to incorporate it sometimes in what I bring to Capital Cities because the only person who is controlling how much trumpet is in music now is me, and I prefer there to be as much as possible. So there’s a lot of trumpet in music than typically would be in Capital Cities because I allow myself to be really free with how much I put into the song. So there’s a lot of trumpet throughout. So there’s a trumpet solo in every song. Yeah I’d say my music is more specifically inspired by the influences that I grew up loving and admiring, like classic pop soul and R&B, like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder. Earth, Wind, and Fire [inaudible 00:07:36].
And then infusing that with what’s in the air now, which is higher level electronic production and higher level pop production and going to the studio with all of that in mind and coming out with something new.
What was the inspiration for your single “Diggy”?
Spencer: I wanted to write a really confident song that sang about the character that I am on stage. I like to have very confident, flamboyant energy about myself when I’m performing and this song was the song to bring that out and describe that character. It’s a descriptive piece that is basically saying, “I’m here to get you dancing to the sound of my trumpet,” and it’s just one of those pieces that’s like “shut up and dance.”
When I write music I almost always start with melody and I lay down the melody of a song using gibberish. Cause I don’t really know what the words are gonna be, but I know what the melody’s gonna be. Coming from an instrumental perspective I have four minutes of the chorus and the melody and the rhythm where it’s the words right off the end. I usually write the words after the fact. A lot of the time I’m able to take … I believe in first instinct would be my strongest instinct and I’m not afraid to pull words from my gibberish and use words that I’ve pulled to inspire the actual lyric. In this case the gibberish, I would say “diggy, diggy, diggy” in the chorus.
To me, I realize that there was something about it that I felt was cool. The alliteration of it and the onomatopoeia, is that what it is? The sound effect of it was cool. It could just be that that really was the thing, that was going to be the trumpet line that would follow. So the trumpet would perform that rhythm after the chorus. It would go “diggy diggy dig. Diggy diggy da dum.” And then the trumpet comes in after the chorus and would go “diggy diggy da dum.”
Interviewer: It’s very catchy, and I love … I listen to the song, and then I watch the video afterwards. The video is exactly what I thought the song would be like if it was a video. Does that make sense?
What was it like filming the video for the song? I’m sure you’ve been a part of videos before. But what was it like making your first solo one?
Spencer: Yeah, totally I’ve been a part of videos before but being involved start to finish creatively was an experience like new. The day of shooting was pretty surreal. You have story boards, you work on shots, and you talk about things that you that want to see in the video. But when you’re actually there and doing it. Just living out your imagination, putting through your imagination. And it’s also interesting to see what fun things happen and how you you work around those things and with those things.
For instance, I think it was below 40 degrees when we were shooting in Los Angeles, which is very rare at Los Angeles. It was just a cold, cold night and we had a water truck there keeping the asphalt wet so that there was a reflection on the ground. But unfortunately that water causing [inaudible 00:12:40] on the platform that you could even float on. And so while I was dancing there was ice forming on the platform, which was literally lifted into the air by a crane, which was painted out in post-production. So I was in … that’s not special tech, I was actually flying. And I’m dancing on top of ice, which was totally sketchy.
So how how as the tour been going with Bebe Rexha?
Spencer: The tour’s been amazing. I keep being like, you can’t really ask for a better first tour experience. Because these fans are so passionate about not only her but music in general. They show up right when doors open, so as the first act, I’m still able to play in front of a sold-out crowd. Bebe’s also been doing a really good job of selling out each group. The crowd is super receptive and ready to have a good time.
When you were given the opportunity to open for her, did you immediately say “oh my gosh yes, this is a great audience for me. This is perfect.” Or were you a little hesitant? Or what were your feelings?
Spencer: I said “absolutely.” I’m a fan of Bebe as a person. I know her outside of [inaudible 00:14:40] because we’ve been meeting each other at events. We’ve been able to share chat and get to know each other, but I also said yes because I was dying to get on the road and put out music so this was the first tour that was realistic and I was just like “let’s do it. Let’s just get out there.” Because touring to me is why I’m doing this. I don’t feel like touring is a step towards the next thing. I feel like touring is where I’ve been working towards. The place where I want to be.
My last question, and I’ve been asking a lot of artists this lately is, with the current political climate and the culture right now, where do you think you fit in with the future of music and how it’s going to be affected by all of this that’s going on right now?
Spencer: I’m trying to write, I am writing positive, feel-good music. It’s not supposed to have any other purpose other than to make you feel good and make you have a good time. I feel like with the current political climate, I think it could serve a pretty important purpose of allowing people to just have a good time and forget about what’s going on right now in the news and have a good time. I feel like the artist’s in Dylan’s day, 17. They were doing that. They were turning their feeling of being repressed or political angst into feel-good opportunity. Sometimes the lyrics were literal and sometimes they weren’t, but it was trying to do a music that allowed the musician to emote in a way that transcended into the listener and it was an energy that was exchanged. What’s happening in the world is turning into a really powerful balance that everybody could feed off of and groove to and forget a little bit about what specifically is happening that’s causing so much stress.
You can also listen to the full interview on Soundcloud here: