Interview: Ted Bruner, Ex-Colony, Now Pop Songwriter, Part 2
In my Jason McEntire/Sawhorse Studios profile, the studio engineer mentioned he was in an high school incarnation of the St. Louis band Colony, which recorded for a major label in the '90s. McEntire has kept in touch with the band in the ensuing years -- and in fact recently collaborated with Colony's Ted Bruner via video for the Building Rome album.
Bruner, however, has found life after the music-industry wringer, though: He's now a well-respected pop songwriter in Los Angeles who's collaborated with Katy Perry and co-written songs for Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and other popstars Here's part two of an email interview I conducted with him last week; part one can be found here. Come back tomorrow for an interview with Building Rome's Jon Heisserer, for his take on the writing process.
You and Jason McEntire did some long-distance video collaborating. Describe your role in this, and what exactly transpired.
Jason told me about how easy video conferencing is on the Mac, so we decided to try using it to track drums on a song I'd written here in LA. I emailed the song to him and Matt Hickenbotham (the drummer from my old band), and then we tracked it in Jason's studio in St. Louis while I ate lunch in my kitchen in LA. It was actually a song I wrote with the old singer of Click Five, Eric Dill. The process was hysterically easy, much to the abilities of Matt on drums and Jason's production skills, and the fact that we've worked together so much that we kind of read each other's minds. It was particularly fun once we began drinking and discovered the "warp your face" settings on the Mac. It's not as much fun as actually hanging out AT Sawhorse Studio, but the technology works in a pinch, and the drum sounds Jason gets make it all worth it.
You also did some writing with Building Rome. What do you like about Jon's music, what stands out to you about it?
Jason keeps me in the loop on the artists he's working with, and he sent me some of Building Rome's music to check out and I agreed with him that it had a lot of potential. So I flew out to St. Louis to co-write with Jon. I feel like the best songs start out with a kind of therapy session with the artist, finding out what inspires them, digging into the skeletons and getting very personal about why they've chosen to get up on a stage and sing, you know? It's nuts, so if you dig a little, you'll find the good stuff.
Jon was very upfront about his abuse of the drug Ambien (a legal sleep aid that was prescribed to him). He told me about taking double the dose, and instead of sleeping, he'd stay up, which led to falling down stairs, talking to ghosts, etc. He told me that he did it because he wanted to be in a good mood, to be a good boyfriend, so he wasn't so depressed around his girlfriend. He was doing his best to become a professional musician, but it was taking a toll on him and his relationship, and Ambien became his way to escape that pressure.
The drug ended up only making things harder, but I just thought that it was such an intense situation to him, that if we wrote about that, it was sure to be important to him and emotionally charged, just picking through that nightmare, and I just thought that everyone would relate to his story, because we're all trying to make sense of this life, and we're all trying to find happiness, and sometimes it's very hard to. The song we ended up with is called "The Last Time Again." It starts with a pulsing keyboard that represents the warped feeling of being on a double-dose of Ambien. The opening lyrics are "Let's take a trip -- I've got the ticket to get out of here..." It's an amazing song.
Anything else you're up to St. Louis should know about?
Well, a song that I co-wrote with Katy Perry, my friend Trey and a girl named Jessie James just became the next radio single for James. It's called "Bullet," and the main components are a banjo and a thick club beat. It's got an R&B feel mixed with country -- pretty insane. We had a ball making it, and I think you can tell when you hear it.