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January 2020

Sit and Spin

Bonny Light Horseman’s Self-Titled Debut

BonnyLightHorsemanReview

Artist: Bonny Light Horseman

Album: Self-Titled

Reason We’re Cranking It: Hooks abound, it is Anaïs Mitchell’s mesmerizing vocals that grab hold of you, luring you into the music as a third party contributor, somehow making you feel as if you’re a part of the experience and not just a distant set of ears wrapped in headphones.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Although we weren’t around at the time to be early listeners on Pet Sounds from the Beach Boys or Abbey Road from the Beatles, we imagine it was a lot like giving this self-titled debut its first spin. Sure, it may end up being one of of the best albums of the year when all is said and done, but if Bonny Light Horseman stays the course, they could easily create one of the “Best Of” albums of all time.

Track Stuck On Repeat: We’ve gone through the entire album so many times at this point that we’ve found new things to love in each track, but currently it’s the vocal back and forth between Mitchell and Eric D. Johnson on “Blackwaterside” that has us returning for more.

And that means…

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Wingman Wednesday

Jearnest Corchado

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Photo By: MLC PR

For actress Jearnest Corchado, her latest project Little America is more than just a binge-worthy series feeding the hunger of an entertainment-obsessed America. It’s a think piece.

Little America wants us to see what we often are not able to on the news or on TV,” she says in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It hopes to portray the humanity of all of these marginalized people and to show everyone around the world that no matter how different our cultures, races or languages may be, we are all the same.”

Available now on Apple TV+, Little America is an eight episode anthology series inspired by the true stories experienced by immigrants today. In the episode “The Jaguar,” Corchado plays an undocumented teen who becomes a competitive squash player.

We recently sat down with Corchado to discuss the importance of the series in today’s social climate, connecting with her character, and why she would sign up to play a “badass” teen superhero.

TrunkSpace: Art is always at its best when it’s saying something and shining a spotlight on those subjects we need to continue discussing after we leave the theater or shut off the television. Why do you think your latest project Little America is so important given the current political and social climate in the United States?
Corchado: Little America is important now more than ever. The America we are living in now is not the America many of us want to be a part of. It is clouded by hatred and division. Immigrants and people of color are attacked on a daily basis, thousands of people are being put in cages… it is our horrible reality. Little America wants us to see what we often are not able to on the news or on TV. It hopes to portray the humanity of all of these marginalized people and to show everyone around the world that no matter how different our cultures, races or languages may be, we are all the same. We are all dreamers. We are all good people, we all have a good heart – a hopeful heart. We all just want to be happy. To be able to love and be loved. To be able to dream, and to be allowed to do so anywhere we decide to go. Because at the end of the day, no law, no paper, no document can dictate who we are, our values and our worth. Only our hearts can.

TrunkSpace: As an actress, do you feel any pressure when you’re working on a project like Little America because there is a layer to the piece that goes beyond simply entertaining the audience. Does it feel like there are bigger creative stakes involved?
Corchado: Yes, the pressure to be as authentic and as truthful as I can be. When I am lucky enough to be offered a role in a project that goes beyond entertaining, it is always a privilege. As an actress, I always strive to be a part of something bigger than me. Projects that could potentially change lives. I think that’s the beauty of cinema – through our work, we get to influence people and hopefully change their minds for the better. It’s a powerful tool and we must use it with purpose.

TrunkSpace: We live in very politically-divided times. Did you worry how this project and your performance in it would be perceived by the general public on both sides of the aisle and how that could trickle over into your personal life, particularly as it relates to the internet/social media?
Corchado: I didn’t think of it as a political project. I saw it as a beautiful project that followed the lives of beautiful, strong and determined humans. I thought it was brilliant because it finally showed who we are in the most beautiful and authentic light I could ever think possible. There are so many stories out there still to be told… America is the land of immigrants… we were just telling American stories. The ones that we very rarely see on TV.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Little America that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Corchado: The truly wonderful relationships I got to cultivate with the cast and crew on Little America is something I will carry with me always. Every single person I got to work with were incredible human beings, so kind and thoughtful. From PAs to the Make-Up department that basically felt like family, to our wonderful director Aurora Guerrero – who no matter how busy our days were, was always so caring and zen. And of course, the insanely talented and kind cast, who made my job a million times easier. I was very lucky.

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in portraying – and connecting with – your character Marisol?
Corchado: Understanding where she was coming from and trying to figure out the relationship she had with everyone around her. It was a continuous discovery. And learning how to play Squash! (Laughter) I definitely had to focus and give my 100 percent in order to look like I knew what I was doing. It was very tedious and a lot of hard work but it was incredibly satisfying. Addicting too! I really fell in love with the sport.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Corchado: Probably auditions. I love the director-actor relationship, which is often missing during the audition process. I like bringing a character to life and getting feedback and taking it somewhere else. I love that continuous exploration. Sometimes auditions feel like a lot of pressure, it can be nerve-wracking… and let’s not talk about the audition waiting rooms! (Laughter) I think I’m very sensitive to energies, which is probably why I need to be 210 percent more focused once I get in the room. I am extremely critical of my work and often wonder how I did it or what I did wrong in the room or what I could’ve done better… but I learned that you just have to let it go and focus on the next (audition)… I’ve failed a million times, but I’m still here playing the game. It’s all about being persistent and being incredibly prepared. “Just do it… and then keep doing it.”

Photo By: MLC PR

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her journey has taken her thus far?
Corchado: Absolutely. I think of that and it makes me tear up. I was just having a conversation with a family friend who told me that when I was 10 or so, she asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, and I replied, “One day I’m going to be a famous actress.” I would always say “I’m going to be,” not I want, or I wish… I’d say it like it was going to happen. Like it was a done deal. I declared it without knowing or understanding the power of manifestation, which now I absolutely believe in. My journey is barely starting, but I am extremely content with where I am today. I still can’t believe it! I feel very blessed.

TrunkSpace: Blank check question! If someone came to you tomorrow and offered you an unlimited amount of money to go out and develop any kind of project you wanted for yourself, what would you greenlight and why?
Corchado: A badass teenager superhero. I think it would be awesome if younger brown girls saw themselves as superheroes on the big screen. I want younger girls to dream BIG! To see themselves as strong, self-sufficient and triumphant young women. I want them to know that they can be their own hero. That anything is possible!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Corchado: I consider Little America and Cucuy The Boogeyman as my biggest accomplishments thus far. So many people have messaged me about Cucuy The Boogeyman and how cool it is to see a Latina girl as the heroine in a thriller like that. Little America is probably as, or even more, important for young girls because it’s very real, very authentic and it is based on a real-life superhero – Reyna Pacheco. It was also a big highlight because it felt like I was having my Rocky moment. (Laughter) I love doing athletic things on the job, and learning new skills… Little America was definitely a big one!

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Corchado: Yes. I believe that you create the life you want to live, and I hope to make the right decisions to take me where I want to go. The possibilities are endless… but I hope to work as an actress for the rest of my life. I hope I get to use my voice to change people’s lives for the better and I hope to make a difference in this world. I want to live a life with purpose… don’t we all?

Little America is available now on Apple TV+.

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Musical Mondaze

Taylor Ashton

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Photo By: Jonno Rattman

Yes, THE Vanilla Ice sang, “All right stop, collaborate and listen,” but it’s singer-songwriter Taylor Ashton who is doing all of the real-life collaborating and we’re the ones doing the listening, especially as it relates to his upcoming debut solo album, The Romantic, due to drop February 28 from Signature Sounds.

I call The Romantic a solo album but in a big way it’s actually the most collaborative thing I’ve ever made,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It has 17 other musicians on it and they all bring something of themselves to it.”

We recently sat down with Ashton to discuss going solo(ish), tunnel reverb, and practicing the art of being non self-judgmental – or, at least, finding art in it.

TrunkSpace: What is your main objective as a songwriter? Is your creative output for you? Is it for us, the listener? Is it for a combination of the two?
Ashton: It’s a combination! My favorite feeling in the world is listening to a song that speaks to me, and that’s the feeling I hope people will have when they listen to the songs I write. So it’s for you, the listener, but it’s also for me, imagining myself in your shoes.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day where music is not a part of your life? If you weren’t writing, would you need another outlet to find an internal balance within yourself?
Ashton: I don’t think music will ever not be a part of my life. That said, I’m a visual artist as well, and I’ve always had to juggle that with music – so I guess I need both those outlets to balance myself anyway.

TrunkSpace: Your debut solo album, The Romantic, is set to be released on February 28th. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world?
Ashton: This will be the 7th album I’ve sung my songs on, after four albums with Fish & Bird and two duo records with other songwriters, but it’s my first “solo” album so to speak. For a long time I didn’t like the idea of putting out a solo album, because it felt egotistical. I’m glad it’s taken me this long to get comfortable with it, because I’ve learned a lot from collaborating in different ways with different musicians over the years. It feels vulnerable! But good!

TrunkSpace: How much of your personal timeline is present on The Romantic? How far back do these songs go, and is it odd to revisit the emotions that spark particular tracks days, months or even years later?
Ashton: The initial sessions for the album took place in 2015, which was shortly after I moved to New York, and around that time, things were slowing down with my old band and I was processing the end of a relationship too. So listening to it now I see that it’s sort of the chronicle of leaving behind old support systems and discovering myself in a different context. When I first moved here, I didn’t have many friends and had no job. I survived for the first couple months off a check from a medical study I participated in just before moving, and when that ran out I made my living as a subway busker for a year or so. That was a really new way of making music and relating to an audience. It was really lonely and bleak sometimes, but on a good day it was pretty spiritual – the reverb in those tunnels is gorgeous and it can be amazing to connect with people in that direct way.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to The Romantic front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Ashton: I hope they learn more about themselves!

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Ashton: I’m really happy that it sounds cohesive, even though there were some pretty big gaps in the recording of the album. Other projects and life things took my energy for certain periods of time – I made a duo record with my pal Courtney Hartman, for example – so when I put my attention back to the solo album, I had a half-finished bunch of sessions and thought I would have to scrap everything and start over. Alec Spiegelman rescued me from that place last year – we took the 2015 sessions and recorded new songs and did overdubs on the new and old sessions to the point where I started to forget what was old and what was new. Jacob Blumberg recorded the first sessions, and then he came back to mix the whole album, so that helped too.

Short answer is that I am proud to know Alec Spiegelman and Jacob Blumberg (who share co-production credit on the album), and the rest of the musicians on the album who let me borrow their talents to make my songs sound great.

TrunkSpace: We love music here, but even more than that, we love really great lyrics – the kind that make you delve deeper as a listener. We think there is a wonderful smorgasbord of words and emotions on this album, but for you, what is a particular line that stands out that you’re happy with and why?
Ashton: I came up with the chorus to “If You Can Hear Me” one time when I was really lonely and really sleep-deprived, and I love singing it because it’s got a healing message and it’s also abstract. Sometimes I don’t know right away if I like something I’ve written, but this chorus struck me as finished the second it plopped out of my brain:

If you can hear me, give me a sign
there’s a receiver in your heart of mine
If you’ve got a problem, that’s what I’m here for,
Wrap yourself up in my arms of yours”

Photo By: Jonno Rattman

 

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Ashton: I have a Mount Rushmore of songwriters in my brain: Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Elliott Smith, Bjork, Randy Newman, Bill Withers, Thom Yorke etc, etc, etc… and I have had a bad habit sometimes of judging every melody and every lyric as it comes out of my brain, imagining if one of these idols of mine would have written it or liked it. I’m still learning and re-learning that it’s mostly debilitating to be that judgmental in the creative process. So I do an exercise where I try to write something with the explicit intent of never playing it for anybody, so I can practice being non-judgmental. Every so often in that exercise I trick myself into writing something I like, and that’s honestly where most of my finished songs come from.

TrunkSpace: We were first introduced to your music after hearing you mentioned during a performance by The Brother Brothers. Creatively, how important are collaborations to you? Does the creativity of others spark your own creativity?
Ashton: Oh that is sweet! I love those guys. David and I actually just finished a co-write that I think is going to be on their next album.

Yeah, collaboration is everything! I call The Romantic a solo album but in a big way it’s actually the most collaborative thing I’ve ever made. It has 17 other musicians on it and they all bring something of themselves to it – almost all of the musicians on the record are songwriters themselves and they’re all people whose writing I’ve been really inspired by. I do really feed off of that.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave him a glimpse of his future, would he be surprised by where his musical journey has taken him thus far?
Ashton: My 10-year-old self would be surprised that I’m playing music at all! As a kid I always thought I would just be drawing and never doing anything else.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Ashton: Oooh, that’s so tempting but it also sounds like it would end in some Time Traveler’s Wife style tragedy. Maybe if my future self could send me a single Morse code message from the 5th dimension, like at the end of Interstellar, that would be cool. Maybe my future self could give me the hook to the song that’s going to get into an apple ad and put my future children through college, something like that. I’d take that.

The Romantic will be available February 28 via Signature Sounds. His latest single, “Nicole, is available now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Bree Condon

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Photo credits: Randy Tran/Hair: Mika Fowler/Makeup: Merav Adler/Styling: Elliot Soriano

Portraying Kimberly Guilfoyle in the recently-released film Bombshell came with its share of professional pressures, but for actress Bree Condon, taking on such a controversial public persona in these politically divided times was not one of them.

It’s true, Kimberly and I have very different political and personal views, but that’s the challenge of playing any character,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s almost like you’re that person’s lawyer and you have to defend them – you have to justify their actions and way of thinking for yourself.”

We recently sat down with Condon to discuss stepping into Kimberly’s spotlight, accepting the complexities of the human condition, and why she still follows the advice of an old classroom poster.

TrunkSpace: Bombshell is such a big project and is stacked with talent both in front of the camera and behind it. When a project like this comes along, does it have the feeling of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and how do you personally manage expectations going into a project of this magnitude?
Condon: It definitely has that ‘pinch me’ feeling all the way through! I always try with every project to really enjoy every step along the way and to be in that moment as much as possible. Especially with this project, I loved each stage in the process of building this character – the research, costume fittings, the hair and makeup tests, and then of course getting to collaborate with so many greats in front and behind the camera!

TrunkSpace: In the film you’re playing someone who is not only a real person, but someone who is still very much in the public spotlight today. Does that come with an entirely different set of pressures, both external and those that you place on yourself?
Condon: Yes, it does add pressure, especially because this was a first for me playing a real person. I approached it like I do any other character, and dove into the research. The benefit of playing a real person who is so heavily in the spotlight is that there was a lot of information to dive into. Kimberly has also written a book, which I read multiple times and held as my ‘bible’. It was extremely helpful to have that, which is so rare!

TrunkSpace: We live in very politically-divided times. Did you worry how this project and your performance in it would be perceived by the general public on both sides of the aisle and how that could trickle over into your personal life, particularly as it relates to the internet/social media?
Condon: It’s true, Kimberly and I have very different political and personal views, but that’s the challenge of playing any character. It’s almost like you’re that person’s lawyer and you have to defend them – you have to justify their actions and way of thinking for yourself. When I decided to be an actor, it wasn’t to play characters like myself. I would actually prefer roles as far from myself as possible! I take it as a welcomed opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes.

TrunkSpace: As we discussed, you’re working with amazing talent on screen and behind the camera. What do you try to absorb from those around you on a job like this and then apply it to your career moving forward?
Condon: There was so much talent to absorb and to learn from! One overall quality that I took away from the project was specificity. The attention to detail that every single person, in front the camera and behind, had on this film was amazing to see and learn from.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Bombshell that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Condon: Working with Charlize Theron on this project was the highlight and something that I will always carry with me. The first day I was on set I saw her acting all day and the moment she was done, she went back to the trailer, took off all her incredible hair and makeup, and came right back to set and stepped into her role as producer. It was incredible to see that firsthand – she wore so many shoes and did it all so gracefully.

TrunkSpace: You’re portraying Kimberly Guilfoyle in Bombshell. If in the future someone was playing you on film, what would you hope they would take into account as they gave their perspective on your journey?
Condon: I would hope they would realize that nothing is ever as it seems. In our current society, we are inundated with so many visuals that rarely show the truth. As humans, we are extremely complex and I hope they would try to lift up the hood and see what’s really in there.

Photo credits: Randy Tran/Hair: Mika Fowler/Makeup: Merav Adler/Styling: Elliot Soriano

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Condon: I’d say self-doubt and not trusting my instincts enough. In a lot of areas in my life, not just acting… but maybe that’s because I’m a typical Pisces!

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her journey has taken her thus far?
Condon: I’m sure she would be surprised! It’s crazy the different paths we take in life and how everything can fall into place. But in some ways my life is still very similar to that little girl – I’m very close to my family and I still have the same friends I grew up with since grade school, which I count myself very lucky and fortunate to have that stability and love throughout the years.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Condon: Bombshell has been a huge highlight for me. Getting to be part of telling a story that is so timely and that will really make a difference moving forward in regard to sexual harassment is so rewarding. It’s why I wanted to become an actor – to tell stories that make a difference.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Condon: As tempting as it sounds… I really wouldn’t! As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a journey not a race… I think that was a poster hanging in my 6th grade classroom! But it has stuck with me. It all makes you stronger and you just have to ride the wave, and that’s what I intend to do!

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Between The Sheets

Max Brallier

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In our ongoing feature Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with author and newly-minted executive producer Max Brallier about his series The Last Kids On Earth, helping young readers cope with life through his writing, and why he’ll always have a “wicked” Massachusetts connection.

TrunkSpace: How do you think you will look back on 2019 as it relates to your career? Where did this year impact you most as a writer?
Brallier: Oh boy – I mean, it was a nearly unbelievable year for so many reasons. New Last Kids book out, Last Kids Netflix series launches, my longest run on the bestseller lists, my co-scripted non-kids VFW movie releases, and my new kids book series – Mr. Shivers – publishes. All that is big dream-come-true stuff.

But more importantly – for real – I spent a lot of time on the road with kids, teachers and librarians. And my job is really about them. Seeing the quiet kid in the classroom, talking with the shy kid at an event – that was me! And then having teachers and librarians share how they use my books. All of that is sort of the turbo-charged adrenaline shot that will make sense of my writing over the next year, that will allow – I hope! – a continued career.

TrunkSpace: Is it still a bit surreal to think that a universe and characters that you have created are now living on in a capacity that involves so many other people? Do you have to stop and pinch yourself?
Brallier: So much pinching! 2019 left me covered in bruises.

In regard to the Netflix show – taking my creation (with Doug’s art!) and handing it off to others is a weird thing – both exhaustingly frightening and tremendously rewarding. There’s the fear around loss of full control, but also the thrill of what can happen with the skill and energy and passion of others. And yes, still surreal – always will be, I think!

TrunkSpace: You’re serving as Executive Producer on the Netflix series. For those not familiar with the industry terms and what goes into them behind the scenes, what does that mean for you in terms of your day to day. What are your duties as far as the television series is concerned?
Brallier: A whole range of fun stuff! I’m involved in all aspects of the story and the scripts – and I review art, animations, character designs, storyboards – and, when lucky, get to work with our wonderful cast of voice actors. Basically – our showrunner, Scott D. Peterson, steers the ship and I chime in now and then.

TrunkSpace: Why an animated series? What was it about that medium that made more sense for you as a creator than a live action series or as a theatrical release?
Brallier: I had thought about expressing Last Kids in many ways – live action, feature film, video game, animation, all that. But animation became obvious when Atomic Cartoons – the development and animation studio – approached me about adapting the book series. With Atomic’s incredible team of artists and animators, it was just so clear.

The best thing with animation is that it’s so flexible and non-confining. Monsters? Sure, no problem. The best voices in the industry? Let’s do it! 3D or 2D? Let’s mix it up! An end-of-world apocalypse with bright green grass and vivid blue skies that’s full of fun? We can do that! Animation is such a blast.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest and most unexpected pleasant surprise in your journey of bringing The Last Kids on Earth to television?
Brallier: I had forgotten how much I love working with a large team of people – the Netflix series was a wonderfully-unexpected reminder. Handing off my characters – some of who are very personal – and stories to others was a nerve-wracking leap of faith. But it was immediately clear that working with a team just made it all that much more fun. Writing can be a lonely gig – working with talented and caring writers, artists, animators, producers is never lonely – just fun!

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on the series that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Brallier: When I chose the lonely profession of writing, I so missed the social, creative and collaborative rewards of being part of a team. Then with the Netflix series, all that wonderful team stuff came roaring back. It was like I was coming back to life. It’s clear now that I’ll always be searching for that in my career – and in other aspects my life.

TrunkSpace: Has working on the television series inspired you in ways with your literary writing that you didn’t intend? Has it opened up new ideas or opportunities?
Brallier: I’ve always tried to write books that feel like movies or like television. It’s very visual in my head when typing words. Movies were my first love. So, working on the television series has reaffirmed that love – and given me the confidence to write in that format. Certainly, new ideas – and hopefully new opportunities!

TrunkSpace: You’re a Massachusetts boy! (Bay State representing!) What is something that is undeniably New England about you that you can’t shake no matter how long you’re away from it?
Brallier: (Laughter) Yes, Massachusetts boy for sure – I spent most of my childhood in Reading, Massachusetts. It’s really the setting for Last Kids – but I named the town in Last Kids Wakefield, a town next door to Reading. And the school in my Eerie Elementary series is very much inspired by my own elementary school, Joshua Eaton – right down to the names of the characters.

Things I can’t shake…

  • A craving for a real Roast Beef sandwich – I like Harrison’s in North Andover and Jimbo’s in Reading
  • “Wicked.” I still say it now and then.
  • A habit of running errands in shorts, no matter the temperature
  • An undying loyalty to the Celtics (though, for baseball and football, I stick with the Pirates and Steelers).

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Brallier: Not sure if there’s just one. Hitting the New York Times bestseller list will always be up there – that was a concrete goal I had set for myself, and achieving it with Viking Children’s felt so monumental. Meeting Mark Hamill and having him read words that I wrote. Standing in an animation studio and looking out at 100+ people, all animating something that came from my brain. Opening the Netflix app and seeing Last Kids on there for the first time. Sitting in a writers’ room and giggling and smiling and realizing oh this is the best job that exists. Those are all highlights.

Biggest, though, is having a writing career at all, I guess. There’s so much luck involved. And now, to not just have a career – but for it to allow certain things: I’m able to live near family, I can afford health insurance, we’re zoned so that my daughter will go to a good school, my wife has the freedom to pursue the things she loves. That’s good stuff.

But really – again – the best thing is having a parent say, “My child reads because of you.” Or a kid say, “I had a bad day but I forgot about it for a bit because I was reading your book.”

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Brallier: Oh boy. No, I don’t think I’d take that journey. Back to the Future, man! Like Doc Brown says, “No one should know too much about their destiny.”

Brallier’s latest book, The Last Kids On Earth and the Midnight Blade is available now from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Season 1 of The Last Kids On Earth television series is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Will Vought

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Photo By: Emily Assiran

Show business is a constant hustle. If you want to survive it – and thrive within it – you have to be willing to take each day as it comes.

That’s the gig and welcome to showbiz,” said actor and comedian Will Vought in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “You are going to get new pages, on a television show, things are added, taken away, always changing, and never quite finished. Just roll with it.”

Vought appears in Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, available now on Amazon.

We recently sat down with Vought to discuss traveling back to 1959, bra fittings, and the downside of dating as a professional actor.

TrunkSpace: As an actor, when you book a job on a series that already has a loyal following, does that make the work all the more sweeter, knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting to watch your performance when it eventually airs?
Vought: What makes the work sweeter is working with truly the best in the business, and that is Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino. The Palladinos are on the top of their game, besides the fact that I was surrounded by multiple Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actors. It’s always a plus if people are going to watch the work and I’ve been lucky. A lot of the series that I’ve worked on have had the eyeballs you talk about. It’s not something I really thought about while shooting, but I knew that the season premiere of the series was going to be a big deal… so yes, it was sweet.

TrunkSpace: You’re a comedian, and as we understand it, someone who is a student of the past, admiring the path that people like Lenny Bruce paved for future generations of performers like yourself. Did it feel like you were having the opportunity to work on a show that, in some ways, was tailor made for you, not only in a general interest level way, but also in the part itself?
Vought: I think all comedians are students of the past as it informs the understanding of the present. So, I am mindful of that and both a fan and student of all that’s come before.

To time travel back to 1959 and enter that world is absolutely surreal. You’ve seen the episode, and there was no detail left to chance in creating the USO show. Major Buck Brillstein is not a comic — he’s a major in the Army, which is where I started with the character. Buck wants to be a comic. It’s always been his dream, but life just had other plans. I believe he has a beautiful family and tortures them with his jokes, impressions, characters and antics. As the emcee of the show, Buck is literally living his dream.

I know the part was not written for me because I had to audition many times before snagging the role, but I get what you are asking. (Laughter) When I read the script, it did feel that it was an episode of television that moves the needle. Thematically, dressing up in drag and wearing heels may not have been a historic piece of sketch comedy, but it was absolutely thrilling to film in front of over 800 background actors. My request, which was honored, was to be brought in so that none of the background actors could see me. They didn’t know the script, so the first time they saw me was when we were filming, so their reaction is pure. We got the scene in two takes.

TrunkSpace: You were stepping on a set with an established tone. Is that a nerve-racking experience going into the first day of shooting, not knowing if you’ll fit into the vibe that already exists behind the scenes?
Vought: Absolutely, 100 percent yes – Day 1 is nerve-racking. I’m walking onto set as a guest with some of the most incredible actors working in television today – who have a routine and rhythm established over two seasons together. This is not lost on me. Honestly, we were all working pretty hard, so there was not a lot of downtime behind the scenes. The vibe was incredible. Everyone is thrilled to be at work, and we are all aware that we are making something special. Blocking out that first shot of the episode, which is continuous – spanning 8 scripted pages – was incredible. Knowing what’s been accomplished in past seasons, you know that you are part of something historic. We broke filming records that week for the number of background actors used in a production in New York state. So, the vibe was great. It’s long hours, a lot of work, and behind the scenes, everyone is focused. I was happy I “fit into” the uniform. Beyond that, I knew I was in good hands as Donna custom-tailored it.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of nerves, as you said, there were also a LOT of people involved in the scenes you shot. Did your career in stand-up sort of prepare you for that moment?
Vought: Yes. I’ve performed for large audiences as a comic, and I know that vibe and energy. So, I knew that on that front I’d feel comfortable. That said – this is not that.

These are not audience members that are attending a comedy show. They are actors and we are creating a world from the page. Very different. I’m not doing my material, so there’s a huge difference in terms of awareness. The energy that’s captured on film is only possible because Amy and Dan choose to hire that many background actors, and it made the production as real as possible. Eight hundred plus. Incredible. But yes, if you are a runner and asked to run, you feel more comfortable than if you had never run at all. I’m on stage a lot, so that, I’m sure, prepared and informed me to play this part.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Vought: I had an early appointment prior to filming with Emmy award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska. After we fit the uniform for Buck, we had to play with selects for the sketch comedy scene where Major Buck would be dressed in drag. All of a sudden, I’m half-naked trying on different bras and wigs and heels and creating what you end up seeing in the episode, which is a classic 1950’s drag comedy sketch. I will never forget Donna asking me, “How does that bra work for you?” That was a first, and even at 7 in the morning, I busted out laughing. She painted a canvas and made me a woman. As I said earlier, walking onto stage, in drag, in front of almost one thousand extras… that’s a hard one to forget and what an opportunity, as an actor, to get to play that day.

TrunkSpace: As far as your stand-up career is concerned, was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid, even at an early age?
Vought: Nope. I was sad. Sitting in the corner wishing for a friend or to get picked for kickball. (Laughter)

I don’t know if I was funny… I don’t think I was. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so I was for sure in my head a lot, and I did like to laugh and loved to listen to funny things. Comedy was a discovery for me early on. Who are these people making people laugh? You can do that? That’s a thing?

As for the cards, I never paid much attention to what anyone thought I was supposed to do and every family has an opinion. My grandmother, God rest her soul, likely still believes that I could be in line at a soup kitchen at any moment. Dramatic yes, but my parents were on food stamps when I was a kid and I didn’t grow up super privileged, so going into show business isn’t something that anyone would consider to be a stable job. Any actor or comic that ends up meeting the person they are dating’s parents have that experience:

Parent: So, what do you do?
Will: I’m an actor and a comedian.
Parent: Right. But for money, what do you do to earn money?
Will: I’m an actor and a comedian?
Parent: I see. One second. Stay right there.
*Will waits*
Parent: I’m sorry, Will, Emily is not feeling well, so you’ll have to see her another time.
*Will leaves*
(Parent to their daughter, Emily)
Parent: What the hell is wrong with you? I already have three kids living here in their 20s, and I’m not having this deadbeat have to move in six months from now because you’re in love and he’s broke.

…… you get the idea.

Seinfeld gave an interview that anyone can listen to on laugh.com. He was in his manager George Shapiro’s office and talked about the difference between wanting to be something and choosing to be something. You make the choice “to be” a comic when you walk into a club and get on stage for the first time. Prior to that, it’s all wanting and thinking. As a kid, I can say that I knew what was funny to me. As I got older, I then knew I had the ability to make people laugh. The cards may have wanted me to go to law school and even though I worked in the White House for Clinton, the humor of the circumstances was not lost on me, even then.

Photo By: Emily Assiran

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Vought: I was on the radio in Buffalo doing mornings on WKSE Kiss 98.5 with local legend Janet Snyder (who I believe is still there and #1 in the market). I was young, my early 20s, and local clubs would put me on because of the radio show. I sucked. But I got stage time, which is the only way to get better. I moved back to New York City and hit the ground running, handing out tickets on Broadway for stage time, taking acting classes, doing Off-Broadway theatre. It was a non-stop hustle.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable stand-up performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Vought: I performed on Live at Gotham, televised nationally live from Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. There was something about performing on live television that was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The celebrity host was supposed to do 10 minutes upfront. They did four minutes and threw it to commercial. The producers walked over and said, “Hey Will, how are you feeling? You look great? Listen…. would you mind doing an extra two minutes in your set?”

Now, this is a comic’s dream. Not only performing on TV but being given more TV time. The problem is, I prepared that eight-minute set. I knew it, I knew the pacing, the material, and now ADD two minutes????

What was I going to add? Would it work? I said, “Yes, no problem at all.” HUGE PROBLEM! In the end, you suck it up, I did the 10 minutes live, and it all went great. That’s the gig and welcome to showbiz. You are going to get new pages, on a television show, things are added, taken away, always changing, and never quite finished. Just roll with it.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Vought: One of my highlights, thus far was as a writer, was when Wayne Brady brought me in to be the head writer during his time hosting the Late Late Show on CBS. It was during the transition period before James Corden took over, and they had a bunch of guest hosts for periods of weeks. It was absolutely incredible, and he is a phenomenal talent and one of my closest friends. Wayne gave me the reigns and went to bat for me, and I was basically the showrunner for the time that he hosted. Myself, Johnathan Mangum, and Wayne put together a new show every day, and it was an absolute dream.

A close second would be years ago. I had the good fortune to be cast by Sam Mendes in Revolutionary Road starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Huge congrats and shout out to Sam, who just won the Golden Globe for Best Director. His film, 1917, is on my list to see.

My role on RR was very small, however, featured, and I worked on the film for a week in Connecticut. On one day of filming, I was near Leo and he offered me a cigarette. Why not? We had a short but fantastic conversation, and he was as kind and generous a man as he is an actor. There is an inside well-known story on that film, during the dinner scene, where Leo insisted on doing his coverage last on what was a 12-hour filming day. I will never forget Sam calling for background and camera and we were not finished smoking and Leo looked at me and said, “It will be fine, don’t rush.”

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Vought: I don’t think I would want to see into the future. It would likely freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, I have clear goals and things I want to accomplish, but seeing that specifically would take me out of the present. I think it’s so hard for everyone not to live in yesterday or tomorrow. Staying grounded in right now, this moment takes an enormous amount of stamina and clarity. The mere act of answering this question is exhausting.

Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is available now on Amazon.

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Musical Mondaze

Miss Tess

MissTessFeatured

Between shifting industry trends and evolving listening experiences, it’s becoming more difficult than ever for artists to reach an audience, even when global connectivity is only a tweet away. For Miss Tess, whose new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, drops on February 7th, tempering expectations when releasing new music into the world is part of her recipe when cooking in the creative kitchen.

With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Miss Tess to discuss going analog, growth as an artist, and why it’s important to take a break from social media.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, is set to be released in February. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world? Is it sometimes hard to let material go and relinquish control over it?
Miss Tess: Actually I can’t wait to get it out there. We started recording a year and a half ago, so it’s been a long time coming. I don’t feel like it’s ever hard to let the material out there. I’ve listened to it so much, it’s time to give other folks a turn.

TrunkSpace: With so much music already under your belt, has the experience of making it changed for you since you first started out? Are there still firsts for you as you go through the process of writing, recording and then supporting an album?
Miss Tess: Every time I go into the studio I learn something new, and I’m always trying to grow and do it better next time. This album was the first time we had ever recorded something completely analog to tape. You only have so much room for recordings on the tape reel, so it forces you to be very decisive in the studio about what takes to keep. Also the recordings were mixed on an analog board, which can be a little stressful. You have no instant recall (like in digital) so if you want to tweak something you have to create a whole new mix. Luckily our producer and engineer, Andrija Tokic, is a whiz with that stuff and made it seem fairly effortless. He even did an actual tape cut to remove a section of a song, then taped it back together. It’s magic to me that music can exist on a piece of tape.

TrunkSpace: As you listen to The Moon Is An Ashtray today and compare it against, say, When Tomorrow Comes, where do you hear the biggest differences in the artist that you were and the artist that you are now?
Miss Tess: I don’t often listen to my older recordings, but sometimes a song pops up. I mostly notice how I’ve grown as a vocalist and a guitarist, and have more composure in the studio. I started recording 15 years ago, so that’s a lot of time for styles and techniques to change and develop. I used to be way more jazz/folk, but now while some of that still lingers, I’ve broadened my scope into country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll to make it perhaps even more eclectic. I like to think my singing has matured and strengthened, and I’m pleased with the fact that I’ve recorded several guitar leads. When I listen back to those, that’s the moment where I’m like, “Hey, that was pretty good.”

TrunkSpace: There are some great layers to peel away on The Moon Is An Ashtray, particularly when it comes to individuals and collective perspectives/expectations. As an artist, how do you manage your own expectations when it comes to your music and how it will be perceived once you release it into the universe?
Miss Tess: I release every album with the lowest possible expectations. That way you are always pleasantly surprised when you get a good review, or someone tells you they enjoy it. You can’t control anything really, even with the best team behind you to help promote. The industry is constantly changing and there is a staggering amount of recordings being released every week. With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Miss Tess: I’m proud of the songwriting – these are good songs and fun to play. I’m also proud of our recording band mates, some of the best in Nashville. Our friend John Pahmer was the MVP doing most of the keyboard and piano stuff, and really helped bring these songs to life. Getting to record with stalwarts such as Dennis Crouch (T-Bone Burnett’s right hand bass playing man) and Jack Lawrence (from the Raconteurs) was a great experience, and I’m really happy with how the recordings came out.

TrunkSpace: Since the start of your career, you have released new music at a pretty steady clip. Do you consider yourself to be a prolific artist? What is the longest period of time you have spent away from music?
Miss Tess: I don’t consider myself to be prolific. I don’t write enough to earn that term. I don’t think I’ve ever really spent time away from music. It’s always there. I’ve probably gone about three weeks max between gigs, since I created my first band in Baltimore in 2003 or so.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Miss Tess: It’s easy to be hard on yourself with all the social media stats out there. It’s always been a bit of a popularity contest, and now we have concrete numbers with which to measure ourselves. On top of that everyone only posts their best side, so it can be misleading, distorting our realities and perceptions of how life should be. Also living in such a concentrated musical community as Nashville is, you see other people get really successful in what seems like a very short amount of time. It’s easy to compare yourself to this and think, “Why aren’t I doing better? I’ve worked my ass off for a very long time.” I have to imagine that whatever level a musician is at, they will still have doubts and disappointments.

To overcome these feelings I have to remind myself that I can only do my best, and make sure the art I’m creating is honest and that I am growing and expanding. I tell myself there are plenty of people who wish they could even get on stage and sing one song and I don’t take that ability for granted. Also, taking breaks from social media is important.

Part of the reason I keep doing this, is that I feel I haven’t reached my potential, and ultimately I am happiest having created something new. The challenge is always making art sustainable, and figuring out the business side of things can also be very discouraging, and the lifestyle of a touring musician requires a lot of sacrifices in terms of relationships, family, health and security.

TrunkSpace: Finish this sentence. “I wouldn’t be able to create music if I didn’t have…”
Miss Tess: A brain.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Miss Tess: Yes, she would be very surprised. I wasn’t one of those kids who was infatuated with being a performer or a rockstar, though I did enjoy the piano and I was always mystified by singing into a microphone and hearing my own voice amplified and recorded.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Miss Tess: I wouldn’t. I would be worried it would affect me too much in the current time.

The Moon Is An Ashtray is available February 7th.

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