James Maslow Interview: 'I Never Thought I’d Be in a Boy Band'
James Maslow is the multi-talented break out star of the widely buzzed about musical group Big Time Rush. The band also stars on the hit Nickelodeon television show of the same name. Currently, Big Time Rush is in the middle of their second US headlining tour, which began on July 5, 2012, and will conclude on December 14, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Maslow, a La Jolla, California native, joined the San Diego Children’s Choir at an early age, igniting an undying passion for singing and performing. Determined to be an entertainer, the singer enrolled in the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and then the prestigious Coronado School of the Arts. While a student, Maslow endured long commutes and setbacks, none of which deterred his passion. Throughout his youth, Maslow stayed committed to improving his incredible abilities.
“Yeah. Absolutely. To be fair, I never thought I’d be in a boy band. However, I’ve embraced it now. We’re having the time of our lives. I’ve learned to become pretty much brothers to these guys. They’re awesome guys. We’ve really had a very unique experience.”
The band’s soundtrack to Big Time Movie features covers of Beatles tunes including “Help,” “Revolution,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” Big Time Rush released their second studio album, Elevate, in November 2011. The group is currently writing and recording new songs for their third album. “Windows Down,” the new single, was released June 25, 2012. As of May 2012, Big Time Rush has sold around 4.1 million singles around the world.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Hi James, what is new this season on the TV series?
James Maslow: You know, it’s interesting. We spent pretty much a year on the road, and then came back to filming, so we were all unsure if we’d be the same, if we looked older or would act differently, but really everyone went right back into the same groove of things. Rachel Crow guest stars, and we had Fabio back because he has been a fun recurring character.
Our first episode was a very unique one because we paired a live concert that we did in Nashville (although we called it Canada in the episode) and paired live footage with an actual scripted show. We’re not doing that every episode, but I thought it was pretty unique because we really never crossed that border into real life – Big Time Rush with the characters in Big Time Rush the show. It’s kind of an interesting way to blend reality with fiction.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will James Diamond be involved in a romantic relationship?
James Maslow: I don’t know if James Diamond is ever going to get a serious girlfriend (laughs). To be honest, I think it was considered for this season, and then because of other’s schedules, it didn’t happen. But, frankly, it’s okay. James Diamond is completely nuts. He’s over the top, and so it’s fun. He is very different than me in real life. But, there are definitely girls and a couple of little love triangles in the first few episodes. It’s fun. We try not to make it too sappy, but yeah, there’s a love story.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I keep reading about Carlos’ infamous Speedo.
James Maslow: I’m so sorry about the fact that you have to read about it. Let me clarify. He’s very excited. He has no qualms about it. I’ll give him props. He loves it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will I be reading about you in a Speedo?
James Maslow: You know, I generally keep my Speedo time to my own private time. I’m not saying I haven’t rocked the Speedo, definitely have. That started on our trip about a year ago to Saint Martin. Carlos and I took it upon ourselves to actually really go full force the first day. We had a private pool and a private beach. I think that is the time to do it. Publicly, not exactly my favorite look (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James, what was your favorite part of filming Big Time Movie?
James Maslow: Frankly, it was nice to be in a different part of the world for an extended period of time. I travel a lot and get to see a lot of the world, but usually I’m in a city or a country for a matter of hours or couple of days at most. We spent six or seven weeks in Vancouver and got to know new people, new crew and new restaurants.
It was really exciting because it’s something that many people my age might get to do when they go to college or when they travel abroad. As unique and amazing as my job is, most if it is fast paced, and I really hadn’t gotten to see that, so it was nice to have that kind of minute of being in another culture. Even though Canada is very similar to the US, it’s a different culture.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The band covered The Beatles songs in Big Time Movie. Have you ever met Paul or Ringo?
James Maslow: I’ve never met them. I hear that Paul has more security than the president. I’m not sure how neat that would be, but I’m definitely a huge Beatles fan. My dad would always listen to The Beatles. I dug them then. It was one of the few bands I didn’t complain about that he played when I was very little.
I had huge respect for The Beatles beforehand, but after covering the songs, I realized how intricate the songs were and how much they did live on eight tracks, how hard it was to duplicate that and recreate it even with unlimited tracks with today’s technology. I’m incredibly impressed and have even more respect for them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely. How does the music on Elevate differ from the band’s first studio album?
James Maslow: Well, many of the songs on the first album were written by the producers and writers and really great people, big names, and we’re honored to work with them. The band and I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to write, as we were so busy working on the TV show and creating Big Time Rush at that time, whereas, we wrote the majority of the music on Elevate. On the US album, we wrote eight of the twelve songs, and on the European album, we wrote nine of the thirteen songs. One was a bonus, which was one of my tracks.
Now, going on the Big Time Summer Tour, we’re not just singing somebody else’s music, we’re actually singing music we created, and that makes a world of difference and so much more enjoyable. I think that our friends really love it as well because they know it’s honest and coming from us. It’s what we like to perform, and frankly, the sound is a little more mature. We’re all growing up and getting older, and I think the sound is maturing as well.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you write any of the songs by yourself?
James Maslow: Most of them were with producers as well. I like to think I’m a decent writer, but I’m not a producer, so I like to bring people in who would be better at that than me. But, I wrote, “Elevate,” the title track. I love that. We all wrote, “Love Me Love Me,” on the bus. It was just the four of us writing that song which was really a neat experience with a recording bus out on tour last summer. That song was something that we just started randomly. It took about three or four days. We were just joking around and thought, “Hey, wait, this is actually kind of good.” Some nights, we’d get up at two in the morning and start a song, and everybody would contribute.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I believe the album has sold about 260,000 copies to date. Is that a fairly good accomplishment in the age of digital streaming?
James Maslow: Well, I talk to friends who are a little older than me that have been doing this for ten or twenty years, and it sounds like it was a different world back then. But, I think our fans actually want a tangible copy, so they’ll go out and buy our albums. We try to encourage the fact that everybody in the industry from the writers to the producers work hard to make one song.
It may only be three minutes when you listen to it, but it probably took three weeks or longer out of somebody’s life from the very start to when it was mastered, put out and promoted. It takes a really long time and a lot of work. We try to pass on that piracy is not cool. It really is stealing. But, most of our fans go out and get the album. We are artists that are so lucky that we can actually sell albums these days.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James, let me change the subject for a minute. You were raised Jewish, correct?
James Maslow: Yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you a religious person?
James Maslow: I’m definitely a religious and spiritual person; however, as sad as it is, I don’t have the time to be a practicing Jew these days. Frankly, after going to Hebrew school six days a week for many years, I decided not to go to temple as much as I got older. But, I love spending time with my Jewish friends in LA. On any High Holiday, I really try and actually take a break from work and spend time with my family.
I love my religion. I was never Orthodox or raised that way. In fact, my mother is Catholic, so there’s a little difference there. The bloodline is passed down through the mother, but I was bar mitzvahed and raised Jewish. I believe in religion wholeheartedly. Ironic as it is and maybe sad as it is, I don’t have time to practice. But, I’m okay with that these days because I know what I believe in, and I don’t think that it really offends anybody. It’s a different time these days than when my parents, and especially my grandparents, were around.
Work and businesses stopped back then. But, I think it would almost be unfair to our fans if I went over and asked them to cancel a bunch of dates, so I try not to be too selfish with it and just try to go with the flow at this point.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about the Big Time Summer Tour 2012.
James Maslow: The tour kicked off July 5 in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an expansion of the last tour, so there are some similarities, but it’s definitely more music, more songs, bigger stages, more pyro, definitely larger in every aspect. We like to push the limits so that it’s entertaining for all of our fans. Our fans aren’t just one age. We have people as young as eight, nine and ten showing up. The majority of the crowd is in the teenage years up to the twenties and parents come that are accompanying some of the younger ones, so we have a big range of people. We try to make the show entertaining for all of them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I would definitely fall into the slightly older than parent group (laughs).
James Maslow: I would recommend definitely buying some earplugs. That’s the best advice I could give you.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You definitely needed to be at some concerts in the 70s (laughs). How does the band travel, James?
James Maslow: Well, we can’t ever bring a full show in if we fly because this crew is about sixty, so that’s at least seven buses and ten trucks. We have almost twenty vehicles that show up at a venue. That’s just for us and doesn’t count the opening acts that have buses also. So, it’s a pretty big operation.
If we fly, it means it’s a very minimal show, and we can’t bring the stage or crew with us. Plus, driving is a lot more comfortable. You get to sleep on the drive versus stay awake when you fly. We used to do that, and ultimately, you just can’t sleep. It sounds crazy, but you actually go days on end. We enjoy the bus much more.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you ever thought about going solo?
James Maslow: Yeah. Absolutely. To be fair, I never thought I’d be in a boy band. However, I’ve embraced it now. We’re having the time of our lives. I’ve learned to become pretty much brothers to these guys. They’re awesome guys. We’ve really had a very unique experience.
We really just looked at the concept of Big Time Rush, and said, “You know what? This is an opportunity that looks like fun and can set us up to potentially do exactly what we want to do in the future, so let’s go for it and make the best of it.” And, we have. We’ve had a wonderful time. But, as soon as Big Time Rush comes to an end, I absolutely want to keep doing music, so I’ll continue to do my music.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do the fans normally say to you when you are approached?
James Maslow: Mostly, they ask questions or seek a picture or autograph, which is all good. But, I love when a fan tells a story or shares a little bit of their lives. On Twitter, I reply to fans a lot if I can and am not too busy throughout the day. I rarely reply to the fan that has asked the same question two hundred times. I actually just prefer to answer the fans that ask the most interesting questions or who shares a piece of their lives … maybe takes photos of their dogs or something. I like to find out what their interests and hobbies are. I’m interested in what my fans are doing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me something about yourself that your fans do not know.
James Maslow: I’ve always been really interested in cars. Of course, every guy growing up likes fast cars. But, one of my gifts to myself was a ’72 Bronco, which I’m now restoring, so I’m really excited. I’m restoring from the frame to suspension, wheels and tires, painting the body, etc. But, I’m having professionals come in to make sure rebuilding the manifold is done right, so the car won’t fall apart on the freeway.
For the most part, I’m doing as much of it on my own as I can. I don’t know if my fans know that about me because I haven’t talked about it much, but I love cars and bikes. Maybe in about a year or a year and a half, it will be ready, and I’ll send out some pictures.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The new single, “Windows Down,” seems to have a more adult sound, which you were eluding to earlier.
James Maslow: Yes. I think we’re all more excited about this single than we’ve ever been about all of our music, so I really hope our fans respond to it half as much as we think they will. I think it could be a game changer for us.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): James, when we spoke a couple of years ago, you told me there really wasn’t much time for a romantic relationship. Has that changed?
James Maslow: You know, it’s still hard. I’ve been dating a wonderful girl for a little bit, and it has worked out well, but it’s still difficult when you work as much as I do. She is working as well in the industry, so we have two incredibly busy schedules, and it’s hard to see each other. But, we’re trying to make it work.
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