[Interview] Reeve Carney on Rocky Horror, scented candles, and his debut solo album
Multi-faceted artist, Reeve Carney knows what it takes to be successful. From the Broadway stage in Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, to hit TV series, Penny Dreadful, to the brand new remake of Rocky Horror Picture Show, Reeve somehow managed to find time to write his full length debut solo album, Youth is Wasted. Released via Apple Music on October 14th, the album proves to be his most intimate project to date. Each song is melodically haunting, taking you on an estranged journey back to a simpler time, while fruitful notes of playfulness and exploration bring the entire album full circle and create an entirely existential experience. We were lucky enough to chat with him on the phone as he recovered from the Rocky Horror premiere the night before, and prepared for his upcoming solo tour.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show remake premiered last night on FOX. How’d it go?
Oh, I’ve never had more fun on a job than working with the cast and creative team of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Last night was, I think, my fifth time watching it. Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan and I did a Facebook Live, and a live tweeting session on @FoxTV during the East Coast feed, and we watched it all together again with Christina Milian during the West Coast feed. It was a blast for us. I’m such big fans of everyone involved, you know, it’s like the “mutual admiration society.”
Did Richard O’Brien (creator of Rocky Horror that originated the Riff Raff role) have any involvement with the remake?
He didn’t. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but he is in charge of all the live performances of Rocky Horror currently in existence, but in terms of the film, I think someone else controls that. I haven’t met Richard O’ Brien, but I wonder if he watched last night, that’d be cool if he did. He’s such a talented guy, and if someone tried to remake a version of my album Youth is Wasted, it’d probably be quite an odd feeling. We’re certainly all big fans of his, and I didn’t want to take too much from his interpretation and creation of the character, but I definitely wanted pay tribute to it.
I know you have various experience in music, stage, singing, and performance.
You did a Broadway run with Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark for three years. Do you think working as a stage actor helped you with on screen acting?
Yeah! I saw an interesting interview with Tim Curry a few nights ago on YouTube where he discussed the difference between taking the Rocky Horror Show from the stage at the Roxy and the Royal Court in London to the film world. He talked about being able to modulate your performance in terms of its scale for both stage and screen. I find that being on Broadway helped me tremendously in, not only my work ethic and making sure that I am able to operate on a fixed schedule, but I also found that it helped me in terms of adjusting my performance, and learning how to scale things up or down for either stage or screen. There is a difference, I’m still working on that, and I think of myself as a student of this philosophy.
You just released your album, Youth is Wasted on October 14th. Are you excited about it?
I am so excited. To me, I was getting something out that needed to be released. I mean, I’ve lived with some of these songs for years now. Most of them had not been heard by anyone, and I think, thanks to some of my acting jobs, there are people who are discovering my music for the first time. To me, it’s the most truthful expression of my art, musically speaking, that I’ve been able to release thus far, and I’m really happy to have it out there. It’s a true representation of who I am as an artist.
What drove you to create this album?
Some things exist as a manifestation of a need. It was just a need to get this out.
I wanted to do something that was a product of me following my instincts, as opposed to trying to blend in with what is currently popular. I think things have a way of coming back around, and not that this is particularly retro, but I certainly am inspired by sounds and styles from eras that existed before I have existed.
When you’re sitting down to create a song, do you have a ritual that you do, and how does it affect your creative process?
There’s a lot of coffee involved. I like an occasional candle in the background, especially if it has a good smell to it. I am very influenced by scents. That might sound really weird, but they trigger memories. Generally, I start with a guitar and a piano. I start coming up with the chord progression and melody, then find a way to fit lyrics into that. The only song on the album which I wrote the lyrics before the music is, “Looking Glass.” In, “Girl Like Me,” I started on the bass. It’s the only song I’ve ever written on the bass guitar, but I think it gives it a nice pulse that’s unique to the album.
Do you have other creative outlets that help inspire you?
I started off as a visual artist when I was very young, and that’s what I thought I was going to be. I went to school at Art Students League in New York to study drawing and painting, so I enjoy doing a bit of that. I also love going to the cinema, that really inspires me.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m a huge Robin Thicke fan, in terms of his music, in particular his first record, which a lot of people don’t know about. I was playing some stuff from my record for Christina Millian, and she said, “Man, this reminds me of that first Robin Thicke record, 'A Beautiful World'.” I took that as such a high compliment. It’s one of my favorite albums. I will say, there is a similar intent behind this album, as with A Beautiful World, in terms of expressing different modes of your artistic interest inasmuch variety as you possibly can. I wanted to make a record that would make people wonder where I might go next, which is what I like to do with my acting as well.
Have you done a music video for any of the songs of your album yet?
There is one that I made myself. I licensed some footage from the Korean War, and filmed some videos flying in airplanes above Poland and Germany last summer. Then I edited it into a video for, “Up Above the Weather.” It helps tell the story. I was thinking of doing more of that. I have the time to let the album take on a life of its own, so there’s no rush, I’ll put out videos when I can. It’s one of the great things about being an independent. Not being signed to a major label, you have freedom to focus at your own pace, which I love. You get to make decisions from a purely artistic standpoint, which is what I’ve done with this album.
Your tour kicks off this coming week, and you’ll be playing in Atlanta at Vinyl on November 9.
What can we expect from a Reeve Carney show?
I thought it would be fun to do it completely solo, so, it’ll just be me on electric guitar and piano, bouncing back and forth between the two instruments. My goal is to make it feel as though you’re having a full blown rock concert in your living room. A personal experience, where there is no real separation between the audience and the performer. I love when things are like that because it allows for magic to happen.