Tribute talks to newest pop sensation Hot Chelle Rae

Nash Overstreet, Ian Sebastian Keaggy, Ryan Keith Follesé, and his brother Jamie Christian Follesé are four friends who spend time doing what they love most — making music. They also happen to be members of Hot Chelle Rae, one of the biggest pop groups to recently dominate radio waves. In 2007, the band opened for hip hop artist Lil Jon, an unlikely music combination, but it was a performance that eventually led to a signed contract with Jive Records the following year. Their debut album, Whatever, features the track “Tonight Tonight,” which hit number seven #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 2011 and went on to reach double-platinum in the US and single platinum in Canada.

Tribute caught up with Hot Chelle Rae members Nash and Ryan in Toronto yesterday to talk about their music, how they got their unique name, and to find out more about their upcoming Beautiful Freaks tour.

Congratulations on hitting Double Platinum! How does that feel?
Nash: Incredible. It’s really wild. I remember when we started this whole thing probably seven years ago now, that was one of our goals. We wanted to sell a million of anything.

So how would you describe your sound?
Nash: I kind of feel like we took a little bit of all of our favorite genres and combined them. Definitely pop. It’s fresh. It’s got a little bit of a hip hop feel as far as like the drum riffs go.

Who would you say is your biggest musical inspiration?
Nash: Mine personally is Michael Jackson, first musical love, absolutely. As a band, Beatles and Queen are way up there. We kind of are all across the board but we somehow come together and love the music that we do ourselves. If we can have fun on stage playing it, that transcends to the audience.

Describe opening for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve this past year.
Nash: That was one of the coolest nights of our lives. We were told beforehand that it would be the coolest night of our lives and to be up there with a million and a half people. To watch that ball drop that you see every year on TV and to be there in person.

And you were performing alongside some huge acts.
Nash: I mean Bieber, and Pitbull.

Ryan: Gaga!

Nash: Drake was actually there earlier.

Did you guys get to hang out with them all?
Ryan: We did! We got to go to probably the coolest afterparty we’ve ever been to at Gaga’s parents’ restaurant. It was crazy!

Nash: Pitbull, one of the nicest guys. He was really cool. Seacrest, Gaga, they were all a lot of fun.

Ryan: They were really cool. It was pretty life changing.

Is it true your band name came from a MySpace stalker?
Ryan: It is. We’re trying to put MySpace back on the map. I need more friends on my page. Her handle was Chelle Rae and she was stealing lots of very attractive photos from someone and we were believing her.

Nash: She was a cyber bully.

Ryan: Yeah! We found out that she wasn’t real and then once we found that out we liked the name and it was such a ridiculous story that we decided to name the band after it.

What kinds of things did she do?
Nash: She was just really, really attractive.

Ryan: Well, she said she worked at a record label. And she knew things about the music business that we believed. So we believed her because she knew things that most people aren’t privileged to know about the music industry. And there were photos. She’s hanging out with Pete Wentz and Snoop Dog and all these people and we’re like okay, maybe she is good to know. And then she was not.

Nash: She found a great looking model that had a lot of celebrity friends and was like “I will have these pictures now.”

So you got to open for Lil Jon in 2007. What was that like?
Ryan: Surprisingly dope.

Nash: It was actually really cool. He worked with so many different people so easily I feel like because, you know, he had a massive presence on Top 40 and still has stuff coming out all the time that everybody from so many age groups…it still works. It was a room of 1,500 or 2,000 kids.

Ryan: I walked onstage with a pimp chalice and I think that I gained acceptance from the audience by doing such a thing.

Both of you hail from famous songwriting genes, with both of your fathers being well known songwriters. How have your families influenced your music career?
Ryan: We grew up watching them write and perform and stuff like that. As far as being teenagers and stuff, they provided us with a lot of guidance and you know which doors to open and which doors to close. So growing up, it provided us with the business knowledge that a lot of people aren’t privileged to. As far as getting a record deal and our careers and everything, after that, they just have been nothing but supportive and just been fans. Once we kind of got our feet wet, they just let us swim.

Nash: You can’t put a price on it when your parents do something that you end up loving to do because as opposed to them being a doctor or an attorney, where they question whether music is a viable career, they know firsthand that it’s actually something you can do. And so instead of kind of questioning it, they support you and they guide you in the best way possible to, you know, advance your talents and to really kind of critique you and say, “I would do this here” and “you know you can really improve on this aspect of what you’re doing.” It kind of just fuels the fire.

We started working together when we were 18 and 19. I started playing drums when I was nine and playing in the band when I was 14 and there’s just so much horrible, horrible music that you put out on your own and you record but never play for anyone. And then you start making music that you think is great and you play for everyone. And then, you know, hopefully you’ll always progress and improve your talent even more and finally the music is actually great. We’re always growing and I love the fact that we improve with every song we write and not have the problem of “Oh man, I hope we can write a song as good as the first album.” We love the fact that we can improve on everything we do.

So you’re headlining a tour in February but you’ll also be touring with Taylor Swift in between?
Ryan: We’re doing a month with Taylor Swift in Australia. We’re going to do 12 arenas in the middle of our Beautiful Freaks tour, which will be in the United States, and we’re coming through Canada as well.

What’s your favorite track on the new album?
Ryan: It switches all the time. Right now…I think I’m going to have to say…there’s a track on there called “Radio” featuring B. Major. I don’t ever really get sick of that song. Usually in your band you get sick of your own music pretty quick but I just love that song and it’s such a great feel and he’s such a talented rapper. It was such a cool combination.

Nash: I’m going to have to go with a more obvious answer, “I Like it Like That.” It just broke the American Top 20 and it’s 17 or 15 or something right now. Every time that happens with one of our songs it’s incredible. The success of “Tonight Tonight” happened and now it’s happening with “I Like it Like That” and just all over again, it makes us giddy everyday. So that’s why it’s my favorite song right now.

If there’s one thing you could say to your fans what would it be?
Ryan: Thank you for the continuous, endless support and showing all of your friends our music, which we know you do ’cause you let us know on Twitter. And come see us on tour and we can’t wait to play a full headlining set for them.

Nash: I can’t wait!

~ Soriyya Bawa

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