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Kendall Schmidt Shifts His Career Into Drive
Thursday, October 02, 2014

For Kendall Schmidt fame came quickly with Big Time Rush. “We had some fair dates,” he remembers, “where all of a sudden there were 15,000 people in the grandstands.” With his new project, Heffron Drive, he’s taking a more organic approach to things.

There’s no TV show on Nickelodeon this time around, it’s just Schmidt, and longtime collaborator Dustin Belt, releasing music independently under the name Heffron Drive.

In September the duo released their first album as Heffron Drive, titled Happy Mistakes, on Schmidt’s own label, TOLbooth Records. The album is a partially self-produced pop-rock effort that’s decidedly different from what Schmidt has done in the past.

With Schmidt embracing a new sound, I caught up with him to find out more about Heffron Drive, and his musical growth. Schmidt also opened up about his time with Big Time Rush, and how it prepared him for this next step in his career.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start this interview by going back into a time. In 2009 Big Time Rush came to be, as a TV show, and a band. What aspects of having a hit show, and a hit group, were you totally unprepared for?

Kendall Schmidt: Wow, that's a good question. I haven’t thought about that in a while. Honestly, I think it was the amount of hours involved in the television show. I wasn’t expecting (that) just because I had never known what it took to be a series regular on a television show.

Then I would say keeping an image that is acceptable. Not that it was that difficult. I didn’t really live a lifestyle that was that sketchy. Still, there are people who are counting on you to be a good role model, and stuff like that.

Those are the things that took a little getting used to, but I think the main thing for me was getting used to getting up at five o’clock in the morning to start filming.

Adam Bernard: That a fun call time.

Kendall Schmidt: Yeah. Pretty tragic.

Adam Bernard: Can you pinpoint a moment, or an event, that made you realize all of this was going to be bigger than you may have initially imagined?

Kendall Schmidt: I don’t know if I just had it in my mind already, but even before I booked the show, when I was assuming I was gonna get it because of the way everything was going, I felt that (way) before I even started working. I don’t know if it was a premonition that it was gonna be a popular thing, but I kinda felt the weight of it, and almost kinda got overwhelmed before I even got started.

Adam Bernard: Sometimes we’ll see videos of pop stars getting mobbed, and clothes being torn, and the scene can become kind of scary. Have you experienced one of those situations where things just got completely out of control?

Kendall Schmidt: I suppose there have always been times when it’s been a little overwhelming, but ultimately there are a lot of things I’ve just associated with being part of the job, so I kind of take everything in stride. I’ve also had a lot of friends who’ve had success over the years, and I’ve watched how they go through it, so I’ve definitely had examples to kind of learn from.

Adam Bernard: Who would you count as, for lack of a better word, a mentor in all of this?

Kendall Schmidt: Well, I can never really get into too much trouble because I always have my family looking out for me. That's the main thing. As for mentors, I have some friends who have gone through the Disney machine and are still doing great. I’m not saying I necessarily look up to them as far as (my) career goes, but you can see the way that they go through their lives, and things that kind of end up being a negative, and you can be like OK, I don’t want to do something like that.

Ultimately, I just want to have a career in music, and be known for being a great musician. If I have to keep my nose clean, and have a good reputation to get there the way I want to, I guess I’ll just do it.

Adam Bernard: So every day you don't show up in a gossip blog is a great day.

Kendall Schmidt: Well, you know, for me it is, but sometimes it seems like that’s that all that really counts anymore, which kind of freaks me out. We all see it every day, the reason we’re even talking about it is because it seems like such a regular occurrence, that people get into a weird thing, or have a weird lifestyle. I think I would rather, in the long run, have a good reputation, than have a poor one.

Adam Bernard: What did you do to make sure that the TV show, and the group, would turn into a launching pad, rather than a pinnacle?

Kendall Schmidt: We actually got some advice from some of the guys from NSYNC. In the early days of Big Time Rush we had some conversations with Chris (Kirkpatrick), and Joey (Fatone), and JC (Chasez), and they always echoed the same thing, which was the only reason they were as successful as they were was because of hard work, just pure hard work, and we adopted that very early on.

I think Big Time Rush got to where it was through hard work, and I’ve learned through that experience that anything I want to do in my life, whether it’s solo stuff as Kendall Schmidt, or Heffron Drive, that persistence, and just putting in the hours, and staying focused, really ends up paying off.

Adam Bernard: Heffron Drive is your project with Dustin Belt, and you recently released the full length introduction to Heffron Drive, Happy Mistakes. When you listen to the album, in what ways do you feel you’ve grown musically?

Kendall Schmidt: There are some songs that are totally my own productions all the way around, and I had never put anything out publicly, for sale, that I’d produced myself in its entirety. Obviously I’ve written on many songs, and I’ve written completely many songs, but to actually produce something, and put your musical stylings out there, is risky. That was a big deal for me, and I think when you listen to Happy Mistakes you can hear that.

Hopefully, with those songs I’ve created a bit of a sound. That's my goal.

Adam Bernard: Let’s talk about your sound. Could put into words what people might not be expecting from you, but will hear when they listen to Happy Mistakes?

Kendall Schmidt: I think lyrically there are some boundaries of creativity that I pushed that I haven’t really messed around with before. A song like “Nicotine,” for instance, I think it’s just fun to listen to because you actually have to listen to it to understand what it’s about, and the depth of the song.

Melodically, and lyrically, I think (the album) is a step in a really cool direction, and musically, again, a song like “Nicotine,” that’s what comes out when I make music. That is literally the sound of when I play guitar, and when I play bass, and when I play synth.

If you were to ask me what instrument I play, I would say I play guitar, but on those songs I played absolutely everything, so it really does end up sounding like a pure interpretation of what I would do musically.

“Nicotine” is different from “Happy Mistakes,” which is different from “That’s What Makes You Mine,” but they all have an underlying feeling to them production-wise, and I think that having those three spread out, and having everything else that I wrote on there, and having stuff that Dustin and I wrote together, it really ties it in, and creates this overall new sound.

Adam Bernard: What was going on in your life that inspired the lyrical content of the album?

Kendall Schmidt: Relationship stuff, all the way around just kind of dealing with that. Family, I always talk about family. Experiences in life. I also write a lot about ideals, and in an ideal world how I’d want a situation to be. It’s almost like writing an idealistic memoir in a way.

Adam Bernard: You’re building your utopia musically.

Kendall Schmidt: I guess. Yeah. I’ve been accused of being mysterious by some people from time to time, especially girls I end up getting involved with.

I’ve always said if you really wanted to know anything about how I’ve felt about relationships you can just listen to the music. It’s not a mystery. I’ve put it out in public. That’s me, as far as how I feel about things.

Adam Bernard: Mysterious always works with the ladies. Pop star also always works with the ladies, but mysterious works, too.

Kendall Schmidt: Yeah, and I never really understood what that meant, and I’m still not sure. I got a lot going on in my head, that’s for sure, so if that counts as mysterious I guess I’m mysterious.

Adam Bernard: Since your album is titled Happy Mistakes, tell me about a favorite happy mistake from your own life.

Kendall Schmidt: All of the auditions, everything I’ve ever done, everything you ever do that leads to where you are now that didn’t end up working out, that made you have to change directions, or made you have to switch it up.

I think about all the auditions that I never booked, and how if I would have booked them maybe my life would have been different. Maybe it would have had a faster arc up, and a faster arc down. You never know. The whole album, Happy Mistakes, is about that concept.

If you’re able to reflect upon everything that’s happened, then there’s obviously a lot of things that have affected you along the way.

Adam Bernard: You’ve been touring in support of the album, and over the years you’ve toured with some really big names, including One Direction. What’s been the wildest, or most interesting, thing you’ve seen, or experienced, while on the road?

Kendall Schmidt: We went hang gliding in Rio one time, that was pretty extreme. That was one of those things that when you do it you’re like, “What the hell are we doing here? How the hell did we get to be hang gliding?”

I always love going to Germany. I’ve been there a handful of times now, and I think it’s just a wonderful place.

The world is so big, but it’s so small at the same time. It’s so small that you can get around it. Eleven hours on an airplane seems like a long time, but when you end up in Australia, or Rio, it doesn’t really seem like that long.

Adam Bernard: You just end up wondering how the heck you ended up strapped to a hang glider.

Kendall Schmidt: Exactly.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what do you want the next step in your career to be?

Kendall Schmidt: I’d love to just be known for being a musical person, and I want to end up producing music for other people. I think it would be just as cool to have a gold record for myself as it would be to have a record for anybody else.

I released Heffron Drive through my own record label (TOLbooth Records), which I started myself, so I’d like to eventually make my own place in the record business. Even though it’s a crazy business currently, and it’s totally insane, I think with some new young blood in there we can really make things happen.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 2:00 PM  
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