Theory of a Deadman
Definitely Meant to Be
By Deborah Wagner
When Canadian export Theory of a Deadman wanted to get the word out about their music, they got a little help from a friend… and a very well-known friend at that. They were signed by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback to his 604 Records label, which helped the disk to get released by Roadrunner Records in the US.
Consisting of four talented guys – lead singer and guitarist Tyler Connolly, Dave Brenner on guitar, Dean Back on bass and now Joey Dandeneau on drums, Theory released their self-titled CD in 2002. The debut was produced by Kroeger and included the hit single “Make Up Your Mind.” In 2005, their sophomore release titled Gasoline hit the radio waves bringing the group more notoriety, fueled in part by several singles including “Santa Monica” and “Say Goodbye,” which was released on the soundtrack for the popular video game Fahrenheit. Then in April 2008, the guys released their latest CD, Scars and Souvenirs – proving this group has evolved and matured with thirteen new tracks of what is their best album yet.
Besides the creative growth heard in Scars and Souvenirs, this CD once again offers hits like “Bad Girlfriend” – which almost didn’t make it to the album – and their current mega-hit “Not Meant To Be” which was co-written with American Idol’s newest judge, Kara DioGuardi. During the making of this CD, Theory also turned to former Idol contestant and platinum selling artist Chris Daughtry for his help with vocals on “By the Way.”
Hollywood has once again come knocking. In 2002, Theory was introduced when their song “Invisible Man” was used for the soundtrack of the first blockbuster Spider-Man movie. Further getting their name out there, Tyler also played guitar for Kroeger’s huge single hit “Hero,” which was on the same soundtrack. Now in 2009, their hit “Not Meant to Be” is being used on the soundtrack to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which should once again help catapult Theory of a Deadman up the charts.
Recently lead singer Connolly – an extremely funny man and a gifted musician – took a break from a sound check on tour to give us a call and share what’s going on with the band, discuss how their sound, melodies and lyrics have changed and how the tight-knit group of guys that make up Theory of a Deadman are definitely meant to be musicians.
When did you know you wanted to make music your life?
Probably when I was a teenager. I think high school – grade eleven or twelve. My Dad was in a band and he had all the musical instruments and all the recording stuff. When I was a kid, I hated it because he would always jam really late and I couldn’t sleep. My Dad tried to get me to take drum lessons and I hated it. Then one day, I don’t know… I just picked up the guitar and was like, this is it. So, I guess my Dad was pretty happy then.
Throughout it all, it’s basically been you and Dave and Dean? What’s it like working with those guys?
Ah, great you know. We’re just a bunch of goofy guys that since day one didn’t take anything too seriously. It’s almost like we just play music for fun. We never took it so seriously that it became tedious. It was always like, I’m not having fun anymore so let’s just quit for the day or whatever. When we got a record deal and started doing it for a living we still tried to make it fun because sometimes it can be hard and exhausting. We always goof around and make stupid jokes just to try to keep it light.
Is it true you took the band name from “The Last Song?” Why do you think it fits you guys?
I don’t know. It was probably a bad idea. (laughs) You know what’s funny, picking a band name is probably the hardest, flukiest thing you can do. It represents your band forever. If you pick a bad band name it could probably make or break you. With Theory of a Deadman, sometimes I get people who are like “Wow, that’s a great name,” and some people are like “Ahhh, it’s very interesting” or “Hard to remember.” Sometimes it’s good. But it is thought provoking and it’s different and we love it.
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback has been a champion of the band from the beginning – he signed you to his label and co-wrote several of the songs on your debut. How did you get involved with him and what is he like to work with?
We were friends and he pretty much knew I was in a band and heard our stuff and was like, “I’m starting a label. Are you guys interested in getting on it?” And we were like, “Yeah.” And through that we got signed to a major label in America and he offered to produce our first record and he had already produced the demos which got us the record deal so we were like, “Yeah let’s just keep going.” It just turned out really good. It was great.
So, then obviously he was a good person to know.
He was instrumental. I can easily say we wouldn’t be here without his help.
Possibly the first time you were really noticed by the world at large was when your song “Invisible Man” was on the soundtrack to Spider-Man. How did that come about and how huge was it for a mostly unknown band to get an opportunity to be a part of a big hit movie like that?
It was a great introduction. I think it came about because of the “Hero” song being on that. Our record label was able to put a B-side on it and so they picked us. “Invisible Man” was never a single but I think they just picked it because it made sense for the movie. “Invisible Man”… kind of comic bookish. Kind of made sense. It was pretty cool. Back in 2002 the internet wasn’t as widespread and it spiked a lot of peoples’ interest to who Theory of a Deadman was. The word spread pretty quickly and really helped us out.
You also played on Kroeger’s hit “Hero” from the same movie. What did you do on that song?
I played guitar on that track. It was supposed to be Jerry Cantrell but he couldn’t make it. It was literally a one day thing when Cameron played drums and Josey Scott came and sang. It was supposed to be Jerry Cantrell but he missed a plane or something and I was just sitting there and they said, “Tyler you’re up. You’re playing guitar.” I did and we recorded it and then shot the video the next day. It was great. The song turned out to be a huge hit. I went and saw Spider-Man at the theatre and heard my guitar solo and was like, “Shhhh, that’s my guitar solo. That’s crazy.” I don’t know why I was the only one in the theater standing up screaming “YEAH!” (laughs)
Your debut album came out and became a pretty substantial hit – even winning you guys a Juno for best new artist. How surreal was it when you started popping up on the radio and TV and all?
I think surreal is a good word for it because basically we hadn’t started touring much yet. We had a first single that came out and it got good radio play around but they really played us a lot in our hometown of Vancouver. It’s just kind of surreal, driving around and hearing our song playing on the radio. It was just weird. So, yeah I would definitely describe it as surreal.
The follow-up album Gasoline had two songs sort of about the Los Angeles scene – “Hating Hollywood” and “Santa Monica.” Was the album itself a reaction to the whole stardom lifestyle?
Ahhh. Not really. I don’t know what it was about LA. I moved down there and did some songwriting there on my own. Maybe it just sort of spiked some creativeness in me about Hollywood and you know how fake it could be which is what “Hating Hollywood” came from. “Santa Monica” was more or less just a metaphor because Santa Monica is a pretty beautiful place so kind of a metaphor for a better place, I guess.
Scars and Souvenirs is a great album. What do you feel you did different with this third disc from the first two CDs? And how has your writing changed?
I think I’ve just become more confident. I’ve learned a lot as a songwriter. It’s a process much like everything else. Like being an architect… You pretty much design something from the ground up and you learn a lot. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. I think I’ve become more confident and knew what I wanted to do. I was a lot more open minded about a song so if I wanted to sit down and write a song about how I met my wife or a song about being lonely, I just do it. I just sit down and write it and I felt really good about what I was doing at that point.
You had a big hit with “Bad Girlfriend,” which is sort of a big old-fashioned rock song. Why do you think that songs like that catch on?
I have no idea. (laughs) I don’t. You know, that song almost didn’t make it on the record.
Yeah, we did like three weeks of pre-production and we never even jammed that song. It was just like a riff that I wrote and it had no lyrics and one day I said, “let’s jam this song.” I was just mumbling words and the melody and I was like, “I don’t know, I’ll write lyrics for it later.” We recorded all the tracks in the studio and then it was the very last song I sang and at that point we had a whole record done. I was like, “I don’t know if this is going to make it on the record, I mean whatever.” Even our producer was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if the song is any good.” I thought it might be too cheesy and it was weird. Then when we heard it all done and mixed, we were like “Man, this is an awesome rock song.” It turned out to be a single and it was just one of those things, it just took off. I don’t think anyone knew that song was going to be a big hit.
What does your wife think about the song?
Well when I first ran into her, it was at a nightclub and she was the kind of crazy girl described in the song, so it’s almost a true story. I don’t think a lot of people can relate. They call me up and say, “My girlfriend is the bad girlfriend.” And I’m like, “Actually, my wife is the original bad girlfriend.” (laughs)
Congratulations for just making the top 20 on VH1 with “Not Meant To Be.” It’s a great song. What was it like working with Kara DioGuardi while writing the song and making the video?
That came about as another fluke, I think. She writes with a lot of pop artists, big artists like Pink, Ashlee Simpson and she’s even written songs for Celine Dion. It’s pretty crazy. It was just one of those things where I lived right down the street from her in LA and someone called her and said, “Do you want to write with this guy named Taylor Connolly from a rock band?” She said, “Sure.” I don’t think she even knew who our band was. (laughs) So, I just went to her house and we wrote “Not Meant to Be” in like fifteen minutes which was just one of those things. It just came around and sounded really awesome.
For as well as the first albums did, this new CD is getting even more airplay. How gratifying is it to have your music getting such huge exposure out there?
It’s pretty good. It’s like the hard work is paying off. It feels really good to be able to be in a band and see you can do it for a living and see the reaction happening. It’s almost like running into an old lady at a grocery store and she says, “What do you do for a living?” And you’re like, “I play in a rock band” and she’s like, “uhh huh,” while thinking, “dirt ball.” Having that success feels good. That’s the whole reason you get into a band, to have people react to what you write. It’s gratifying.
Howard Benson (who has worked with POD, Hoobastank, All-American Rejects, Matthew Sweet, My Chemical Romance, Daughtry and many others) produces the new CD. How did you hook up with him and what was he like to work with?
It was his manager I think, that was a fan of ours. And she called him and said, “You gotta work with this band called Theory of a Deadman.” So he checked us out and was like, “Ahh, I don’t know.” Then he flew up to Vancouver and watched us play some songs and then he said, “These are some good songs, I think I’ll produce your record.” And that’s how it came to be. It was different you know, working with Chad on the first record was a long process and it was very hands on. You spent a lot of long hours, a lot of partying. Some days we’d go to the studio and not get anything done. Get drunk and stuff. With Howard it’s all work. You’re in the studio at ten AM and out by six PM. It’s like going to a job. You get so much done in the day and it was totally different atmosphere and it was great. We loved it. I love how he produces records.
A lot of your music is about relations ending or in trouble. As a songwriter, do you find dying relationships more interesting that happy ones?
I write what I feel so I don’t necessarily know, but I think people can relate to the break up stuff, the miserable stuff. Music is cathartic in a way that it’s medicinal almost. People listen to music and it makes them feel better. I’ve always kind of felt writing songs that are always happy all the time just annoys the hell out of people.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I don’t know. They just sort of come to me. I just kind of sit down and think. When I wrote the song with Kara DioGuardi, she told me when she writes songs, she just sits down and thinks, “How are you feeling? What’s going through your mind today? Is there something that’s bothering you? Is there something you feel great about?” We’d just sit and talk and drink some wine. That’s pretty much the best way to come up with an idea for a song. It’s just really how you feel and then you come up with these honest ideas.
Between the three CD’s, do you have a favorite?
The new one is my favorite for sure. I think it has to do with the reaction and the fans really loving it. That’s why we do it really. I mean, we haven’t been doing it long enough to put out a jam record and not really give a shit if it sells. I think when bands get old, sometimes they get selfish and put out music that they just care about and the fans are like: this sucks!
You’re on the road with Motley Crue on their Crue Fest. How did that opportunity come about and what is that like?
We just finished the tour with them and then we’ll go back out with them in the summer. They were looking for bands to open for them, and our label pitched it to them. They’re methodic about picking the bands, ones doing well, selling records, ones what makes sense for them.
After the tour, what’s next for Theory of a Deadman?
Keep touring I guess. More Crue Fest and then we’re going to Europe in the fall.
What do you think of yourself as most – a singer, songwriter or guitarist?
I’m all three now, I guess. I think for the longest time I was in denial about being a songwriter and singer. I’ve always been a guitar player. I love being a guitar player. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t love picking up the guitar, but there are definitely days when I don’t want to sing and I hate singing and my throat hurts. Or there are definitely days when I don’t want to write a song. So I’m all three, but in my heart I think I have always been a guitar player and that’s what I’ll always be.
You’ve had a lot of drummers over the years. Are you guys trying to outdo Spinal Tap for most drummers in a band?
(laughs) Yeah, no kidding. I don’t know. They all hate us. We must be horrible people. No, it’s one of those weird things when people just don’t work out or people don’t fit. We have a guy named Joey right now, so hopefully he’ll be around forever and he won’t blow up. (laughs again)
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Paul McCartney. (laughs) No really, I don’t know. I think I’d like to write some songs with some pop people. You know who I really love is Rhianna. She’s got a really awesome voice. She’s hot. It would be fun to do a song with her and some other hot women too. Somehow I think it would definitely be a lot more intriguing to do a song with a hot chick than some sweaty dude.
Are there any misconceptions about the band that you would like to clear up?
I don’t think so. I mean, I think the only misconception might be the name of the band. People might think we’re a metal band or we’re heavier than we are and then they hear “Not Meant to Be” and they are like, “Really, that’s them?”
|#1 © 2009. Courtesy of Roadrunner Records. All rights reserved.|
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Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 28, 2009.