1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
It was Weezer's Pinkerton. I bought it on CD the day it came out. I fell in love with it immediately and was SO confused when none of my friends liked it the way I did. I couldn’t understand how they weren’t hearing the same things in it that I was hearing. I feel like most people came around to it a decade or so later. Way ahead of its time, I suppose. It’s still one of my all-time favorites.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
It was Counting Crows at Saltair in SLC. Shortly after Across A Wire was released. The venue has been there for around a hundred years, I think. At one point it was Salt Lake City’s own version of Coney Island before the lake was polluted in the 70’s. But it was a beautiful show. Fantastic live band.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My dad was always in construction when I was little. My older brother and I would accompany him on side jobs that he would get for himself on the weekends, and aside from that, he was a Jeet Kune Do instructor. He was taught and certified by one of Bruce Lee’s direct students, so we grew up learning martial arts as well as accompanying him on construction sites. Then dad became a firefighter, and did all those jobs for years. Mom was always occupied volunteering church duties and babysitting other neighborhood kids. They both did everything they could to keep us afloat.
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
My wife. Before that, everyone I ever knew, from family to teachers and guidance counselors, told me to quit daydreaming on this “waste of time” hobby that would only leave my life in ruins. When my wife and I were dating, and we reached that moment where you share your plans and dreams for the future with each other, she was the first person to ever respond with a, “Yeah, you can do that. Of course, you can!” Nobody had ever believed in me like that before.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
It’s bizarre that I’ve been lucky enough to check off most of my professional bucket list already. Even if it’s just a technicality. For example, playing SNL someday has always been spinning in the back of my mind. I DID get to play the SNL stage once for an event for NBC. It wasn’t for SNL, but it was the stage, so even if it never actually happens, I feel like that’s close enough. I can die happy.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
Salt Lake City gets overlooked a lot. It’s a lot more progressive than people know, especially when it comes to music and the arts. There is this wonderful and thriving scene here that cultivates so much talent! And it’s unlike any other scene I’ve experienced. The people here that make art do it because they HAVE to, because it’s in them. Nobody here is chasing fame or trying to perpetuate some ego-filled lifestyle, and at the same time, everyone wants to help each other succeed. It helped me learn to be an artist in the best possible environment. Making art for its own sake. I love it here.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
“Go To Sleep Kimberly,” by an amazing and highly underrated band called Superet. We had them on tour with us, back when touring was a thing. Fantastic band and wonderful people. Do yourself a favor and get their record. It’s fantastic!
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would’ve loved to have seen Nirvana back in the day. Or any number of legendary acts that could only be possible with a time machine. The Beatles at The Cavern Club at any other point, really. Were time travel possible, I feel like I would use it exclusively for concerts.
9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
The craziest thing I’ve seen is a room full of people be completely silent just because I raised my finger to my lips. The fact that doing that actually works blows me away. The reality of it, I know has very little to do with me, and more to do with the communal feeling that comes with a live show. But a room full of strangers, sharing a single moment is always pretty magical to see.
10. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?
It’s given me a lot more opportunities to collect and develop ideas. That can be a difficult task on the road.
11. How did you first hear that “Leave Me Alone” had hit No. 1 on the Alternative Airplay chart?
I got a series of congratulatory text messages from our management when I woke up in the morning. After that, I got up and shoveled the snow off of my driveway.
12. At what point did you get an inkling that “Leave Me Alone” would be a breakthrough hit for the project?
I knew I really liked the song as we were recording it in the studio, and it was finally coming to life. I don’t think you can ever really know if something is going to be a “hit.” And I think it’s probably best not to concern yourself with trying to manufacture one either. It’s been a lovely surprise that people have responded to it the way that they have. We’re incredibly lucky.
13. You found considerable success as part of Panic! At The Disco. How different does it feel as the leader of this group?
Writing and performing for another artist is a different experience. You have to become accustomed to “letting go” of your ideas. That was challenging because I always feel very connected to what I write, so handing ideas over to someone else and watching them be changed or perhaps their meanings become diluted can be difficult. So, it’s nice to be able to have nothing standing in between an idea, and the finished product.
14. How did you prepare to perform “Leave Me Alone” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the band’s late-night debut?
It was a little nerve-racking, since it was our first performance together in a year, and it’s on national television! So, I was a bit nervous and I think you can see that in the footage. But we had some wonderful musicians and live singers backing us up, which we’d never really done before, but they were great, and it ended up feeling really good at the end of it all!
15. Since the band name was inspired by a Back To The Future quote, how would you rank the Back To The Future films?
Sequential order for sure.
16. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
I won a gold medal fighting in the Utah Summer Olympics when I was younger.
17. What’s your karaoke go-to?
“Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton. That’s how I party.
18. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
This could be a very long list. Just last night I cried watching Endgame, when Cap picks up Thor’s hammer and smacks down Thanos. I’m a baby.
19. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t waste time on people who don’t care about you. And don’t wait around for an apology you’ll never get.
20. What does a successful 2021 look like for you?
A round of vaccines for everyone and a show or two would be nice. I would call that a win.