Unlike many of today’s young, upcoming bands, Hot Chelle Rae wasn’t hot on the Internet before it landed a deal.
“One of the main reasons we were getting turned down [by labels] was because we didn’t have enough Myspace friends,” vocalist/guitarist Ryan Follese says of the band’s early days. “It was like, ‘Oh, you only have 30,000 Myspace friends. That’s only 30,000 albums. I’m sorry.’ We knew we needed to get the attention of a label that didn’t care about that.”
To say that Sony’s now-defunct Jive Records didn’t care about Internet buzz may be a stretch, but in 2008 the label did see something in the then-unknown act, and it wasn’t its Myspace friends. Three years later, Hot Chelle Rae is far from an online nobody. With the band’s sophomore set, “Whatever,” set to arrive Nov. 29 on RCA, the Nashville pop act has more than 60,000 Twitter followers, 300,000-plus likes on Facebook, an American Music Award (AMA) for new artist of the year and, perhaps most important, a hit. Released in March, lead single “Tonight Tonight” peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August and has sold 2.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The video has racked up more than 21 million views on YouTube.
“‘Tonight Tonight’ was really all it took to change the trajectory into something more rapidly upwardly rising,” says RCA VP of marketing Dan Mackta, who has worked with the band since its 2009 Jive debut, “Lovesick Electric” (20,000 units, according to SoundScan). “We had slowly and steadily been building for three years, and then we had a massive hit record over the summer. That changes the complexion of things considerably.”
Formed in 2005, Hot Chelle Rae is no stranger to the industry. Follese and his brother Jamie (drums) are sons of songwriters Keith and Adrienne Follese ( Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That,” Faith Hill’s “The Way You Love Me”); lead guitarist/vocalist Nash Overstreet is the son of singer/songwriter Paul Overstreet (“Daddy’s Come Around,” the Judds‘ “Love Can Build a Bridge”); and bassist Ian Keaggy’s father, Phil, is a Grammy Award-nominated guitarist. “We’re songwriters, not just a band,” Ryan Follese says. “We grew up on the radio. We’ve always loved pop music. It’s a genre we really love, and we wanted to touch that same audience.”
In addition to “Tonight Tonight” and second single “I Like It Like That,” which features New Boyz and is No. 25 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 airplay chart, the band fully explores its pop potential on the 11-track “Whatever”-tailor-made for a young demographic at radio. Producer Emanuel Kiriakou ( Clay Aiken, Backstreet Boys), songwriter Evan “Kidd” Bogart ( Beyoncé, Rihanna) and production/songwriting team S*A*M & Sluggo (Metro Station) contributed to the project.
With radio already onboard, Hot Chelle Rae is amping up its online presence: The video for “I Like it Like That” clocked more than 1 million views in the three days following its Oct. 7 Vevo debut, and the group has been active on Spotify, with ad placement targeting specific playlists.
The band performed Nov. 20 during the AMAs’ preshow (the broadcast’s only live performance) and picked up the Sprint new artist of the year award. TV appearances are also lined up for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Today” and “Live! With Regis and Kelly” during release week. On Dec. 9, Hot Chelle Rae will share a bill at New York’s Madison Square Garden with Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Kelly Clarkson, David Guetta and others, as part of WHTZ New York’s Jingle Ball. The group will also open for Taylor Swift in March during her arena tour of Australia. “This is going to be massive for them, and it’s going to have an echo effect around the world,” Mackta says of the tour.
Yet, the band sometimes still feels like an unknown act. “Every time we play a show, my brother Jamie still asks if we’re sure people are going to be here,” Ryan says. “I don’t know that we’ll ever fully believe it.”