It was Newtown native and television writer and producer Scott Fellows who came up with the concept for what would become Big Time Rush — a TV series about four hockey player buddies from Minnesota who get “made” into a boy band with targeted appeal straight to the heart of the age 8-14 demographic.
But BTR’s mass audience for their four season Nickelodeon run and three sizzling and top selling albums might be surprised to know the seamless integration of TV and music, along with the creation of a powerhouse concert draw, was inspired by a foursome popular when their moms and dads were 8 to 14: The Monkees.
If we take The Monkees comparison even further, Big Time Rush member Kendall Schmidt would be the Mike character, because he’s the one who came to BTR already experienced playing in a band.
Kendall, along with bandmades Logan Henderson, James Maslow, and Carlos Pena, Jr, will be arriving in Newtown on July 22, along with their creator Mr Fellows, to play a special free concert for the community at Fairfield Hills.
In a conversation this week with Kendall, he said the 3,500 town residents who snagged tickets are in for a show that will rely less on staging and special effects, and more on what the group does best: singing their hearts out and having a good time along with the crowd.
The conversation started by clarifying how much Big Time Rush the TV show actually compared to the popular mid-1960s Monkees series.
Newtown Bee: So any fan of The Monkees TV show could not ignore the similarities to Big Time Rush. Is the atmosphere on your show very loose and improvised the way a lot of the old Monkees stuff used to be?
Kendall Schmidt: You can see from the way the show is edited, it’s super quick. There’s tons of cuts all the time. So as far as the lines go, we kind of stick to the script - although a lot of it is being rewritten pretty much when we’re filming the scene. But all the reactions are totally us. I guess they hired us because we had some good funny faces and stuff like that.
It’s been a great learning experience for me because I never thought I’d be part of a television show like that. And Scott Fellows is a pretty incredible guy, he has a lot of influence in what you see, too.
Bee: So you were already and actor and musician before coming onto Big Time Rush?
Schmidt: I had grown up acting — music was just a side project. But it turned out I got into something that involved both. But I couldn’t have predicted that. So now I’m focusing more on music, but acting is something I’ve been doing my entire life. I did tons of TV shows and more commercials than I could name.
Bee: So with everything that’s going on, when do you get a chance to relax and recharge?
Schmidt: Well we had a day off yesterday in Philadelphia because we’re playing a show right across the river in Camden (NJ) tonight. So we stayed in the city and I went shopping and got some new clothes. When you’re on a tour you basically get to wear stuff about five times, so you have to re-up on clothes every once in awhile. So we relaxed, went out to dinner.
Bee: I can’t believe you have to shop for your own clothes. You’d think designers would be shipping all kinds of stuff to you because they want you to be seen wearing it.
Schmidt: Well anything on camera on the TV show, and on stage, we kind of switch that stuff up, but we have a fitting for all that. But if you see a picture of me walking on the street, at a meet and greet, or anything that’s outside the performing and filming, those are all the clothes we buy ourselves. And it starts to become sort of an expensive habit. I wish there were more free clothes being sent to Big Time Rush.
Bee: When you are doing the tours, I know you’re up there performing and doing publicity stuff together, but do you have individual rituals or preparations before the show?
Schmidt: That’s a really good question. Even in the dressing room it’s the four of us together. Maybe Carlos will put on his headphones for five minutes, I don’t know what he listens to, but other than that we stretch and warm up together. Then the pre-show ritual pretty much before every concert when we’re backstage getting ready to go on, is a very complicated series of various chants and things we’ve come up with over the years. It just doesn’t feel right if we don’t do it.
Bee: Let’s talk about what folks in Newtown are going to see next Monday. Does your show involve a huge amount of staging or special effects?
Schmidt: We don’t have the biggest production show in the world. I mean there are some artists out there now that have massive stage shows. And, I mean, we have had our big brilliant ideas about flying in over the audience and stuff, but what impresses me most about the guys I’m working with is how we purposefully stripped this new tour down. I mean the amount of heart we put into every show, well, you can see it. We really don’t need a lot of special effects if you just want to see us — and we do a lot of things out in the audience.
Our show is all about performance. I’m really proud of us. You’ll see when we come to Newtown how minimalist and simple, but how energetic and fun it is.