This is a guest post written by Mark Douglas, of Next New Networks’ hit web series “Key of Awesome.”
You might have noticed that starting yesterday, the band Weezer appeared in cameos in videos on over a dozen top YouTube channels. These include The Gregory Brothers, Tay Zonday, Ray William Johnson and our own channel, Barely Political. Here’s the brief story of how I used this rather nerve-racking opportunity to get on stage with one of my favorite bands and give my wife a killer one-year anniversary video in the process.
In 2009, I began starring in my first online video show: a music/comedy web series called The Key of Awesome (part of Next New Networks). We’ve done more than 50 videos in the series this year, and we’ve been able to build the show up to 200 million views in that time. Coming from a standup background, where I often played to rooms of a few dozen people (or less), it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that online video has allowed us to reach so many people. The highlight moment of this whole online video experience may have been when we confirmed I’d get to write and perform a song live with Weezer.
The call came in August to think of a song idea that Weezer could sing with me. I’m a huge Weezer fan, and so I was elated, scared, and almost in disbelief. Obviously, I said yes immediately, but was clueless as to what concept would be worthy of my musical heroes.
Then as I was thinking about what to get my wife for our upcoming first anniversary, it hit me: I’ll write a song for my wife, and have Weezer sing on it. With the help of my amazing music producer Jake Chudnow, we came up with a song that had a classic Weezer vibe, but still felt like a Key of Awesome song.
When I first started dating my wife in 2003, we pretty much fell in love instantly. However, music was an area we initially didn’t connect on. I couldn’t stand her taste in music (Broadway musicals), and she hated all the stuff I listened to (The Smashing Pumpkins/hair metal). This made road trips difficult. Initially, one of the only bands we were able to agree on was Weezer, and we listened to a lot of Weezer in the early days of our relationship. So a Weezer song about my wife was the answer. Now I just needed to write it.
Since I was working on several music videos the week prior to the Weezer shoot, I had to write most of the song on the plane to Los Angeles to film it. From there I recorded the vocals in my hotel room, and Jake finished putting together a demo for playback minutes before leaving to meet Weezer. So we pull into the parking lot across from the Thom Thom Club, and I immediately see Scott Shriner, bassist for Weezer, just hanging out. I introduced myself and tried to act like I wasn’t freaking out. The rest of the band arrived shortly after Scott, and I was suddenly starstruck and nervous about how I was about to play a song for guys I’ve idolized for 17 years. It felt like I was about to do a stand up set in front of George Carlin.
Aside from all the members of Weezer, the room was a who’s who of famous YouTubers: Dave Days, Ray William Johnson, Andrew Gregory of The Gregory Brothers, Dane Boedigheimer of The Annoying Orange, Mystery Guitar Man, and StSanders (who makes those awesome shredding videos). There was the added nervousness of performing my song in front of all these guys that I watch all the time, but all of them knew who I was and were very complimentary of my work.
There really does seem to be a strong sense of YouTube community out on the West Coast. Most of the people doing this work very hard, and seem to appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given. It’s pretty hard to become a YouTube diva, because there’s not much time to sit back and think about your success. You’ve always got more videos to make! Ray William Johnson is about as big as you can get right now, but he was setting up his own camera and sound before interviewing Rivers Cuomo. Every time I’ve been in a room full of “Internet celebrities,” the thing that strikes me is that they are all just regular people. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about Weezer, too: They just seem like normal nice guys who happen to rock. YouTube has always been about artists communicating directly with fans, and Weezer has been doing that since before YouTube was invented.
My time to shoot with Weezer was pretty short. I only had a half an hour, but I got all of the shots I needed in a hectic frenzy. Lead guitarist Brian Bell asked me what the chords were to the song and I was so nervous that I forgot what chords were. “Um G, A minor, um H?” He realized I was a huge dorky fanboy and was really nice about it. Then he told me he really liked the song. This is a guy I’ve seen in concert four times. Completely surreal.
The one moment that I’ll always remember is Rivers Cuomo coming up to the microphone right next to me, and singing my wife’s name “Anastasia” at the top of his lungs. Rivers Cuomo is hard to read at times, but once I played him the song and told what I needed from him he committed to it without an ounce of self-consciousness.
I’ve always been fascinated by how online video as a community brings people together that normally may never collaborate or meet. The fact Weezer reached out to us and considers themselves part of that community felt like another indication that online video as a medium is continuing to rapidly grow. As a bonus, it allowed me to jam with my rock icons. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I hope my wife likes the video.
Mark Douglas is the writer and star of the online phenomenon The Key of Awesome. Mark spend over 10 years performing in sketch and stand up comedy, studied theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has done voiceover work for Sesame Street, HBO and College Humor. Other credits include being half of the comedy duo The Rob and Mark Show, hosting the Spike TV show Geek Ray Vision and writing for the show Nintendo Week. All of Mark’s videos including The Key of Awesome series can be found at barelypolitical.com and barelydigital.com.
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