In 2009 you were dealt a tough hand with your apartment burning down and your father passing away. What kept you going through all this adversity?
Music, the album Gently.
If I can get personal…
When my dad died he was kind of at the peak of his career in a way. He was becoming more than just an infomercial guy and being more like a meme, a pop culture guy. He was kind of in on the joke and he liked playing in on it and making fun of himself. He was becoming beloved in that way.
He had successful reality show called pitchmen, which had a successful first season on the discovery channel. He died the week before the season one finale episode aired. So, they made a tribute episode an extra episode that was an hour of looking back on his life. It was really great.
We had this vision of where it was all going and I was going to be a big part of helping with it. We were going to modernize his public appearance so he could interact with people better.
He just signed a deal before he died to be the spokesperson for Taco Bell. This was like a huge deal and they were going to make these mock infomercials with him hosting them pitching tacos or whatever. It would of been amazing. I think it was a big step in him kind of being less about selling gadgets and more about him being a character which I think he was having fun with. He was starting to come into his own like with improv and timing and all that.
There was all these ways it could of went.
He also had health problems he had a bad hip looking back he was deteriorating in the two years where he was the most successful. He was working too much he had two hip replacements that his body didn’t take and so he had to get another one on the same hip. His third one, It was scheduled for two days after he died. That Monday, he died on a Saturday night. It was the third one and they were like if this doesn’t work we are not going to do this again.
Looking back it was like holy shit it was all building to something bad happening it felt like. His body was not right and he was on pain pills and you know probably abusing the pain pills because he is trying to live and work and being in pain while being in airplanes all the time.
Looking back I wish I could of shook him and been like HEY we need to focus on your health first. I think he was like if something bad happens I want to get all this work in so that when he has to recover from this surgery or whatever there would be all this stuff ready to come out.
He did all could in those weeks. He was exhausted. So, when he died it was the most shocking thing.
I get the phone call in the morning and I actually just had talked to him the night before. We were talking about the future because he was going down for this surgery but we were also assuming that while he was recovering we were going to be doing all this stuff on the computer. I was reassuring him that we are going to be getting stuff done while he is recovering not just like sitting around. We had this great talk it was this really future based talk, which we didn’t have all the time. It felt as if he was very solemn like serious about it all and we kind of appreciated each other, then we were like okay ill see you Monday and then he died it was really shocking but, I remember that shock but I also remember this instant acceptance thinking it would have probably been harder had if I would have tried to fight it.
You know like why us why me kind of thing. If I had really dove into that like a lot of people do, like I wanted to. I feel it would of been a lot harder and a lot of worse things might have come out of it, but I felt like I instantly had to step in and step up and kind of put my chest out and be there for people.
I mean I had my moments too, but I remember being at funeral I was what 22…. I was 22 at the funeral in Pittsburgh and the family is falling apart my grandma is inconsolable. Everyone is really going through it. I remember I just stood next to the casket with the men just hugging everyone and I felt that I was hugging people for my dad I feel like as hard as it was I feel like it was something that got me through. I felt if I wasn’t ready for this it wouldn’t have happened.
I adopted this philosophy that as much as I wish my dad was around doing Taco Bell commercials right now maybe this is what my path was supposed to be too.
There were a lot of things that came after that were challenging around the press TMZ people making assumptions about his life and my life. People harassing me a little bit which is weird, but you find out that happens to every celebrity especially the celebrities families when the celebrity dies.
On a side note I want to get this out there. I read about Michael Jackson’s kids getting harassed. Robin Williams daughter leaving twitter because people harassed her about her dads death. Even Steve Erwin’s kids they all are stepping into their own in their own way. One time I want to get panel of us to talk about it so that people can see that there are these sick people out there who do this. I feel this needs to be called out in society. You can’t just be a troll who would do that? It has personal place in my heart that really affected me I could only imagine on a bigger scale. I would love to be advocate for this little weird thing why would you harass someone that you don’t know. Almost like an anti-trolling patrol.
I tried to be really open about my grieving on the internet and twitter and stuff and I feel like it may have helped people see that there was a human on the other side. I feel like the year my dad died 2009 was the first year public grieving became a thing people started connecting all the celebrities that died together. Like WOW all these people are dying Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon,Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze all died 2009. South Park did an episode about it called dead celebrities it kind of shows that this is where the culture was going. This narrative that celebrities die in threes kind of thing and really it has always happen now the internet just connected us all. Now it is a thing like who died this year? You see this big list like holy shit everyone is going. No, that is just life.
I think a lot of that stuff got me through it and then I kind of had to get to a point over years and years like kind of shaking the whole stigma of my dad not a stigma, but I didn’t want that to be the first thing they hear about me. I was on this path before he died anyway as much as you think it would be this thing. Being the son of someone who is mildly famous, as much as you think it would be this huge perk it had its equal down falls where people don’t take me seriously . That I am only getting recognition because of who his dad was.
I tried to make that obvious that this is not what is happening I want that to be a secondary thing they find out about me I am also not ashamed of it and don’t hide or use a fake name or something.
I am proud of my name and proud of who I am. It just took me awhile to get to that balance of representing for my dad, but also not like pimping out my dads image. I never wanted to do that and I feel like I still don’t do it.
Oddly enough I feel like I am becoming a pitchman for years and years I said no I am musician, but more and more I feel like it is in my blood. It is in anyone’s blood that needs find the tasteful ways to get themselves out there and their products quote unquote my art is what I make it is what I believe in. I have to pitch it to people in different ways, languages, styles, and mediums.
I feel like I am this Billy Mays 2.0 we joke 3.0. Billy Mays 3.0.
I have to be like the modern style of a pitchmen not like yelling in your face buy this! It is more like I am pitching my art, culture, and it is an art form.
My dad always felt that way too. Pitching it self was an art form he just came from an old version of it like carnival barkers basically. That is what he brought to the mainstream it is kind of like a dying breath he invigorated it to show it. Now it’s almost gone.
People still copy him, but it is already like done now.
I am trying to bring subtlety to it to my dads style I will be in your face a little bit I will be loud I am not afraid to pitch like that, but at the same time I want there to be subtly around it and emotion and reality to it….intimacy.
That was one thing people didn’t know about my dad I want people to know me I don’t want to separate the pitching part of me from the human part of me. If people knew my dad he was this amazing, generous person and anyone who knew him knew that and that’s why i think there was this real grief came. People felt like they wanted to like him.
Once you find out about him you were like holy shit this guy made it from nothing and then was thrust into a world of pop culture phenomenon, and he was just a nice dude a gentle dude. You would never think that, but he totally was.
That was kind of his paradox he was this quiet gentle guy ,but he was also this loud pitch men.