Kevin McHale On Glee's Direction, His Future Music Plans and His Trip To Brazil

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kevin McHale knows Billboard inside and out. The website has served as his homepage since the "Gee" star was 13-years-old and using it to keep track of the success of McFly, his favorite group. When "Glee" began gaining traction in the charts, McHale, who plays wheelchair-bound club member Artie Abrams on the hit show, kept asking about the numbers so much that the label now automatically sends him sales figures every week. The 23-year-old is definitely an A&R man in the making, with a breadth of opinions on various up-and-coming pop acts and known around the "Glee" crowd for his impeccable ear and good musical advice.

Unlike some of his other cast members, "Glee" isn't McHale's first foray into the music biz. The singer first gained fame in the mid-aughts boy band NLT. Of course his well-honed dance moves are rarely on display on the show, but McHale makes up for it with vocal ability, soloing on songs like Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T" and Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself." This season, however, Artie's on-screen ambitions are more in line with McHale's behind-the-scenes talents, serving as the director for the McKinley school play. We caught up with McHale last week and he hinted at some upcoming Artie diva moments, his current musical obsessions and if fans can hold out hope for a future solo record.

Any scoop on what's happening plot-wise on "Glee"?
West Side Story is underway, you see the rehearsals and the play actually happening.

Will we see a new Artie solo soon?
No, not any time soon (oh ok). It's really about them singing West Side Story stuff and the musical opening, and for me it's about overcoming my doubts and my abilities as a director. But I don't break into song any time soon.

But we do get more of an Artie plot?
You'll see, when the play actually opens up, him kind of dealing with that. He turns into kind of a monster director. It's really funny, it's not something I ever do. A lot of what I've done with Artie story lines is serious, about him walking and whatnot, and this was really fun to kind of play a diva-ish director. It becomes a little bit more of the Artie show. He takes the bull by the horns, if you will, and puts it all on his own shoulders.

Were you surprised to find out Artie is a junior?
I was surprised, I didn't really know. I was hoping he was a junior, and when I heard that Tina was a junior I figured there was some hope. It was definitely exciting. love being on the show and I'll be around as long as they want me.

Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night," is an upcoming song on Glee. Was that weird for you since you were a part of the actual music video?
It's mostly Darren (Criss)'s song, I do some harmonies with him and he sings the lead. It's the first time it's been the reverse effect of we were in the video and then did the song after it. Adam Shankman directs that episode, and Darren felt kind of awkward about it I think. We talked about it, and then he talked with Shankman about it, the breaking the 4th wall aspect. It's backwards of how things normally work. It's a fun number and I think it will look great.

When I talked to your costar Harry Shum Jr. he told me you're the best dancer in the cast, even better than him, and he'd love to dance with you again on set. Any hopes for another Artie dancing dream sequence?
I can say that I am not anywhere close to as skilled and talented as him as a dancer. I could teach him some boy band moves, but I think that would just damage what he already does. I'm happy just being his student. It's intimidating, he's such a nice and encouraging guy. I love to dance, I'm never as good as him or Heather (Morris). I'd love to have another dream sequence, but I never thought I'd have one in the first place, but I'd be happy to have another one.

Is there anyone on the show you haven't sung a duet with yet that you'd like to?
I've never really properly sung with Naya (Rivera) or Lea (Michele). I think they're both incredibly talented, and I think I've sung with basically everybody else so it would be nice to do that.

Artie is one of the last remaining single characters on the show. I know in previous interviews you were gunning for him and Quinn to get together -- is that still the case?
I was pushing for the Quinn thing, but she's gone a little off the deep end hasn't she? It's fun to see her do that, but I think she's got enough on her plate. I enjoy him being single, but I love that they mix things up and do the unexpected. So if all of a sudden they want me to be with Quinn, I could not say no. Maybe he could even her out a bit and calm her down.

Is it safe to say Artie and Brittney are finished for good?
It seems like she's settling into being comfortable with herself and maybe moving on with Santana. But it's high school, everyone has the attention span of a fly. Anything is possible and the doors are always still open.

You were part of a boy band earlier in your career, do you have any plans now to work on solo music or release an album?
I mean, I definitely think about it. I'm so particular and such a perfectionist. I'm always making music, I still make music today, but I just want to make sure that it's the right song. That happens naturally, I don't want to force anything and just put something out just to put something out. That would be pointless and I wouldn't be proud of it. If I get enough songs together that I'm happy with then maybe something will come out. We'll see. I don't want to say anything definite, but it's a possibility.

Do you have a particular music style or genre you gravitate toward?
I love pop, I grew up on pop music, I gravitate towards that. But I love listening to Radiohead and I grew up listening to Temptations and Elvis. As a performer I love doing Temptations kind of performance, like "Ain't To Proud To Beg" where I can be free and do what I want. But in the same breath I love the big performance factor of Michael Jackson or Lady Gaga, where you can put on a huge stage show. The balance, in theory, that I'd love to go for is mixing all that together and creating a sonically pleasing sound.

Any dream collaborations?
I would never say no to working with Gaga or Katy Perry, that would be incredible. But it's more so about the song. If I'm working on a song or hearing a song and I think somebody else is perfect for it to do it with me, it's more what the song calls for as opposed to forcing the collaboration with someone. If I hear something, I kind of instantly hear if someone should be on it. I've definitely worked with a few people I never thought I'd work with because I never thought I'd work with, but we've come up with the coolest stuff I've ever done.

What about within the cast, for those of you working on solo projects, do you critique each other?
When Matt (Morrison) was working on his album, I think I was the first person in the cast he let listen. I don't know why, people trust my opinion, not that my opinion means more than anyone. I don't know what it is. I'll hear songs for certain people, like Amber would be amazing at this song or Naya would be great at this song. I'm kind of A&R boy.

It sounds like your future career is at a label.
Rob Stringer (The Chairman of Columbia/Epic Records) keeps telling people I'll have that career. I've always kind of naturally done that. I'm super critical of things.

Are there bands you're listening to that you think will blow up?
James Morrison just had a new album come out and I think he's incredible. I'd love to work with him, his voice is insane. There's a UK artist Emeli Sandé, her single debut a few weeks ago it's called "Heaven." She sounds similar to Leona Lewis, but a different kind of music. And more on the boy band pop front, in the UK there's a group called One Direction that came in third on "X Factor" last season and their song debut at Number 1 in the UK. Straight up pop and it's undeniably infectious. Nobody knows who they are here yet, but their single is great.

Boy bands have come in cycles in the U.S., do you think they're ready for a resurgence?
I definitely think it's a time and place, I think something like X Factor here could bring it back. One Direction, for example, could work here. They're great, compared to the Backstreet Boys or N'SYNC they don't dance, but you can't really compare one to the other.

You were just in Brazil for a few days. What brought you down there?
I was there for a total of 4 days. I went because one of my best friends is down there, and I went to visit him. I never have 6 days off. It was relaxing, I stayed in a really small town and I didn't get recognized too often.

Brazilian fans are some of the most passionate fans, it's surprising you weren't recognized more!
They're a bit intense, I'll say. In San Paulo I went to the movies and by the time I left the theater there was a mob at the exit. I had never been in that kind of situation when we weren't on tour and there was a whole bunch of security. I'm a little dude, and out of nowhere to have 50 or 60 people come running towards me when I'm jut with my friend, it was kind of scary. But they were all super nice.

I asked on Tumblr what people wanted to ask you...
I love the Tumblr questions, some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen or read was on there.

They're really specific. One asked about a blue bracelet you wear and want to know the meaning behind it.
That's funny. It's a Brazilian thing, it's a craze from this church in Brazil. I'm not a religious person, but one, I like how they look, and two, you tie it in three knots and you have three wishes. Since I went to Brazil for the first time I've always had one on. I have one on my ankle that's been there for two years, one on my wrist that's been there for a year and a half, and I've had two before that lasted a year and a half.
(I HAVE 2!!)

Have the wishes come true?
With the original ones, they kind of have come true. But you never know, like "It's nice they came true...or is it a coincidence?" It's one of those things where you make the wish happen.

Again from Tumblr -- and this one's important -- what's your favorite kind of cake?
I have a sweet tooth problem. On tour, in catering, the dessert was always so good. When we started the tour I was in the best shape of my life, but by the end of it I was horrible. I love chocolate mousse, that's probably my favorite. I'm a big strawberry shortcake fan as well. I'm not mad at classic vanilla either. I'm not, I'm not sure what the word is. Cake discriminatory? Cakeist?

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