Skip to main content

Secondhand Serenade gets personal

By Jessica Iavazzi, CNN
Click to play
Secondhand Serenade's frontman
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Vesely, better known as Secondhand Serenade, started as a one-man acoustic act
  • He self-produced and recorded three new tracks for this latest album in his bedroom
  • Vesely says he maintains his connection with fans via social networking
RELATED TOPICS

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- It all started with an acoustic guitar and a MySpace page. John Vesely, better known as Secondhand Serenade, began as a one-man acoustic act. Making a name for himself with his honest tales of love and loss, Vesely utilized the then-budding social networking empire to make his music known.

Vesely's songs are an emotional roller coaster that propelled the singer through his self-produced acoustic debut "Awake" to his 2008 sophomore release "A Twist in My Story," which included a full band and production team. His third studio album, "Hear Me Now," hits stores Tuesday and will include a more upbeat, electronic feel.

Returning to his roots, Vesely self-produced and recorded three new tracks for this latest album in his bedroom with his drummer Tom Breyfogle. Vesely's West Hollywood location is more than just a home. Vesely's band mates use it as a crash pad, the singer's bedroom doubles as a recording studio and his garage/laundry room was converted into the band's rehearsal space.

Vesely talked with CNN from his bedroom studio about the production of his new album, the evolution of his music and maintaining his personal relationship with his fans through Twitter and Facebook.

CNN: When did you begin writing material for your third album?

Vesely: This writing process actually started a lot earlier than you would think. One of the songs on the album was one of the first songs I've ever written. There were a few songs -- like, for instance, a song called Nightmares, on the album ... was a song that I had written for "Awake," which was years ago, like four years ago I think.

And there's a song called "Only Hope in South by Southwest," when I went right after I signed with the label, so it was well before I recorded "Twist in My Story." And some of the songs I wrote literally in the studio. ... I mean, as far as "Something More" and "You and I" and all those songs, like literally, "You and I" I wrote in February and recorded in February. That was like one of the last things we did.

CNN: Your second album had a bit of a darker tone, but you've said your new album is more upbeat and reflective. Did that just come about with the writing of it?

Vesely: The new album's upbeat feel definitely came along with the writing of it. All the albums have kind of spread out and become a different chapter of my personal story. ... This album is more about me personally rather than telling stories about a relationship.

A lot of it is self-reflection and, you know, owning up to the fact that I wasn't a great person at some points and I'm not proud of some things I've done or some ways I've acted, and it's hard when you make mistakes and kind of brush them under the carpet, and leave them for later, and I finally wanted to deal with that in this album. It was a lot about telling people what's happened and being able to free yourself after that.

Once you get that out, you can move on and be happy. I'm in a really happy place right now because I'm so focused on music, surrounded by great people and really talented musicians, and I'm kind of given a second chance now, and I want to really take that and cherish it.

CNN: When you first started working with music producers on your second album, did you find you liked that better? And why did you choose to self-produce some tracks on your new album?

Vesely: I definitely have always liked to do things by myself, just because I like to be a part of it. The more I do, the more it's my music, personally. Of course, working with a producer is a necessary thing when you're making music, because they're trying to put your creative thoughts together, and make it as effective as possible in a song form. ... Being able to do the three tracks on this new album on my own with my drummer Tom [Breyfogle] was a great experience because it was the first time that I'd gotten to produce something except my first album "Awake," but that was pretty much just acoustic guitar and vocals, so there's not much production going on, so to speak.

CNN: "Awake" was just you and your acoustic guitar. Now you've added a full band and more production. How have your fans reacted to more production and a bigger sound?

Vesely: "Something More," it's the new single, it's been out on iTunes for little bit now, and we've gotten a lot of really, really good feedback. And it makes me happy to see -- going from an acoustic background to this more electronic, rhythmic feel -- they still find the beauty and the honesty in the music, and they can appreciate it, and that's really important.

But there's always people that aren't into it. For instance, some people will [give it a bad review] and say, "What's going on, what is this?" Then they'll continue, "It's not a bad song, but it's totally not Secondhand Serenade." So it's not necessarily a bad review they're giving, it's just that they can't get past the fact that I'm evolving as an artist and I'm trying to break out creatively.

And that's OK; you can't please everyone because if I'd still be playing acoustic right now, everyone would be like, "OK, we get it, you're acoustic, what now?" I think the evolution's necessary, and it's natural, and I hope people can appreciate it.

CNN: You've responded to feedback and sometimes criticism from your fans that you've received online. Why do you think it's important to address that?

Vesely: I'm very, very personal with my fans.

I Twitter like crazy and I Facebook like crazy, and I respond to them all the time, and it's something that's been important to me since the beginning cause that's pretty much how I got started. They're like part of my army, they work with me, and I can't do any of this without them.

I feel it's important, rather than ignore them and be like, "Whatever, I'm still selling the album and still selling the song, and one person's opinion doesn't matter." You know one person's opinion, two people's opinions, or five people's opinions, even if it's among thousands or hundreds of thousands of opinions, it still matters.