On teaming up with Emerge “I’ve been involved with other conferences and festivals for many years. I’ve done so much stuff at South by Southwest, but it’s gotten so big. I like the idea of a new festival and conference, and this one feels perfect.
At a lot of other festivals there’s too much of a gap. There’s so much focus on headliners that people don’t find new talent and new bands. A lot of these artists have a chance to blow up in a few years. One year at the MTV Woodies at South by Southwest, I introduced Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons and Fun, and they all ended up having huge hits. That’s what I expect to happen here.”
Participating artists he’s excited about “K.Flay. Mondo Cozmo. Residual Kid—young kids from Austin who I’ve seen play a bunch of times. And Beach Slang, of course. I love that band. Take a guy like Mondo Cozmo, who was signed to two record deals before he took off with his newest thing—he has a perspective he can share with other up-and-coming artists. I think there’s gonna be a lot of value there for artists and for people in general to come and learn, to get real insider information.”
On his Emerge plans “I’m gonna be all over it, hosting shows, speaking, conducting some interviews with artists and doing everything I can to support that next wave. I’m also gonna take a ton of questions. I want it to be a very interactive experience, so I plan to be very accessible.”
On Emerge’s setup “Vegas is the perfect place to have the event, because it’s got the best hotels and the best music venues. And I think the way that this is gonna be laid out—with everything mixed together so it doesn’t separate the panels or the discussions from the music fan—is one of the coolest ideas that I’ve come across.”
On what he looks when scouting rising bands ”You have to have songs, no matter what. The song is as much the star as the artist performing it. It’s okay if artists haven’t reached the point where they’re a great live act. I can listen through for the songs. That can expand, but it starts with the songs.”
On the title of his 2016 memoir, All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life “I’d been in England, and there was a guy there who’d been given a [demo] CD by The Killers that he was playing for me on a train. He said they were from Vegas and they didn’t even have a record yet. And I said I’ve gotta find these guys and sign this band.
At the same time the U.S. Army had called me and asked me to mentor soldiers who were musicians and had come back wounded—a lot with PTSD, a lot with injuries—and music was their absolute passion. So I flew to Colorado City, Colorado, and spent a couple days mentoring soldiers, which was a really rewarding experience for me.
When I got done there I flew directly to Vegas and went over to [Killers drummer] Ronnie Vannucci’s family’s garage. The guys were in there playing, with a bunch of blankets on the walls for soundproofing. And then we went out to dinner. I was trying to sign them [for Columbia], as was Island/Def Jam. After dinner [Killers frontman] Brandon [Flowers] drove me back to my hotel, and he had two Beatles cassettes in his car: ’62-’66 and Help!. So he and I drove down the Strip singing top of our lungs “Help!,” “The Night Before,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” Then we went into the Hilton and hung out, and I told him about mentoring the soldiers. The next day, I got a call from their old manager, telling me, ‘You inspired Brandon to write a song. The ‘I got soul but I’m not a soldier’ part was inspired by my mentoring the guys returning from the army. The first time I heard it, it blew my mind. And even though they signed with Island/Def Jam—which was more aggressive than my bosses were at the time—we’ve remained good friends. And The Killers—and Imagine Dragons—are both involved in Emerge with me now.”
Greenspun Media Group, the Weekly’s parent company, is an Emerge sponsor.