New Heathens

New Heathens Auditions For Reality Show

The New Heathens auditioned this morning for the new NBC reality show Star Tomorrow, but our shameless foray into selloutdom was nixed by a 14-time Grammy winner who obviously doesn’t talk to his staff.

The rules were simple. We were to perform one song on acoustic guitars, electric bass and a snare drum and the song had to come from a list of songs approved by the network which included such gems as “Three Times A Lady,” “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Mercifully, the day before the audition we received an e-mail and a phone call from the production company saying we would be allowed to perform two original songs so long as we didn’t expect any money for them.

David Foster, the Grammy gobbling producer/songwriter, would judge our performance alongside Sheila E, former drummer for the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. The production crew said that Foster was NBC’s second choice behind an obvious rock ‘n’ roll personality who declined to sign onto the show: David Lee Roth.

If we passed the audition, we would “get” to fly ourselves to LA next week to perform six songs in a sound studio. The video of that would go on NBC’s website to be voted on by millions of Americans. The band chosen best out of 100 would get its own record deal and reality show.

We were scheduled to audition at 8:30 a.m., so we met at our rehearsal studio at 7 a.m. (I had worked until 3 a.m.) to put the spit shine on what we thought were our two catchiest songs, “Getaway Baby,” and “When She’s Wasted.” Then we adjourned to Smash Studios in Midtown Manhattan for our audition.

An LA-based dude named Sean ushered us into a room for a pre-audition interview and he was considerate enough to give us both our questions and our answers. The interview went like this:

Sean: “Tell how excited you feel about trying out in front of David Foster, who is such an incredible musician as well as producer and remember when you answer make sure you talk about how this could be the most important three minutes of your career, OK?”

Me: “Oh we’re very excited…”

Sean: “Make sure you mention David Foster and what an incredible musician he is.”

Me: “Sorry. Yes we’re very excited because David Foster is a phenomenal musician and auditioning in front of him could be the most important three minutes of our career.”

“That interview made me feel like a supporting actor in a David Foster porno,” I said to the band as we were stuffed into a “tuning room” where we were forgotten about for the next two hours until a flack came in and took all the microphones out of the studio to make sure we didn’t steal them.

Finally another flack escorted us out of the room and up to the roof. Sweet! We thought. We’ll get to rock out like the Beatles!

No, just another pre-audition interview, this time with the blonde, uber-svelt host of Star Tomorrow named Michele who instructed us to “go crazy” and “be ourselves” and “show how excited we were to audition in front of David Foster.” To the enjoyment of the camera crew, we managed to sing a little bit of Getaway Baby and I scored a good luck kiss on the cheek from Michele, whose makeup was so thick her lipstick was like a tattoo.

Finally, we were led down the stairs to the audition studio, but not before I asked a crew guy a vital question.

“What does David Foster look like?”

We found out. He sat, with square-jaw and salt-and-pepper hair spiked up, in a chair in front of the stage. He wore a navy blazer over an untucked and partially unbuttoned white shirt, blue jeans and converse sneakers with no laces. To his right sat Sheila E, clad in jeans and a white top with silver sparkly straps. The stage was draped with plush curtains and featured a grand piano, an array of percussion equipment including bongos and two large, prominent Nissan emblems.

We charged into Getaway Baby. David Foster cut us off after one minute.

“OK guys, that’s enough of that, let’s hear that cover tune now,” he said.

“Um, someone from your production company both called and e-mailed me yesterday and said we didn’t have to do a cover tune, that we could do all originals,” I said.

“Oh…OK,” Foster said. “Play what you want.”

We played When She’s Wasted through the first chorus before Foster cut us off again.

“The lyrics to that song are very clever,” he said. “That’s a clever song.”

Then Sheila E piped in.

“I feel like your songs need bass drum, why didn’t you play bass drum?”

Eric, our drummer, responded that we were specifically told by the production company that we could not play bass drum, only snare. Sheila E. then asked us why we didn’t play bongos and inquired as to if they were just for decoration. Eric replied that if the production company had told us there would be bongos in the room he would’ve played them, but under the circumstances we were left to conclude that they were indeed just decoration.

Foster cut in and said, “I’m not taking you guys to LA.,” and with that we walked out the door and were met by Michele who seemed genuinely shocked that her smooch didn’t bring its intended good luck.

Then Sean grabbed us for one last interview.

“This interview is about raw emotion, so don’t hold anything back,” he said. “And remember, I’m not just some guy from LA, I really care about you guys as people, so open up to me.”

My thoughts during the final interview were to drop as many F-bombs as possible and feign sounding like a petulant English mod. My quotes went something like:

“I think it’s a fucking bad decision, but I don’t fucking care. We did this as a fucking lark and it’s total bullshit. What the fuck does David fucking Foster know anyway?”

As we left the building, camera crew guys whispered to us that they really enjoyed our song snippets. One thought kept going through my head:

“We’d be on our way to LA if instead of David Foster, they’d got Diamond Dave.”

(POSTSCRIPT 4/7/12: "Star Tomorrow" was cancelled less than nine months later. As for the lucky "winners?" Apparently the recording contract that David Foster offered the top five contestants was so bad that none of them opted to sign. But that snog I scored? Michele Merkin, baby. )

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