According to the girls yelling in my ear all night at the Hub on Nov. 16, Teddy Geiger is hot. Sure, Geiger, a scrawny 19-year-old singer with an emo haircut and pretty blue eyes, is cute enough to draw in almost 400 girls to his first performance in Santa Barbara, but he is more ordinary and approachable-looking than the typical pretty boy turned pop star. His boy-next-door image mirrors the sound on his 2006 album, Underage Thinking, a collection of memorable pop songs that are slickly produced and radio-ready, but not so much as to prevent genuine emotion from shining through. Before his sound check, Artsweek caught up with the down-to-earth artist for a quick interview:
ARTSWEEK: You taught yourself to play the guitar and piano by the age of eight. Are there just strong music genes in your family?
Teddy Geiger: My parents weren’t very musical. But my grandparents were – one grandparent played trombone, the other played piano.
ARTSWEEK: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
The first song I wrote was called “Amazingly Fat Cows.” It was the first song I recorded, and I was probably about 10 years old. I got this little multi-track recorder and I just thought it would be funny…. [It was] about amazingly fat cows and how they were sleeping in different areas around my bedroom.
ARTSWEEK: A lot of young pop artists, after they get successful, complain about how they didn’t get enough creative freedom on their first albums. Do you feel like you got enough?
Yeah, I co-produced [my upcoming album] with Billy Mann, who produced the first one. I wrote a lot of the songs and actually recorded them back at the studio at my house, so it was a lot of really low pressure…. We had a guy, Larry Gold, compose some string stuff, and we tracked live strings at his studio in Philly. But I did all the guitars, bass, piano and drums.
ARTSWEEK: There’s a solid group of pre-teen girls in your fan base. But do you have any good groupie stories? Have any of their moms tried hitting on you or anything creepy like that?
A lot of older women ask me about my mom. They’re like, (in a high-pitched woman’s voice) “So how’s your mom, how’s she doing?” And I’m like, “Do you know her?”
ARTSWEEK: There are a lot of charities mentioned on your MySpace. How exactly are you involved with them?
With, like, Habitat for Humanity, we went down to Louisiana. They helped us put a thing together, and I helped them build. And they put a table up at the show, and we auctioned off, like, a T-shirt and stuff like that just to raise some money.
ARTSWEEK: Your album first got attention when you performed it on the short-lived CBS series “Love Monkey,” in the role of a musician named Wayne. Any other acting gigs coming up?
I just finished a movie called “The Rocker,” coming out in spring with Rainn Wilson.
The interview concluded with a friendly hug goodbye, and I then rejoined the masses to score a seat and watch the opening acts, two of which consisted of UCSB students. Cameron Lund and a keyboardist known only as Mike performed ballads that Lund wrote as a teenager. The second opening act, Coragem, followed Lund’s trend with more belted-out ballads. Irishman David Hopkins, the one opening act with a record deal, sang catchy, Oasis-inspired songs about girls that he “shagged.” It was quite a change from Geiger, who disclosed in his final song that a girl “moved too fast” for him.
The oh-so-innocent Geiger alternated between playing the acoustic guitar and the keyboard, and he shared the stage with only one other guitarist. He began his set with unreleased songs from his upcoming second album, due in March, which was not a wise choice for an audience that had just sat through two hours’ worth of openers. Desperate for some familiar songs, the attendees came back to life when Geiger busted out a sassy rendition of “These Walls.” The live, stripped-down version featured more raw energy and attitude than the recorded song, but “For You I Will (Confidence)” was still the crowd favorite. Though he was accompanied on vocals by hundreds of screaming drunk girls, the pitch-perfect singer did not allow his deep, raspy voice to be overpowered. It was hard to believe that this commanding stage presence belongs to the same polite guy who reminded me not to forget my jacket only a few hours earlier.