With his recent single, composer and pop singer Todd Michael Schultz leaps from composing award-winning animated theme songs for such worldwide hits as Sam Sam to lending his vocals to an inspired pop ballad, “You Believed in Me,” that has all the hallmarks of a radio hit. We chatted with Todd about Gaga, his Emmy Award-winning father (Bill Schultz, producer of The Simpsons), and his boyfriend, Bret Easton Ellis.
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles
BIGGEST INFLUENCE: To be perfectly honest, my father is my biggest influence, because I got my first tastes of music from his piano playing when I was very little. So he’s probably the reason why I started making up melodies in my head at the age of four (that’s the earliest one I can recall.). After that, I have to say top 40 and people like Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, and anybody who came through on my mom’s radio dial. She listens to a lot of adult contemporary, a style I actually love, and some pop, another style I love. Vanessa Carlton also comes to mind. I remember when “A Thousand Miles” came out, I was like 14, and I just had to start writing songs. That album, Be Not Nobody was perhaps one of the first albums I really listened to over and over with a critical ear, in addition to allowing it to influence me. I sort of think she’s the reason I was able to teach myself some piano when I got to college at 18. You have to remember that I’m influenced everyday. I watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time last Halloween and in the next two weeks, I had written my own little musical in a style very much like Rocky Horror. That score amazes me.
OVERCOMING ADVERSITY: The hardest part of getting to this point has been finding people I could work with. My co-writer on the song, Jaco Caraco, for example—without him, I wouldn’t have had a studio or the awesome instrumental on the song. Evan Richards, the director of the music video, did an awesome job, and really created what I think a music video should be. I’ve learned that you’ve got to have people around you who can take you to the next level. There are a lot of new acts coming out who can do it all themselves, and that’s awesome, but I would say, if you’re having trouble in any area, find somebody to help you fill that gap. That’s how you can really make anything possible.
ON IDOLS: I don’t think I have an idol. What does that even really mean?
THE IDEAL CAREER: Ne-Yo. He writes for just about everybody, and he gets to do his own thing, too. I pride myself on being a songwriter more than [being] a singer, but I’m not going to lie, I want both, and I intend to get both.
DREAM COLLABORATIONS: John Shanks. Bruno Mars. Lil Wayne. I don’t know who I wouldn’t want to collaborate with. I love collaborating. I love making music.
LITERARY INFLUENCES: J.D. Salinger’s catalogue has probably been the most influential series of books. I think they taught me how to think abstractly. They taught me that life is very abstract. That closure is a rarity. Those books taught me a lot.
MAKING MUSIC IS LIKE…: I guess it differs. But I would say that if you’re doing it right, making music is the best natural high I’ve ever gotten. It’s a place of perfection and beauty. I like to say I feel like Lady Gaga when I’m in that zone. Did I mention her as an influence?
ON FASHION: I wear whatever’s in the closet. Of course I like to look nice, but you won’t find me shopping for clothes in my free time. I do it only when I absolutely have to.
BRET EASTON ELLIS: I don’t know what to say, really. I’m in love. So I guess I would say if you’ve ever been in love, and had a significant other [for whom] you would do anything in your power to make happy… that’s how it is for me.
ON TEAM BUILDING: I learned that if you’re going to go into music, you have to find someone who can help you create something that is competitive in the tough market. I still love hearing people record songs onto their computers with cheap microphones, however, in order to actually put something out there that you hope will compete with radio music, and you need to either learn how to build the tracks yourself or, like me, find someone else who can. If being a singer is your dream, then find someone who will help you make songs that sound good. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. That’s the main thing. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. Because you can. That’s why I thought “You Believed In Me” would make a good debut single, because it’s about having someone believe in you and forgetting the ones that don’t.