The Story Behind Hot Chelle Rae
By Adam Shivers, CNN
(CNN) — Even if you haven’t heard of Hot Chelle Rae, you’ve probably heard one of their songs.
The Nashville-based pop/rock band is behind singles like “Tonight Tonight” and “I Like it Like That,” which climbed the Billboard Hot 100 and proved to be earworms to boot.
But on tour, this breakout group brings fans much more than the standard hit songs one might expect. CNN caught up with Hot Chelle Rae’s frontman Ryan Follese, guitarist Nash Overstreet [brother to “Glee” star Chord Overstreet], bassist Ian Keaggy and drummer Jamie Follese at the end of their first headlining tour to recount their first two years as a band on a major label.
CNN: You guys recently won an American Music award, have performed on a sold-out tour and have traveled the world in the process. What’s to come?
Ryan Follese: We’ve been having the craziest, busiest year of our lives and it’s been awesome. And we’re on the last stop of our “Beautiful Freaks” tour. As far as what’s to come, a very, very short break and we’re going to be going out and doing some dates with Demi Lovato. We’re heading to Japan in June, possibly Germany, [and we’re] going to be going back to Australia in [the] fall, which is their spring. And we’re doing a lot of radio shows over the summer.
Jamie Follese: And a lot more countries which cannot be announced yet. We’re going to be all over the world this year.
CNN: When you guys were starting out, did you obtain a new fan base based on the variety of people you were performing with?
Ian Keaggy: We toured with so many different bands before we could be a band that could finally go and perform their own tour. We’ve been together for almost seven years now, and it was forever. … It was always opening for other bands … You know, we were always having to fight to win fans over. But the good thing is that we laid the groundwork and foundation for what we have now.
RF: And we’ve opened for everybody. We’re talking about starting out opening for Third Eye Blind and we’ve done dates with Big Time Rush.
JF: And Lil’ Jon.
RF: I think it’s also given us this comfortability and courage on stage because we’ve played in front of every type of crowd.
CNN: I was just comparing your first album to the second album, and it’s a huge difference. What was your progression like between the first and second album?
RF: The first album [was] a learning experience … the first thing that we did when we had a record deal. We were desperately trying to find [an] identity instead of letting your identity find you. … We wrote so many serious songs and got really intense about the musicality of things and realized it was more fun just to simplify things. And the result has been obvious.
Nash Overstreet: We’ve just begun to become comfortable. [We] lived a lot more after touring on the first album and had so many experiences and so many relationships to really inspire songs. So now we can really write about life and what we really know. It’s always best to do what you know.
CNN: I know you guys played “honky-tonk” bars in Nashville when you were getting started. How has it changed? What did you guys play then versus now?
RF: It depends on the time honestly. We were playing some of the stuff off “Lovesick Electric,” our first record, and some stuff that never saw the light of day. We played this one bar in Nashville called Springwater and it was the first place to ever have a liquor license. We played for our manager, a couple of friends, and a guy with a pit bull on a chain.
IK: The only reason why our friends came was because we were doing a photo shoot and the guy had been taking pictures of us, so they just stayed around. No one would have come otherwise.
CNN: You’ve done all kinds of collaboration with different artists, from Demi to New Boyz. What’s to come for some of the collaborations you have in the works?
RF: Collaborations, we like them to happen fairly naturally. Or find out that you’re mutual fans of each other. But the way music is these days, we’re pretty much open to anything. Just anything works. Taylor Swift just did a song with B.O.B. and it works mutually. I don’t know if anyone remembers Tim McGraw and Nelly. But if we turn around and Nicki Minaj wants to do a song with us, we wouldn’t turn that down at all.
CNN: How did the thing with Demi Lovato come together?
RF: That was a mutual fan situation. We were searching for someone who was really truly a singer. In pop, that can be difficult to do. And we found out she was a fan of our music, and it just happened very naturally.
NO: When you’re looking for someone to sing their a** off, there’s not too many people who you can really go to. And when we brought up her name, a friend of ours was like you couldn’t have picked a better person. And her voice fits it great, the voices fit well together. So it’ll be cool to tour with her this summer.
CNN: How did you come up with the name Hot Chelle Rae?
NO: I was on MySpace one day just being stupid and met this really, really attractive blonde. And she became friends with me, and she was really into chatting us all up. She kept infiltrating, meeting everyone we knew, only online. One day, a friend of ours – and Jamie chimed in saying he had the suspicion the whole time – asked, “Do you think she’s real?” And it never crossed my mind. I guess if you’re good-looking [enough], I will ignore the possibility that you may be 55.
JF: It’s so funny, because if you think about an unbelievably hot girl just sitting there at her computer all day long, just sitting on MySpace, it would never happen.
RF: Long story short, one of her many handles she had online was Chelle Rae. Once we found out she wasn’t real, we called her out and when she disappeared, we decided we liked it so much, we wanted to name the band after her.
CNN: Can we expect you guys on “Glee” soon?
RF: We would love it.
NO: We’d absolutely love it, to either be performing as a band, or our band. I feel like it’s a thing that you don’t want to ask for, you want them to ask you. If they came to us, we’d absolutely love it. We’re not one of those bands that’s like, “‘Glee’ ruined our song.” The show’s awesome, it’s funny. The exposure it gets for songs or their remakes of songs, it’s really cool.