Never Shout Never's Christofer Drew Ingle talks songwriting, high school and escaping the spotlight
So there’s this kid, Christofer Drew Ingle, from Missouri.
High school dropout at 16. MySpace phenom at 18. At 19, his acoustic pop band, Never Shout Never, emerges as the breakout act of this summer’s Warped Tour.
And at 20, he might just toss it all away.
“Never Shout’s kinda dead at this point,” says Ingle, the group’s one-man driving force. “I haven’t even f---in’ told my management or label, really. I’ve thrown out the idea a couple of times. So all the press I’m doing, I’m just going to tell ’em all Never Shout’s dead, so it freaks everyone out. It’s all fun and games, man.”
Welcome to the carefree mind of Ingle, one of 2010’s most unlikely teen idols. Never Shout Never’s music is cutesy, sunny and unabashedly quirky, sort of like early Beatles, if the Beatles swapped their Chesterfield suits for Hot Topic tees and fuzzy hats. Following a blitz of five EPs in 2008 and 2009, Never Shout Never released their debut album, What Is Love?, in January ... then followed it with a second album, Harmony, in August. Pretty impressive output for a guy who doesn’t turn 20 for months.
Ingle is also about as far from a pre-packaged pop star as you can get. In interviews, he speaks with the blithe shrugginess of a senior on Skip Day, casual but candid about his talent (“I can usually piece together a song in about an hour or so”), and his ever-growing catalog (“I’ve put out a lot of s--- that I can hardly listen to anymore”).
He also has absolutely nothing resembling a filter. This, we learned during a recent phone interview, hours before Never Shout Never’s Harmony Tour — which hits the Ritz Ybor Saturday night — kicked off in Seattle.
You should be taking the stage in about six hours or so. What goes through your mind on the first day of a tour like this?
Just playing everything right, making sure we’ve got our s--- straight. I dunno. Just having fun, you know? Getting in the groove of things. We’ve got a pretty long tour coming up, so we’re just trying to kick if off right.
I saw where you just performed with folks like Pete Seeger and the Quarrymen for a John Lennon tribute in New York. What was that experience like?
It was great, a very chill vibe. It almost felt like a field trip from regular life, and into this little old-school world. I played a couple of cover songs, and got to play tambourine with the Quarrymen. It was a vacation from the reality of touring.
Was it an older crowd? Did they know who you were?
Yeah, nobody really knew who I was. I had to earn my respect, which is something I like to do. So it was really nice.
You get asked a lot about the Beatles. This may be a stupid question, but does that comparison bother you? Are you getting tired of it at this point?
Not really. I don’t want to be known as a Beatles ripoff band for the rest of my life. But we’re actually taking a break from Never Shout and starting up a little folk-rock project next. Get away from the scene, get away from everything that people think about us. We want to break and do something new. That’s our next adventure, starting our next record, next year. It should be cool.
Who is “we?” You and your band?
Me and my band. It’s gonna be called Christofer Drew and the Shout. Keeping that little “shouting” thing we’ve got going on.
Your music doesn’t sound like a recipe for landing such a rabid teenage fanbase. Were you surprised by who your fans have turned to be?
Not really. I’ve always kind of known what the little girls want. I just cut my hair a certain way and sell some records, you know? But I’m kind of getting over it. I’m really comfortable where I’m at, and I want to just do what I want, musically and artistically. I’m gonna do the little name-change thing, quit Never Shout for a while. We might lose some teenage teenyboppers, but I’m kinda done with that. They’re honestly just super-judgmental, and they’re kind of hard to please. You’ve got to be on your A-game at all times.
It’s the most fickle demographic there is.
Yeah, it’s true. I’m not terribly surprised. I kinda had it coming.
How much do you think about keeping your fans happy, and balancing that with your own creative fulfillment?
The music industry right now is so oversaturated with so many bands. I feel like my fans are going to be happy with whatever I do. I think as long as I’m staying happy, they’ll be happy. I’ve been writing sad songs, songs with really underlying depressing s--- lately, and I kind of want to get back into writing songs that make people feel good. For a while, I was feeling a lot of pressure from the label and management to keep this thing going as long as I could, and keep on forking (over) the bills. I’m just trying to rediscover my love for music, because whenever you’re around it so much, you start to lose that genuine feeling that you had. I’m listening to a lot of ’90s rock, a lot of Tom Petty and s---, and I dunno — I’m just trying to rediscover myself, musically.
Are you plugging in, or are you sticking with the acoustic feel?
I think with this next record, I’m gonna bust out the Strat and see where it brings me.
In a nutshell, can you describe your songwriting process?
I guess I start out with melody. I usually start with some kind of hook; something that just pops into my head, and then I’ll grab my guitar and fiddle around with that, and then I’ll usually start jotting down lyrics. I can usually piece together a song in about an hour or so. It’s pretty easy. It’s becoming kind of a formula, which could be a bad thing.
How many songs have you written?
Probably more than 100 now. I’m trying to write a song every couple of days. I believe songwriting is honestly like a sport — you keep practicing it, and you keep getting better.
And you’re 19? There must be some secret to your productivity.
I guess my dad taught me well. He was a tennis coach growing up, and he pushed me really hard in that. He taught me discipline and hard work. Just keep your mind on what you need to get done, and work until you have a product. It’s really not that hard. Songwriting’s honestly easy, once you get down the formula. You keep listening to music, and what you put in your brain is going to come out.
Since you write so many songs, and you can write at the drop of a hat, how do you whittle down what you want to put on an album?
We’ll have a list of songs whenever I go into the studio, and we’ll record our favorite ones first, and then just keep going down the list until we run out of time. Usually I just pick out my favorite ones, the ones that just feel right. I’ve got, for this next record, probably 30 songs to choose from. I just try to record as many songs as I can, because it makes me feel like I’m doing something, instead of just being a lazy musician. It makes me feel like I’m actually putting out a product. At this point, I just give ’em to my management and label and be like, “Do whatever the f--- you want with ’em.” I could really care less anymore. For a while, I used to really get into self-promotion and stuff like that, but with this one, it just seems like a waste of time.
You got famous through MySpace. At this moment in time, what are your thoughts on the Internet as a promotional tool?
I dunno. I think MySpace is dead. I don’t really log onto that thing anymore. Wasted a lot of my youth on that thing, promoting and making friends and talking to kids. MySpace kind of oversaturated the music scene. Everybody was f---ing famous. If you had good pictures and one catchy tune, you were instantly a big band in the scene, which was kind of irritating.
Facebook seems like a pretty cool way to connect, to inform kids on new music coming out. I’m trying to get a lot of Twitter followers, so I can let people know that I’m just a weird, normal dude who says random s---. I don’t really take it too seriously anymore, promoting my music. What I’m more into right now is just making good music, and trying to really get rootsy and play music that makes me feel good, music I’m proud of. I’ve put out a lot of s--- that I can hardly listen to anymore. Right now I’m trying to make music that feels a little more timeless.
How old were you when you stopped high school to pursue music full time?
I had just turned 16. I was just about to start my junior year.
Looking back, is there anything you miss about high school?
Not terribly. I liked my friends. I liked the little clique we had. Other than that, I was just learning a whole bunch of bull honkey that I was never gonna use in modern living. I miss my friends, but I still see them whenever I come home. We always have a couple of beers and laugh about how stupid we were in high school.
Has your class graduated now?
Yeah, it was 2009.
Did you go to graduation?
I did not. I think I was on tour. All my friends got pissed at me when I dropped out — they thought I was losing at life. I didn’t want my friends to get mad at me, so I just tried my best to get on tour, so they would understand that I’m really going for it. That’s really how everybody’s mentality was when I dropped out. Dropping out of high school, especially these days, everybody gets freaked out — they just think you have no future. That’s what you’re brainwashed to believe, that the moment you drop out, you lose at life.
I can’t imagine you would be approached to do a PSA about education. Has anybody tried to come at you to say, like, “Don’t do what I did. Go to school.”
People have told me to say that in interviews, but I just tell everybody to do what feels right. If you’ve got a dream, follow it, whatever it takes. I try not to be cheesy, though, and do the whole follow-your-dream thing. I just tell kids to do what they want, do what feels right, you know?
I read you’re a vegan. Is that the case?
Eh ... at this point, I’m kind of a vegetarian with vegan tendencies. I’m kind of pussing out. For a while, I was really into it, but I started getting really skinny and way too frail, and not feeling healthy.
I imagine it would make touring difficult. You have to seek out a vegan restaurant in every city.
Yeah. I mean, Whole Foods is nice and shit. Whole Foods is good. Whenever I’m home, I usually eat pretty vegan. I like cooking, so I’ll cook me and my girlfriend some vegan meals. It’s usually pretty fried-up, too. I like fried foods. Other than that — whenever I’m on tour, I’ll usually eat a lot of cheese, and a lot of dairy. I’m kind of a cheesehead.
When did you give up meat?
Right as I was 16, about the time I started hitting the road.
Was there a reason for it?
Couple friends were doing it, and it was kinda just a cool thing to do. I’d seen a couple of videos here and there, and I have lots of pets, too; I love animals. It just kind of made sense. I never thought of it as an option until I saw friends doing it.
You’re also one of the bands that Taco Bell is sponsoring for their Feed the Beat promotion, where they give bands gift cards so they can eat on the road. As a vegan, how are you going to eat $500 worth of Taco Bell Bucks?
You know, I’m a big fan of cheesy bean burritos. Man, if you get ’em grilled, without the fiesta salsa, those things are something else.
Even at your level, that makes a difference, a gift card from Taco Bell?
It makes it a little more fun, I guess, walking in with one of them gift cards, buying a whole bunch of food on it for the whole band. It’s pretty cute.
Have you ever walked in and done the Daddy Warbucks thing, like: “Everyone in the restaurant, I’m buying your meal right now!”
I’ve never done that, but I might do that sometime. That’d be fun. A little social experiment.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Getty Images.