Editor’s Note: It was an interesting night of music that kind of took me out of my comfort zone. It was a dinner show type of evening where people were having steak dinners while listening to American Opera and Carter Hulsey swap songs at The Whiskey House Bar & Grill in Ankeny, Iowa. It was a relaxing night of music, yet both John Bee of American Opera and Carter Hulsey provided contrasting styles to that evening’s performance! In this conversation, you will get to hear about his signing with Spartan Records, his upcoming record entitled “Small Victories”, and pro wrestling. Without further delay, here’s Madness To Creation’s conversation with John Bee of American Opera!
M.T.C.: Nice set up there with you and Carter!
American Opera: Thanks dude, I appreciate it!
M.T.C.: We’ll start with that question, is playing in front of a dinner crowd kind of awkward or is it different or is it fun?
American Opera: It’s not the ideal setup, but it’s fun to adapt, you know what I mean? For Carter and I to go up there and swap songs, it makes it easier on us, and we have more fun doing that when we’re up on stage.
M.T.C.: I saw that you recently signed with Spartan Records! Congratulations, how did that come about?
American Opera: Thank you so much! I played in a band in Michigan for eight years called Your Best Friend and someone followed me from that band when we broke up, and they were doing A & R for Spartan Records, and he told John about me from Spartan Records, and I talked to him about a year ago about doing a record, we went back and forth, talking about the release, so it’s finally coming true!
M.T.C.: What should people expect from the record that haven’t listened to your music?
American Opera: It’s truly an emotional roller coaster, it took three years of my life to write and record it, it’s about ups and downs. The record is called “Small Victories”, and it’s about the ups and downs of life. The music has some really sweet, soft parts to some really rocking parts. Lyrically, it explores some heavy stuff like suicide and depression as well as following your dreams. The whole record is about the ups and downs of life.
M.T.C.: You said it’s from a personal standpoint?
American Opera: Absolutely, every song is a chapter about my personal life, the first song is about New York City after Superstorm Sandy came through, our apartment was gone and we were trying to find a place to live, we were sleeping in our cars for the first little bit, the record is about heartbreak in life, not about relationship heartbreak, but “life heartbreak”.
M.T.C.: What was the craziest thing that you saw in Superstorm Sandy?
American Opera: Oh man, that was just nuts! We were in Brooklyn and Manhattan and they didn’t get it as bad as out like in Fire Island, and some spots like Lower Brooklyn and stuff like that. I guess the craziest thing that we experienced, we were lucky to be there and stuff, not lucky that we were there but lucky that we came after the devastation. Public transit was down, there were no trains and no buses, and the taxi cabs were out of gas, so they would ask you how far you were going, and we would go, “we’re going to Brooklyn”, and they wouldn’t take us five miles because they would’ve ran out of gas. So we had to walk everywhere, it was crazy!
M.T.C.: What has been the craziest thing on tour with Carter Hulsey?
American Opera: Oh gosh! This tour has been pretty new. So nothing crazy on this tour, but one of the first tours that I did was that I got pulled over by a cop in Chicago, and he asked me for my name and my information. I gave him my name and my information, and he asked if I had any outstanding warrants or anything he should know about before he runs my license, it was crazy because I’ve never had any trouble with the law, knock on wood, *laughs*. He comes back and he starts yelling at me and asking when I was going to start telling the truth,he came back and he said I had a suspended license and that I didn’t have insurance, and he said that I was supposed to be in jail and that I broke out of jail! So he put me in the back of the cop car, and he threatened to take me to the Chicago Police Department and to put me in jail, and I told him, “before we go to the jail, can you read the name on your computer, you might have entered my information wrong”. My name is John Thomas Bonham, and he said, “are you not Thomas Jay Burns”, and so I wasn’t. *laughs* It was a case of mistaken identity. If I didn’t speak up, I was a couple of seconds away from going to Chicago and going to jail! It was crazy!
M.T.C.: Speaking of touring and traveling, how was the South by Southwest experience?
American Opera: It was incredible! I don’t know if you have been down there in Texas, but it’s a beautiful spot! The food was great and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that festival ever since I was young and I’ve heard about it. It’s been going since the late eighties. It was after we signed with Spartan, and they asked me to do a showcase down in Austin. It was awesome and so many great bands. I saw Jimmy Eat World, Third Eye Blind was there, Weezer was there, and Ryan Adams was there.
M.T.C.: What was your favorite memory from there?
American Opera: I got to do a lot of cool behind-the-scenes stuff from there. Met Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac, talked to him! That was amazing! He was there for an hour doing a Q & A talking about the life and times of Fleetwood Mac!
M.T.C.: I bet it was thrilling to sit under his learning tree!
American Opera: It was crazy! It was so amazing!
M.T.C.: They announced a farewell tour recently. What’s your favorite Fleetwood Mac song?
American Opera: The whole “Rumours” record is my favorite Fleetwood Mac song! There’s not a bad song on that record! It’s flawless, it really is! I feel like that record could come out right now and it would still be a huge hit. It’s timeless too!
M.T.C.: Give me a day in the life in the studio for you.
American Opera: In the studio, I play all the instruments on the album myself, I hired out a horn section and a string section. I don’t sound good if I try to sound like a female vocalist, so I hired out a female vocalist. I wake up and go for a run to clear my head. I start at the bottom, I do a scratch on the guitar, then I start with drums and bass, it’s an all day affair going into a song. So drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, and the vocals is the last thing that I do. I hate recording vocals because it’s too final. I prefer live shows just because I’m more comfortable singing live. On a recording, it’s there forever, and I’m going to cringe at that three years down the road.
M.T.C.: Fun question for you. Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?
American Opera: I’m so glad that you found out that I love wrestling! I like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, CM Punk. The wrestler’s wrestler kind of guys! I like Roman Reigns too, he gets a lot of flack, he knocks it out of the park whatever they give him to do, but “please turn him heel”. Out of the lady wrestlers, I dig Naomi, I love her entrances and she’s awesome! Austin Aries and Neville are putting the cruiserweights on the map! They are building the foundation of the cruiserweight division!
M.T.C.: If you could create entrance music for one wrestler, who would it be?
American Opera: I am super jealous of the band that did the entrance music for Bray Wyatt, that would’ve been perfect for him. I don’t think that my music would fit in the wrestling world! Maybe The Undertaker, but he’s so cool, and I’m not that cool! *laughs* But Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock did The Undertaker’s music, so if they did maybe I can do a little bit better job than they did! *laughs*
M.T.C.: Biggest influence on your life when it came to music?
American Opera: My older brother Joe. My older brother Joe brought home a guitar when I was like 10 or 11, he started playing along to Nirvana records and along to Weezer records and along to Smashing Pumpkins. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My brother Joe singlehandedly led me to that, and he’s way better than I will ever be on the guitar. He’s got his own studio in Michigan. When we were growing up, we learned guitar together, we learned the rhythm parts, and he would learn how to solo, he was like a super shredder, and I just became a sh**** guitar player! *laughs*
M.T.C.: I have a crystal ball and the year is 2020, where do you see yourself in 2020?
American Opera: In 2020, I see myself headlining Wrestlemania! Following my dreams from back when I started! *laughs* But this is my dream man, I just want to play music for people and I just want to keep creating art and traveling. I am so appreciative that I get to do this, and my wife allows me to do this! This is a dream that I’ve had since I was a little kid. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I’m at, but I still have a long, long, long way to go, but it’s awesome to be here man!
M.T.C.: Where can people find you?
American Opera: My website is www.americanopera.net. You can find me on tour, I’m always in my Buick Century. Check me out on I-Tunes and Spotify. Keep in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Thank you so much man! I really appreciate it!
M.T.C.: Thanks so much!
And there you have it! Check his song entitled “Jack Pine” from the SXSW Showcase in Austin from this past March!