If you're a white-dude pop artist not named Justin Bieber, you need a band name-like moniker, like Owl City (Adam Young) or Never Shout Never (Drew Ingle).
Hence, The Ready Set, a.k.a. Jordan Witzigreuter. The 21-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana, had an ubiquitous pop-radio single "Love Like Woe," which meant his pretty mug was plastered all over Nickelodeon, MTV and Disney last year.
Witzigreuter has all the fixin's for a tween idol tour de force: He has the look (call it emo-Bieber), a producer with hip-hop cred (J.R. Rotem) and all of Pete Wentz's connects as part of the Decaydance label. As far as the music goes, it's a slick, polished middle-of-the-road, nobody-gets-offended affair--think Jimmy Eat World with Auto-Tuned, uptempo R&B choruses.
In his pre-Decaydance days, he logged time as a drummer for a hardcore-punk outfit in Fort Wayne, a rust-belt town famous for sweaty basement shows. Today, he works mostly from West Coast studios, keeping up a squeaky-clean image, spending most of his time either on the road or holed up recording music, occasionally binging on macaroons.
The Ready Set tells us more about himself before his Friday, March 25 show at the House of Blues in Anaheim.
OC Weekly: How did you decide on the Ready Set for a stage name?
Jordan Witzigreuter: The Ready Set means being ready to set your inhibitions and fears behind you and do what you want with your life. That was my mindset when I started this--living life for myself. I wanted the title of the project to sum up a pretty positive message.
You've been doing music since you were very young. You have a brother who's a school-band director. It sounds like you come from a very musical family.
My brother and I are the only musical ones, actually. My parents set up drum lessons for me when i was 11; I guess they just had a hunch I may be good at it, so I tried it and picked it up really quickly. That started my whole obsession with music. I played in bands all through middle school and high school. I was in all kinds of them--punk, ska, hardcore, etc. That was kind of the stuff i grew up listening to--I wanted to play the fastest/hardest stuff i could find. It was definitely fun, and playing those types of shows sort of shaped the way I went about my touring early on with the Ready Set
You grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city with a reputation as a hard-drinking, hardcore-punk mecca. You played drums in a hardcore project there. What was that scene like? Was it formative?
The scene there was fun for a bit, but i think it has sort of died down. But then again, I'm never really there, so I don't stay too up-to-date with it all.
What made you shift gears from being a drummer in a hardcore band to writing pop-oriented material?
I always liked catchy melodies. I was always drawn to that kind of stuff, even in heavier music. Pop is obviously very melody-based, so it was natural for me to want to write this kind of stuff.
Is writing something you do in isolation, or are you collaborating a lot? What makes for a good song in your mind?
Depends on a lot of things. I used to be completely against getting any outside input on my songs, but lately, I've been open to a lot more collaborative stuff with producers, etc.--especially ones who sort of come from a different side of things, like the hip-hop world or the mainstream-pop world. It definitely opens up your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Things really changed for you since signing on with Decaydance. What are the best and worst aspects of the Disney/Nickelodeon/MTV trip?
MTV has been amazing and behind me since before I was even signed, so I definitely owe a lot to them. I like that my songs are played on radio Disney and Nickelodeon, but I'm definitely not writing music specifically for that. I don't really swear in my songs really--it's not my style--so it makes sense that they'd be cool with playing it. I'm not the type to really try to decide what my fan base will be--if it's young kids or people in their late 20s is irrelevant to me as long as somebody is enjoying it. I want to make sure things are as broad as possible.
As music becomes more and more of a career for you, what musicians are you looking at as sort of role models in this business? Specifically, what do you like about these musicians/music-business people?
I look up to anyone who can remain prolific and positive and maintains a strong work ethic even after success has come. Those are the ones who last. People can say what they will about huge artists at the top of the world, but for the most part, they tend to do all of those things and keep a cool mindset, which I respect a lot.
How did you spend your 21st birthday?
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I spent it in a hotel in downtown LA after a session got canceled--the session got rescheduled, and eventually, I got a second single out of it!--with my guitar player, just hanging out, doing nothing. Pretty underwhelming, but we got some tasty macaroons with one of my management fellows, so that's good.
I have to ask this because I see all the