Headliners: Interview With Pop-Punk TV Show Co-Creator Richie Gordon

Set in 2003, when the emo and pop-punk scene was in full bloom is the new TV show, Headliners, which follows the story of an indie record label, a struggling new band and more. Rather than following the “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” archetype that many television shows or movies about music create, Headliners is written from the perspective of fans for fans. Co-creator Richie Gordon first came up with the idea for the show when speaking with Anberlin‘s tour manager while the band was out on their final run with the Vans Warped Tour, and since then Headliners is now in pre-production, with a Kickstarter campaign set up for fans and lovers of music to help make it happen.

Interview by Dom Vigil

The Prelude Press: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Headliners for anyone who may not be familiar?

Richie Gordon: My background is in film production and I have been making movies since I got the chance to be an extra in Bicentennial Man at the age of 8. I had always romanticized bands and I think deep down always had wanted to be a touring musician. Mainly the way music could so accurately capture the energy and feelings of summer, love and just being young was something I wanted to be a part of. I had always wanted and even made a handful of music videos for bands but kept finding that budgets restrained the narrative stories I wanted to shoot for these projects. Headliners is a continuation of those music videos we had wanted to shoot with some amazing bands but never had the budgets to see the concepts get fully materialized.

You came up with the idea for Headliners while out at Warped Tour in 2014 – what exactly was it about this scene (Warped Tour specifically or otherwise) that inspired you to create what Headliners is now?

The show was actually inspired by a conversation with Kyle the manager of Anberlin. I had heard at Warped Tour that Anberlin was doing their final tour in the fall before going into a hiatus. I called Kyle to figure out how I could be a part of making a final farewell video for them. The conversation quickly diverted into one about life, musicians in this scene, and all the misperceptions fans have about what these artist actually struggle with. The line that really got me thinking he said was, “Even a tour bus can become worse then a cubicle when you’ve been doing this for awhile.” Through conversations with the writer of the project, Kim Fortson, we asked ourselves how this musicians were actually in a worse position to deal with some of the struggles of love, growing up and chasing a dream that many “regular people” deal with. And we even started drawing parallels to this world and the same struggles professional athletes deal with.

What is it about the early 2000’s that makes it so iconic and the perfect setting for Headliners?

We actually originally wanted to set the show in modern day. But we realized that wasn’t as exciting as setting it back in one of the major transitions of this scene (the movement of the punk rock to more emo rock sound that was fueled by the emergence of Myspace, Facebook and Youtube). It’s fun when you get a chance to look back at history and show people that they were actually alive during a very interesting and transitional period. As three members of the millennial generation, we felt no one had paid homepage to the music that defined our lives and that we confidential felt this music would be seen as influential as rock was to our parents in the late 70’s/ early 80’s.

For a lot of people, Headliners will be their first glimpse into the inner workings of the modern music scene. How do you hope to portray this for viewers and what do you want them to be able to take away from it?

The feelings most musicians continued to say to us was how every movie/ show about the music world seemed to always really stray away from the accuracy of the world. The main reason we got artists attached to this script so early in the process was that we knew if they did not agree with the show it was not worth our time or energy trying to bring it to life. We want to really showcase to viewers that these musicians are more like normal people then we often give them credit for. However, simple things like a giving time and energy to a relationship becomes extremely more complex when you’re on the road 200 days a year. We really don’t want this to be another “Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll” show since we know there are so many other issues these artists deal with that are very relatable for everyone around the world. Those are the stories we want to tell through Headliners.

How do you go about keeping Headliners as accurate to the music scene as possible? Is that where the artists that you’re working with come into play?

Again we really wanted our partners on board this project early and had each of them read the pilot script and give us their notes. We were even more excited about how many of them asked to continue and be a part of the creative process as we flush out the rest of the shows or make edits to the pilot. We want these guys to make sure and tell us what would/ wouldn’t happen and we see it vital to make sure they validate where we want these characters to go and feel it would actually play out that way.

You’ve talked about how social media platforms like Myspace and Facebook have helped and hurt musicians. I know it’s a rather big subject, but how do you feel the shift from Myspace to Facebook affected artists, either positively or negatively?

With any platform you get the pros and cons that come with it. Obviously when a company like MySpace or Facebook creates a product that has millions of people on it all of a sudden their is a tool out there for you to spread your music, films or messages through. But we are even seeing a shift occur right now on Facebook where they are starting to force businesses and bands to pay ad spend in order to make sure their posts are seen by all the fans of a page. So those bands who spent months or for many years getting fans to show up to their Facebook page and using that page to create a central/ engaging/ one stop shop for fans to learn everything related to the band, music, tours and more are now not seeing those messages. Anytime these platforms change the rules or even go obsolete (like what happened with Myspace) someone is going to get caught in the crossfire and those new bands/ brands who have not spent the years and money building up these huge followers on these platforms may realize they should focus their energy collecting e-mails instead, or building Snapchat or Instagram followers since that platform isn’t as effected by these macro changes. It’s a bummer that musicians can often use technology to catapult their careers to a new level but these new technologies can also kill an artist if they pivot the platform to be more profitable or add a new algorithm that all of a sudden devalues the time and energy spent on winning in the old ecosystem.

Ryan Key from Yellowcard is producing the music for the show, so what can viewers and listeners expect to hear?

Our goal when we approached Ryan was to figure out how he could pull from the amazing work he has done time and time again in every Yellowcard album fans hear but not have fans expect to hear another twist on a Yellowcard record. What gets us excited about Ryan is he is an extremely talented musician and wanting to shift more into producing records for bands. We want to grab well known and new artists and put them in a room with Ryan along with some basic inspiration or boundaries of what our fictional bands would sound like and then let them do what they do best and create great music.

After the Kickstarter campaign when can we expect to see Headliners?  

Looking to launch a pilot episode this fall with the rest of the season going live in Spring 2017

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