This past Tuesday afternoon, I got together with Rock of Ages star, former American Idol contestant, accomplished musician, and total rockstar, Constantine Maroulis at the flashy Moonstruck Diner in New York City. Once we were seated and after getting to know each other for several minutes, the interview began and I got to see face to face just what an amazing man Mr. Maroulis is.
Alex Obert: So tell me about what you’ve been up to this week.
Constantine Maroulis: Well, we’ve just come off a great holiday weekend wrapping up the Summer in the Sun Labor Day Weekend here in New York, went out to Jersey with my daughter, got the Rock n’ Roll Dad thing going on. So we’re out there, her grandparents, my parent’s house in Jerz. We went to a family party on Staten Island, had a nice little relaxing weekend, caught up on some sports and Yanks and just looking forward to getting back to the grind. Here we are. This is basically Monday morning, today as we speak, this is Tuesday morning after Labor Day, so this is like the Monday grind. And you’re my first victim. So that’s basically it, looking forward, the next few weeks here are kind of major for me, I’m in the midst of championing an amazing show for Broadway, a show that I’ve been involved with for some time now that I got to take out of town and have a wonderful run in Houston at the world famous Alley Theatre. It’s called The Toxic Avenger, so right now, we’re sort of looking to come in and fight our way into next season even. We have a wonderful show on our hands and just amazing people involved. David Bryan, of course, wrote all the music. He’s from Bon Jovi. He and Joe DiPietro both wrote Memphis, won a Tony for that, so they have so many shows in the works. And he’s on tour with Bon Jovi right now, but great things are happening for Toxic Avenger right now, there’s so many fans out there. It’s a cult following for the movie, of course, from Kaufman in the early eighties, everyone knows that, and the cartoon, the comic book. It’s a funny, funny, well-written show, we’re really excited about it, so we’ll see what happens. I’m getting back into the club, actually. I have a residency coming up at the Canal Room that I’m really excited about. Back to the Eighties with me and Jessie’s Girl and we’re doing 8:00 shows now, celebrating their 10th anniversary in business, rocking Canal Street. They’re bringing me in to headline this 8:00 show they’re doing on Saturday nights and the 11:30 show, like a residency all through the Fall. So, it’s super exciting. Back in the club, I love it, the smoky rock n’ roll clubs and all that. So we’re bringing all that energy to Back to the Eighties and of course, people know me as an eighties singer, I guess these days with Rock of Ages.
Alex Obert: Speaking of Rock of Ages, before we get further into Jessie’s Girl, I’m just curious, how do you feel you and Drew are similar?
Constantine Maroulis: Drew and I, the great thing about how Rock of Ages came together, so organic, so trusting on everyone’s part, amazing producing team, amazing creative team, our director, Kristin, our writer, Chris, Kelly, the choreographer. Young, predominantly, undiscovered cast off Broadway. All of us were working, even though I had a name from American Idol, but it was like they really put the right group of people together and let us discover it and create it in the room with them, in a short amount of time, it came together. Of course, Chris just wrote a great book and allowed us to do so much work with it. So, to answer your question, I think when things happen so organically like that, a lot of you folds into the character. And I do think that there are similarities. I feel like we’re all head, heart, or groin sorts, right? And I think if you really know me, I’m all heart. (laughs) Maybe a little groin too! I think that’s where Drew starts and I think yeah, he loves playing music and maybe he’s not that good at it, but there’s something about him, there’s something inside of him. And when he meets Sherrie, like any great love a woman or man will do, she just brings it out of him. And then he also discovers that that love is greater than music or anything and that’s why he wins because no, he doesn’t become the rockstar, but he gets the girl and he wins in the end. I think everyone can kind of relate to that and I think it’s fun. Where in the movie, they played it differently, Drew was so very young. The thing about the show is, Drew is a little older and he is still trying to make it and maybe he’s hanging on to twenty nine or something like that. And that’s what makes it compelling. Because it’s silly and all of that, but I mean read the reviews, it’s a legitimate artistic achievement because there was truth underneath all of that crazy comedy and caricature, with the narrator sort of breaking the fourth wall and it’s sort of winking at us, but I think that the truth underneath Drew is what always carried a show. And that’s what Kristin and I always talked about and it worked out.
Alex Obert: What do you want people to learn from Rock of Ages, aspiring musicians or anybody?
Constantine Maroulis: What I want people to remember is that I gave an acting performance, something that I’m very proud of, more than me wailing high notes, puttin on the rock n’ roll swagger. It wasn’t so much about the rock swagger, at times, that was in the show and all, but it was about the truthful acting performance, so I wish they would remember that. Because it’s so easy to go, “Oh, Rock of Ages, long hair, big songs.”, but it was about a lot more than that. So I guess as an artist, you want people to remember that. But honestly, I’m just happy that it brought Broadway to a whole new audience and that’s probably what I’m most proud about because Broadway has always been in my heart and soul since I was a little kid, watching the Tonys, watching West Side Story the movie, getting into it with my family and all. But also, rock n’ roll was also always right there, the best records, the best frontmen, and frontchicks too. I think that’s what’s cool about Rock of Ages, it brought all these guys that grew up with this music and it made it cool for them to come to Broadway and I think Paula Abdul had said that about me on American Idol, she said, “You make this cool for guys. You make this Broadway thing cool for young guys to wanna do.” And that’s my brand right there. (laughs) But cool, but sort of like dorky, too.
Alex Obert: Relating back to the eighties, how did you discover Jessie’s Girl?
Constantine Maroulis: Well, while I was doing Rock of Ages, I knew that there was an eighties party down in the Canal Room. I’ve known of Marcus for years. Marcus Linial is the owner and producer of all the events and he’s got quite a young enterprise down there. He’s got all these bands. He books and manages them and puts them together and they trust him creatively and he puts the right mix of people together and he’s got an amazing 90’s show that he’s been doing on Friday nights that’s building huge amounts of steam. Of course the eighties Saturday night has been a long-running hit for them for over four years. I mean most clubs in New York City don’t last a year, let alone ten years. This is their tenth year down there. All the while, I was doing Rock of Ages, he was like, “Come down, you know, whatever.” I ended up doing a big, private event down there for Miley Cyrus’s seventeenth birthday and that was when we first started seeing the twerking. It was happening there. She’s super talented and her mom’s great too. We had a great time. That’s when I first got to know the club. And then I jumped up there with the band one night and it was just awesome.
After finishing up Jekkyll and Hyde on Broadway, I was sort of anxious to start playing again, just back in the club. And was I gonna do something like my night at the rock show performance at Joe’s Pub or the Highline Ballroom, was I gonna do something like that? Was I gonna do something very stripped down and get back to my own music and writing? Which I’ve been doing all along. But this other thing has paid well too. (laughs) So I go where the best work is. And now I’m kind of ready to get back to writing, so it’ll be cool to have this as well. I digress. Marcus and I just started having a dialogue and started throwing all these amazing ideas together and then we’re gonna put all those ideas in a little bucket for later, but there’s no sense in not trying to enhance an already amazing brand that he has on Saturday nights with Back to the Eighties. And if we can take this show to the next level, then that’s what people are gonna talk about. Because when I was young, there was so many live bands to be able to see and you just don’t see that any more. I see it, I see it on Friday and Saturday nights at Canal Room. They wanna rock out, and yeah, they wanna hear music that they know, but they’re willing to hear other stuff too, of course. But I just think live music is going to really start making a major comeback again and I know there’s pockets of indie rock scenes in the city and all that, it’s not the same, it’s a different thing. But I think kids really wanna rock out again. We’re gonna tap into that and take it to the next level. Hopefully we’ll be doing more national events and shows too. And maybe even hearing original material from Constantine and Jessie’s Girl down the road too.
Alex Obert: Did you do shows in the 80’s at all?
Constantine Maroulis: I started high school in like, I think 89 or 90, so I was a little young for anything before that. But, I did see Rick Springfield in probably 1986 at the height of his fame with Jessie’s Girl, that’s pretty ironic, and that’s a story I might tell at the Back to the Eighties show. But I did see him because our neighbors were pretty fancy, they had a box over at the Jersey Arena there, the Brendan Byrne Arena it was called at the time. In 89, I also remember seeing the Stones at Shea Stadium and Living Colour opened for them and I loved Living Colour. I was more excited about Living Colour than I was about the Stones at the time. Of course, the Stones are kings. I saw live music, seeing my brother’s band. He’s eleven years older than me, when he’s a senior in high school, I’m like six years old, seeing him play in my parents’ basement with his bands and stuff and I was just like, “Oh my God!” I would come home and listen to his CDs. I wanted to be just like him. And I hope he knows it. I hope he does. He’s over at Bellevue actually right now, it sounds worse than it is. He sliced his hand. He bought a new house up in the country and we grew up in the suburbs up in the country. He’s over here, I’ve gotta go see him and hold his hand while he gets a couple stitches. Our dad was always out in the woods doing work and stuff and working on the house and the cars and stuff, so I think a little bit more of that rubbed off on my brother than me, but I dig it too.
Alex Obert: Were you musically active in the eighties?
Constantine Maroulis: Oh yeah, I played in school shows and choirs and stuff like that.
Alex Obert: But if you were doing your solo albums in the eighties, how do you feel it would have been? For you in the eighties as a solo musician.
Constantine Maroulis: Okay, let’s say 86 I was like sixteen or something like that. That would have been a different story. Because I think I am a bit of a throwback sort of singer. And I do think what’s missing a little bit in the charts and stuff right now is a bit of that sort of frontman kind of thing, but it’s cyclical, man, everything gets back to it, and people think this new dance thing is new and all that, but there’s always been dance music. There’s always been that minimalist aesthetic that’s out there that gets really, really popular for a while, and everything sort of turns over, man. Fashion, art, everything turns over. So, none of us are doing anything that original. (laughs)
Alex Obert: Back to the eighties, one band that comes to mind right now is Steel Panther.
Constantine Maroulis: Right, they’re awesome.
Alex Obert: What’s your opinion of them paying tribute, but keeping it authentic?
Constantine Maroulis: Well they’ve been doing it for like ten years. I mean that’s what people have to remember also. They’ve all come from vast music backgrounds and I remember seeing them nearly ten years ago at the Viper Room first, then The Roxy, then the Key Club, then House of Blues. Like anything, it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and they had the demand because they’re like LA guys, they really get the sort of comedy of it, they’re all talented actors. Not only great characters, but they’re also awesome musicians. And they’re smart business guys. They built a brand and then years into it, they started doing their own material. They still do all the tribute stuff, done with a sense of humor. I wish they could have been more involved with the Rock of Ages success, but they were having their individual success at that time, breaking out as original artists. And people love it. And guys love it too. They’re really great. And you know what? What’s cool about a project like that, they love it and I’m sure it does fulfill them artistically. They’re having success so they can do other things on the side if they want to, one of them wants to act in films or play in a jazz quartet, they could do that, no one would even know the difference. So I think it’s great what they’ve done.
It’s very different, what we’re doing. We’re telling a story. What we’re doing with Back to the Eighties, yeah, we’re focused on that decade of great music, but we’re really celebrating the songwriting of it. Sure, there’s some sort of fun, the character work that some of the guys are doing, that’s what great about having not just me, but three other amazing singers. Amazing band, everyone sings, everyone performs. And there’s some tribute fun stuff, man. Wearing a Cyndi Lauper wig or something like that, that kind of comes into it. But, it’s really a celebration about the great songwriting, the great music, the storytelling from that whole era, from the early eighties up until the late eighties. Rock of Ages, it’s not often noted, there’s a little cheating going on. There’s a little late seventies and a little early nineties. And even the Foreigner thing which is a big part of Rock of Ages, Foreigner wasn’t known as a mid to late eighties hair band, really. So it’s kind of funny. Sellin’ the dream, baby!
Alex Obert: It fits the vibe.
Constantine Maroulis: Again, it’s just about the lyrics. The person who did an amazing job carving up the lyrics of these songs into his story and making them work and that’s the whole thing. Building characters that we fuckin’ love and root for and hate also, like Stacee Jaxx. But then you feel bad for him.
Alex Obert: Speaking again of Rock of Ages, how did it come about that you had a cameo in the film?
Constantine Maroulis: Well, you know, there was like rumors and talk that I might be involved with the film at some point. And I think there was even some real heavy hitter writers out there across our great land that firmly believed I should have been representing myself, that character, representing the Broadway in the film. It’s all about an artistic vision, a director has a certain way of seeing things and generally, that person gets what they want. I go a long ways back with Adam (Adam Shankman, director of the 2012 film). He’s a great director. He made the film that he wanted to make. That wasn’t something that included me. (laughs) I am interested in seeing a legend like Clint Eastwood do Jersey Boys. He’s using a lot of Broadway actors. I think that’s gonna be amazing. And you know, it’s a shame that there’s not the same consideration for a lot of these actors that are out here. Broadway’s bigger than it’s ever been. More stars, there’s more juice here than ever. There’s billions of dollars, amazing art, steps away from an apartment. That’s my home and I hope to continue to do more Broadway stuff, definitely more producing, super excited about Toxic Avenger, super excited about Back to the Eighties coming to a city near you, maybe some Rock of Ages stuff down the road. It’s just amazing to see this go global, something that was born in a bar on the Sunset Strip, like a lot of these songs, really became something that people loved and adored so much all over the world. And I was a small part of that. (laughs)
Alex Obert: Back to your endeavors, one that doesn’t get talked about as much, your experience on Z Rock. Describe to me what that day of filming was like, how that all came about.
Constantine Maroulis: Well what’s so funny is, I think the guys in Z Rock, they were on to something almost a little too early. Their show didn’t get the love because I think people didn’t know how to find it yet. I think now with Netflix and IFC-type original programming that are non-scripted comedy stuff, I feel like they would have done better now. But they still got two great seasons out of it. I loved the tone of the show. I think the guys are super funny and natural together and I see why someone else thought that too, enough to get them a great show of their own. I loved being apart of it. I like their sense of humor. I think we got to have some fun together, we even worked the Rock of Ages element into the show. And I’d love to do more stuff like that, I’d love to have a show like that, to be honest. That tone is, it’s so great. It’s funny to see Larry David back on HBO. it’s just funny to see him in all of those awkward moments and stuff, he’s sort of the king of that kind of mockumentary type of thing, or whatever it is. So yeah, I love those guys and I think they’re all great musicians too. Paulie kicks ass, he’s a great singer. And we always talked about writing stuff together and we never did, so maybe we will one day, when we’re like fifty.
Alex Obert: You were on stage with ZO2 and you’ve also been on stage with Steel Panther.
Constantine Maroulis: Oh yeah, I’ve sung with them (Steel Panther). Back in the day, where I was fresh off Idol or even on Idol at the time and I would sneak out every night, I’d go up to clubs in LA. It was long enough ago where it wasn’t like every cell phone camera out or TMZ and stuff like that, not everything you did was made so public. And even like a Z Lister like me would have probably been all over TMZ with something like that back in that time, but yeah, I remember getting up there drunk a few times and I’ve hung out with them, we have a friend in common, Ryan Cabrera, and he’s like my buddy, and they’ve all been friends for years. They’re awesome, dude.
Alex Obert: I’m going to wrap up with a Speed Round. I’ll ask you a couple questions and answer the first thing that comes to mind.
Constantine Maroulis: I like that.
Alex Obert: Favorite frontman.
Constantine Maroulis: Favorite frontman of all time, Jim, Jim Morrison.
Alex Obert: Best concert you’ve ever been to.
Constantine Maroulis: Had to be Prince, Hollywood Roosevelt, a private party, basically.
Alex Obert: Band you wish you could listen to for the first time again.
Constantine Maroulis: Probably Led Zeppelin.
Alex Obert: Musician you would love to hang out with.
Constantine Maroulis: Jeff Buckley.
Alex Obert: Band you wish would get back together.
Constantine Maroulis: Can we resurrect people from the dead?
Alex Obert: Yeah!
Constantine Maroulis: Oh, you can? Well I think I would like to see Jimi Hendrix and his boys in a club downtown somewhere and that would be kind of fun. But on a major level, the original STP. It’s hard to move on with singers, it just is. How about Guns n’ Roses? That’s it! I had to go through a few. Guns n’ Roses, sure. That’s the ultimate.
Alex Obert: Favorite guitar riff.
Constantinue Maroulis: Oh my God. How about something different because we were talking about Living Colour earlier, how about Cult of Personality?
Alex Obert: You know, I kind of wish you would have done that on American Idol.
Constantine Maroulis: That would have been a great idea. I’ve thought about it.
Alex Obert: Favorite one hit wonder.
Constantine Maroulis: Oh my God, so many. Walking in Memphis by Mark Cohn. That’s a good one. In the nineties, I feel like there were so many one hit great rock songs or pop songs on the radio. I mean there was so many. Is Extreme a one hit wonder?
Alex Obert: I’d say so.
Constantine Maroulis: Nothing was as big as More Than Words. That was just huge. That’s a great song. I’m giving you some real wimpy suggestions here. I just love a great hook. I love a great lyrics and it can be from anywhere, like that song by Demi Lovato, Heart Attack, she’s singing the shockles out of that song, and I’ve seen her do it live and it’s even better. I just love that song. So whether it’s that or a freaking Nirvana, once in a lifetime, amazing, ugly, melodic hook from Kurt Cobain, it’s just about the hook, I guess. Should be more, not just about the hook, but it is. (laughs)
Alex Obert: To close, just one more time, the information about when and where for Jessie’s Girl.
Constantine Maroulis: When, September 21st. 8:00 and 11:30 PM, the rock begins, Back to the Eighties with me, Constantine Maroulis and Jessie’s Girl. There’s tickets all over the website. canalroom.com, Jessie’s Girl, New York City, you could go to my website, constantinemaroulis.com. It’s twenty bucks for the late show, it’s a little bit more for the early show, there’s a bit more involved. September 21st, let’s say through Halloween, and then some. A big Halloween show we’re doing. We’re doing World Cafe Live, actually, in Philly, on September 13th. Friday night, Philadelphia style, we’re gonna blow it up. Just excited, man. Super Bowl’s coming up, we’re gonna be doing a lot of fun events. I’m doing some new shit and just stay tuned, @ConstantineM on Twitter. And that’s all man.
Alex Obert: Thank you for your time.
Constantine Maroulis: Thanks, buddy.