Julie and the Phantoms star Jeremy Shada talks his solo music and season 2 renewal chances
Get ready to see — or actually hear — a whole new side of Jeremy Shada.
After finding success with his pop-punk band Make Out Monday and rolling out hit after hit in the same genre on his Netflix series Julie and the Phantoms, the actor/musician is releasing solo music for the first time in his career. His new single "Dancing With Strangers" is out now and it's got a much different vibe than what Shada's fans may be expecting. The actor/musician trades his edgier past for a more romantic present with the anti-hookup-culture song that blends modern and vintage sounds. It's unlike anything Shada's released before — and that's exactly what the multi-talented star, who also voiced Finn on Adventure Time, wanted.
"It was so fun getting to write for a show but at the same time, you're in the box of what needs to be written for that scene or for that specific performance or character," Shada tells EW. "In my free time when I was on the show, I just started writing my own things. I released the first song by itself as like a happy birthday song for my wife and I really didn't have a plan on doing a lot more until that got a huge fan response. People really took to it." Shada laughs before adding, "It was like, if this is something people want, I guess I can do more of it!"
Below, EW got Shada to talk about making "Dancing With Strangers," plus his thoughts on a potential second season of Julie and the Phantoms — if Netflix ever gets around to renewing it, that is.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did your time in Make Out Monday and in the fictional band Sunset Curve from Julie and the Phantoms influence your debut solo music?
JEREMY SHADA: The biggest thing for a long time was starting out doing punk rock music with my brothers and my friends. It was nice to have that collaboration in a band. But it was the confidence that I got as a musician and a songwriter and a singer from doing Julie and the Phantoms — we had these songwriting camps where they would put us with these professional songwriters and producers and we got to work with them and see what their workflow is like and through that process, it really gave me that confidence to realize I can actually do this by myself.
What is going to surprise fans of Julie and the Phantoms about your new music as Jeremy, and not the pop-punk '90s character you play, Reggie?
Being on that show and even early Make Out Monday stuff, it was nice putting that rock edge on things and putting that rock rasp in your voice when you're singing, but this is a reflection more so of my natural vocal tone. It'll sound a lot cleaner vocally. And it'll be definitely more mature than Julie and the Phantoms stuff. It's still very pop but there's a more mature lyrical framework for it, which is fun. It's so interesting when you have such a history to the point where you can really see that growth over like 10 years now. I really love all the things that I've gotten to work on and all of those were things that I really enjoyed and put a lot into. But it's so different when there's no other restriction or voice and it's just you writing it completely yourself. That freedom also has pressure because it's just me. There's a huge duality to it, which in some ways can be scary because you put it out there and there's nothing to really fall back on or hide behind, like "well, it was the show" or "it was the band and someone else had more of the lead on that one" if for whatever reason it didn't turn out exactly how you wanted. If people love it or hate it, it is all you.
It's so funny, like the fan reaction is great but my favorite part is just being in the studio and getting to make the music and write it and feel it come together. My least favorite part is releasing it just because you never know what people are going to think or if people are going to absolutely hate it compared to whatever came before, or if they're expecting something exactly like their favorite music that you've done in the past.
Where did you get the inspiration for this song, "Dancing With Strangers?"
It was the last song that I wrote for this entire project. I wanted it lyrically to go from someone who's stuck in this never-ending cycle of just partying and essentially dancing with strangers and having these relationships with people who you don't even know and it all just kind of blends together, and wanting to get out of that and find something a little bit more serious and long term. And I wanted it to be something more upbeat with almost like '80s vibes with drums that are like Phil Collins. [Laughs] That's such a specific reference, I know. And then when I added in the guitar solo, it was like, if you're going to go '80s, you need to go full '80s with a huge guitar solo.
"Dancing With Strangers" is part of a larger project but you haven't revealed many details about it yet. What should fans expect from your upcoming album?
The goal of the album — and all my favorite albums do this — is to have a singular storyline that goes from start to finish. From the beginning of the album, there's a very specific theme. You can listen to each song on its own but there's a specific storyline throughout the whole thing. So expect the unexpected, but the biggest thing is each song has an era of music that it's sonically pulling from. It's going to be a ride through the '60s, '70s, '80s, a little bit of '20s, '30s, '40s. All the songs are really different.
It's been so long since Julie and the Phantoms debuted, but there's been no word on whether Netflix is renewing it for season 2 yet. What are your feelings about a potential second season?
The whole cast and crew would love to do it. I think that's very much in Netflix's hands at this point. So we'll see what happens. [Laughs] It's always weird being in that kind of waiting process where you just really don't know. If they want us to come back and do it, we will definitely come back and do it! I really love that cast and anytime you get to work with Kenny Ortega is just the best. He puts on one hell of a show. It's so fun watching someone like that work. And I think a lot of this [solo music] really wouldn't have even happened had it not been for that show and had it not been for the inspiration that I got seeing those people do what they do. I just love it. It's hard to find a project that has such a melding of your interests in one, getting to do acting and singing and playing bass and getting to use all three of those pieces of yourself. And now writing too, because if we come back, I think we'll all be involved with songwriting. It's a dream project and I hope we continue doing it.
What do you want to see for your character if you do get to come back for a second season?
In the first season, there are so many things that you have to establish when it's a new show, especially when it's a show about ghosts in a band together. There's a lore to build up there, you have to establish rules of what can and can't happen. [Laughs] Once you get a lot of that done and out of the way, you can really dive further into the characters themselves. So I would love to see more of my character's backstory, like his family and how he ended up in this trio of total dorks. [Laughs] Seeing how the three phantoms became as close friends as they are, essentially brothers. I would love seeing how those relationships started. It would be so fun to dive into that and see some flashbacks. And getting to see more performances and getting to show off more of everyone's abilities that we haven't gotten to see thus far would be really cool.