Two words that Postmodern Jukebox know well. But years before their fire lit up the world, PMJ’s founder Scott Bradlee almost lost the flame.
Two weeks before Scott Bradlee took a sold out Vinyl Music Hall through his Post ModernJukebox adventure, I called him for an interview. This is the feature I wrote for the Pensacola News Journal ahead of his 2015 show at Vinyl Music Hall.
6 years ago, Scott Bradlee stood on the edge of giving up. The piano virtuoso with a passion for jazz had a unique gift for the world, but he couldn’t push it past New York. His dream appeared to be over until the day he sat down, looked back on the music he created and opened his mail.
Bradlee is the leader of Postmodern Jukebox. The New York group gives modern pop a boost of vintage pizzazz. They’ve doo wopped Miley Cyrus, jazzed up Macklemore and orchestrated a Motown tribute to Nickleback. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Kanye West has received a classic makeover.
Tuesday, their North American tour hits Vinyl Music Hall 2 Palafox Place.
Postmodern Jukebox has become an international sensation, but it wasn’t so smooth for Bradlee in the beginning.
“It was really tough,” he said. “I couldn’t find any gigs.”
Whenever he found work, it was as piano-man background music. Even in New York’s most notable venues, his music was lost in the shuffle. At his lowest point, Bradlee believed that music was something he could do on the side. He got a job as a music teacher and considered going back to school to study physics.
But his future changed one day in 2009 when he checked his computer.
As Bradlee watched, emails filled his screen. Each one was a notification from YouTube. Five hours earlier, he posted his first video on the popular site. The short clip “Hello My Ragtime 80’s” featured Bradlee playing a ragtime medley of 80’s hits by Bon Jovi, Journey and more. The video was an instant hit.
“YouTube would send you an email every time someone commented on a video,” he said. “I remember looking and I just saw that there were tons of comments, page after page of comments and I was trying to think, ‘What happened?’”
He thought it was a mistake. The video had 60 views earlier, but when he checked the site this time, it had over 12,000.
The moment showed Bradlee that there was a market for his vision. It became his mission to fulfill the demand.
“It was up to me to find the right team, the right kind of people that could bring these ideas to life and present them. And that’s what the last five years have really been about,” he said.
Bradlee found his elite players and Postmodern Jukebox are ready to go global. Next year, they’ll step out with a UK/European tour.
“We’ve crafted this variety show where I’m bringing some of the best vocalists and musicians in the world and we’re putting pop music in a time machine for a great celebration of past and present music styles. I want to make it so that everybody in the world can experience.”
– Michael Lashan Hulin-Smith