What do Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory and Tom Morello have in common? Well, maybe a few things, but in this case they both play a role in Mister Green’s debut album, Stay Tuned.
Yes, the cover art you see for Stay Tuned is none other than Paris Themmen, who played the cowboy-donned little lad Mike Teevee in the iconic film. The album cover was executed by the creative mind of photographer Jim Herrington.
And the solo you hear in the album’s opening track “Annabelle?” That would be none other than Rage Against The Machine’s Morello lending his elite fingers on the song.
The Americana alt-rock duo that is Mister Green dropped their new album, Stay Tuned, this past December, though you would never guess it’s their first foray into releasing music together.
The duo – comprised of singer-songwriter Andrew Lindner and producer/co-writer Mark Renk – aimed to transcend a typical listening experience, creating an album that can be not only heard, but felt.
Aside from joining forces with the rock icon that is Morello, they’ve collaborated with renowned musicians such as Corey Churkoff, Bob Malone, Jim Kaufman, Art Santora, and more. Needless to say, it appears many heavy hitters in the music world are eager to be a part of what Mister Green is cooking up.
The band’s unique artistic vision goes beyond their catchy, melodically-driven sound and seasoned musicianship. The result? A visually, physically, and audibly sensational record.
We got to chat with Lindner about their new album, Willy Wonka, plans for 2023, and more.
How has the year treated Mister Green so far?
It’s been awesome! It feels so good to have written and recorded and now released our debut album. We are pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response to the album and excited to release more music soon.
Are there any overarching themes or motifs throughout the album? Primary influences?
Storytelling is the most important factor to a song, in my opinion. I tried to capture moments in time both in my own personal life, like for the song “What He Said,” which is all about my father’s battle with ALS and the huge impact he had on my life. Others like “Ft. Lauderdale” focus on a time in my life when going out and playing music in bars as a young guy with no responsibilities was my driving force.
The album cover is definitely interesting as well. Can you discuss the idea behind it and why you landed on it?
I’d be lying if I told you we weren’t stoned when we came up with it! Willy Wonka is one of our all time favorite films, and we had long since decided the album title would be titled Stay Tuned. The idea just appeared- Mike Teevee, a character who was always tuned in; still there, still watching after all these years.
We contacted Paris Themman, the actor who played Mike Teevee in the original Willy Wonka, to see if he would be interested in reprising his role, and he liked the music and was happy to be a part of it. Turns out, he had never once worn his wardrobe from the movie since it was filmed. He attends lots of conventions, but has never adorned the iconic cowboy look. It also felt really special to have it photographed by none other than Jim Herrington, who has shot everyone from Dolly to The Black Keys.
That is actually incredible. I see you also had Tom Morello on the opening track, “Annabelle.” That’s a big deal. How did that come to fruition?
We met him through a mutual friend. And, after connecting and discussing music and life, he offered to take a listen to the music I was working on. When he agreed to adding a solo to “Annabelle,” I was floored! I think it elevated the song and is just so cool to have been able to work with such a legend.
Did you find determining the order of songs on the album to be a challenge, and how important is that to you?
I definitely wanted the album to flow, but I also tried not to over-index about the order. Thinking too much can kill creativity, so we opted to trust what felt right.
What has been your favorite/the most rewarding part of making this album?
Honestly, the whole thing! From the seed of wanting to write my own songs for the first time after playing guitar for many years, to recording, to having Morello add a solo. Every step has been special in my eyes. As Mark [Renk] always reminds me, it’s all about enjoying the journey and not being too attached to the outcome.
Did you face any hurdles or challenges when writing/recording this album?
I live in Charlotte, NC and Mark lives in LA, where we recorded the album at NRG Studios. That sometimes complicated things when coming up with a fresh idea- we might’ve had to wait a month until I could come out and get it down. The anticipation was exciting but could be frustrating at times because we both were so deeply invested in the writing and recording process, so patience was not always my strong suit.
What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?
I already feel successful because I wrote an album’s worth of songs I am proud of. Now that the music is out in the world, and therefore out of my control, I am just happy with each and every listen, interview, or review we receive. It’s really cool to see that people are enjoying it all over the world.
What are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?
I mean it has to be Morello. WOW, I still can’t get over it! Another big one was when “Annabelle” went to #46 on the AAA Chart. That was a huge achievement for us.
What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for 2023?
We’re hoping to get an EP out this year. Now that I started writing I can’t stop! I feel like I am getting more tuned into my personal style and voice with everyone I write.
Note* Paul Howard contributed to this article.