Exclusive Interview with Justin Thorne and Kevin McHale

Justin Thorne and Kevin McHale are no strangers to the music industry. From 2006 to 2009, they were two of the four members of the band NLT, which released “That Girl” as their first major single. They found themselves sharing an arena stage with The Pussycat Dolls and worked with the legendary Timbaland, who produced their next big single, “She Said, I Said.” Then, in 2009, the band broke up, and Justin and Kevin moved on, finding success in their new solo projects.

Kevin scored the role of Artie Abrams on the hit FOX show, Glee, and Justin began working with a new group called One Call, opening for Britney Spears on her U.S. Circus Tour. Nevertheless, they both remained very close and continued to collaborate on one another’s projects. When One Call disbanded in 2011, Justin began working on solo music, and his single, “Heartless,” was co-written by Kevin. Meanwhile, Kevin signed on to play a supporting role in the Kathy Bates/Dustin Hoffman film Boychoir and currently hosts the E4 panel show “Virtually Famous” in the UK. In addition, both Justin and Kevin also host a radio show called “Sick of My Own Voice” on Dash Radio.

Recently, Kevin and Justin released a music video for their most recent collaboration, “Summer Nights.” I had the opportunity to ask these two talented artists about the inspiration behind “Summer Nights”, their future projects and who their dream collaborations would be. Keep reading to find out what they said!

How did you both get involved in music?

Justin: I first started out dancing at the age of 6. When I was about 12, I decided that I wanted to sing and be in a boyband (the things we think are cool at 12… haha). So I started learning to sing and I joined my first boyband shortly after that and went on to create NLT about a year later.  From there, I found a love for writing and producing as well as performing.

Kevin: I grew up performing all around Dallas and, annoyingly, all around my house, whether or not my parents and siblings wanted to hear it. I eventually decided to move out to LA & joined the boyband NLT with Justin when  I was 14. That was really the start of everything. It was the best training possible. We toured, recorded, had long rehearsals, were dealing with adults from an early age. I think it was all an invaluable lesson.

What inspired you to write “Summer Nights”?

Justin: I’m a very nostalgic person and I was remembering a time in the past that I was very fond of and people I was very fond of. That time was in the summer a few years ago and the song just sort of wrote itself from there.  

Kevin: Justin wrote it! I definitely connected with it because we grew up together and had a lot of the same “summer nights” memories.

How do you feel that you have both grown as artists since being a part of NLT?

Justin: I think being a part of a band and having mentors when you’re growing up as a teenager gives you a really good foundation. I think from that foundation we’ve both figured who we want to be as artists. For me, I grew a lot as a producer/writer and became an individual instead of being just a part of something. 

Kevin: Outside of the obvious of me spending a majority of my time doing acting, I think my perspective has changed the most. I think that is an important growth in a way because now having just been around the musical success we had on Glee and having not really had the success before, I see how quickly it can come and go and that’s really freeing.

What are you most proud of in regard to the music video for “Summer Nights”?

Justin: I’m most proud of getting it done all on our own and in such a short time. We filmed it, I edited it, did all the graphics and sent it out all within a week.  Also, the budget was under $500 which is pretty cool. 

Kevin: I just wanted it to be very real and not “trying” to be anything. Luckily, I think it really came out that way! It was a real night (or 2) and we has our real friends there. Justin’s hidden talent is that he’s probably going to be an incredible director one day, so I let him take the reigns which also helps.

What do you enjoy the most about hosting the radio show “Sick of My Own Voice” on Dash Radio?

Justin: All of us on “SOMOV” have really strong opinions about things, so it gives us an unfiltered opportunity to voice them. 

Kevin: Dash really give us the freedom to say/do whatever we want and are extremely supportive. For a show like ours, that’s massively important. It’s just 4 friends sitting around chatting unfiltered, that’s by far my favorite part!

Who inspires you musically?

Justin: Out of all artists, I’m still most inspired by Kanye West. I’m inspired by his passion, creativity and how raw he delivers it. I’m also inspired by Max Martin as a producer/writer. He’s been making consistent hits for 20 years, which is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Kevin: Hard workers. There are people out there that aren’t necessarily big, but they have big ideas and big voices and big songs and they can’t be beaten down. That inspires me and I come across someone new every day and it’s a continual cycle of people who just kick-ass.

How do you hope to inspire others musically?

Justin: I hope to inspire people by my music simply connecting with them in some way. I think all you really want at the end of the day is for your music to connect with someone and for it to have a positive affect on them and their life.

Kevin: I think connecting with people is what it’s all about. Whether someone likes a song because they really relate to the lyrics, or it makes them want to dance, makes them forget their problems, or makes them want to never listen to any more of my songs-it’s all a connection!

You’ve collaborated on music together quite a few times since NLT disbanded. If you did collaborate on a full album, what kind of album do you think it would be?

Justin: If we collaborated on a full album, it would be very eclectic I think. I don’t know, it would probably end up being a rap album.

Kevin: It would be a smorgasbord. We like everything; it’s honestly a constant battle just to reign ourselves in. But, yeah, we’d  be rapping for sure.

If you could collaborate with any artist besides each other, who would it be and why?

Justin: Kanye, because he’s inspired me so much and I’ve learned so much from him that I think we’d make really great music together.

Kevin: …Beyonce? Because why not? I also think I’d be too terrified. Ok, my real answer is Frank Ocean, again I’d be too terrified, but his music makes me excited and that never happens. I’m truly a Frank Ocean fan and would love to just see how he works.

Photo by Catie Laffoon / Grooming by Kim Bragalone

Kevin, since your time on “Glee”, do you feel more drawn to acting than you do music?

Kevin: I wouldn’t say more than music, but I’m definitely more drawn to acting than I was before Glee. I liked it before Glee, now I love it. I crave it and crave great parts and being a part of a team to be a part of something.

What did you enjoy the most about working on “Glee”?

Kevin: That my “job” was getting to work on the most beautiful lot (Paramount) on massive stages and with amazing people everyday. I loved the familial aspect of it all.

What can you tell us about your upcoming role in “Boychoir”?

Kevin: I get to play a young music teacher alongside Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard. I’m the nice teacher. It did feel weird being a teacher/adult character, when some of the kids in the movie were taller than I am. It’s a really sweet film and really shows the power of music, which is obviously something I know all about!

unnamed-3Justin, were you ever interested in pursuing acting in addition to music?

Justin: I actually started acting before I pursued music, but I got really busy with music and had to put acting on hold for a bit. I still love acting and am pursuing it again.

As a solo artist, do you have a clear concept in mind when you start working on a project or does it develop over time?

Justin: I think as an artist that you have an idea of image of what you want and from there it develops. A lot of times, it develops into something completely different from you had set out to create.

Do you currently have any solo projects in the works?

Justin: I recently released my debut EP – “Faces” which is available on iTunes and Spotify. I’m also planning to release more music this year and the top of next year as well.

Make sure you follow Justin and Kevin on Twitter (@JJustinThorneMe and @druidDUDE) for updates, news and more. Watch the music video for “Summer Nights” below.

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