There are several attempts by actors to create successful bands. Many of them flop, many of them take themselves too seriously. Band From TV, however, is one band that’s successful and fun for the actors involved as well as their fans. We recently had a chance to speak with the band’s drummer, Greg Grunberg. You might know Greg better from his television shows Heroes and Felicity but he doesn’t mind that. Greg’s happy to be playing music with his friends and raising money for a good cause. Read our interview with Greg below and learn how you can help donate to one of the band’s charities as well as win Band From TV’s live album Hoggin’ All The Covers Unleashed!.
It’s been almost five years now. It came from sort of an idea I had years ago. I was asked to play at a benefit with Phil Lesh and a bunch of great musicians performing for a charity. They had me on drums for one song and a few other actors also came up on stage to play too. That night a bunch of the musicians were walking the red carpet and there wasn’t a lot of excitement from the press. But when I walked there, it was like “What the hell are you doing here?” Everyone was kind of surprised and all the questions were like “Are you nervous? Are you going to fall flat on your face?” I got so much attention. So a little while later I was on the show House and I knew that Hugh Laurie played music. I asked him if he’d want to jam at a charity event with James Denton and Bob Guiney. I just said “hey, let’s get something together.” Band From TV was born for just one gig at that time what was the Guitar Center Music Foundation, now it’s the Fender Music Foundation. We kind of had to throw together a bunch of songs and it became a “be careful what you wish for” kind of thing. A friend of mine, Kurt Benjamin (Generosity Records Founder & CEO), saw us play and said “Hey, we should do an album and DVD”. That’s how “Hoggin All The Covers” was made. We then played American Idol, then Leno, NASCAR, casinos, corporate events, charity events and we’ve raised well over two million dollars in the last four and a half years. Everytime we play, it’s soo much fun. Every penny we raise goes straight to the charities. And everytime we get off stage, I say “we fooled them! we’re actors!”
Does the band only perform covers?
Yes, although we have some original stuff. Jesse Spencer, Adrian Pasdar, Hugh and all the guys are so talented and they all occasionally bring a song and say “Hey, let’s work on it” but to do what we’re doing, it has to be feel good music that you’re familiar with. That’s what hopefully fans see when they see our faces. “Oh that’s the guy from that show.” When i’m playing drums, I look at the crowd and I can see people saying “I know that guy!” I just feel like we don’t take it too seriously, we have a lot of fun and we really surprise a lot of people. To try and go beyond that and become a real “originals” band, it’s something we’re not interested in doing now.
Did everyone in the band agree to play the instruments they play now or did some of you have to compromise? You can’t have two drummers, can you?
Unfortunately, we turned down drummers left and right because it’s what I do. Many times we’ve had too many guitars on stage. It’s hard to simplify the sound when you have that many guitars on stage. We have musicians who aren’t actors play too. Barry Sarna is not a celebrity but he played keyboard with The Eagles. Well, Hugh plays keyboards but he also plays guitar. There are a bunch of people who can play more than one instrument. Jesse Spencer can play guitar but he also plays fiddle for us. Scott Grimes can also play the drums. There are two songs that I even sing on. I’ll sing “She Caught The Caty” and people are saying “Where’s that singing coming from?” because they can’t see me singing behind the drums.
How long have you been playing the drums?
I’ve been playing since I was thirteen, self-taught, I never took a lesson. I tried to emulate some of the bands and drummers around. Stan Lynch was the guy who I listened to the most. I loved Tom Petty and Warren Zevon. Growing up, they were my musical influences. I love The Police, I love Rush, I love Springsteen. Stan Lynch is so solid. Thank God that I listened to him. As a kid, if you did what I do, you play around and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can try and emulate a drummer who’s way too skilled. The stuff that they’re playing sounds so simple but it’s really not. Some of the stuff that they’re playing is so complicated and crazy, it just screws you up. Luckily, Tom Petty’s music was so solid.
Did you ever consider pursuing music as a career instead of acting?
When I was dreaming, sure! There’s nothing like playing music. That’s why the Fender Music Foundation is one of our charities. We need music in the schools. Every child should have the opportunity to flourish if they take to music and find an instrument that they like. We support all that. For me, growing up, it was just part of the creative process whether it was music, acting or writing. I also played sports. Luckily my mom and dad encouraged me no matter how lousy it sounded in the garage to play my music loudly.
Is it difficult to schedule band practice and shows with everyone? Do you have to arrange everything through your publicists and managers?
We do it all ourselves. We have our own space. The one luxury we’ve afforded ourselves is our own lockout rehearsal space. It’s beautiful. Lowes donated the construction materials. Home Goods gave us all the furniture. Sears gave us the appliances. Panasonic gave us a TV. It’s like a man cave. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We flip the switch and everything is already set up and all ready to go. We can have 12 to 15 people in the band for a full rehearsal. Because of that, it’s easier to schedule rehearsals. But still, the other night I couldn’t make rehearsal. Everyone was there, there were every three horn players and three backup sings but I couldn’t make it. I was shooting my show but I couldn’t get out. But Kim Conrad, who sometimes fills in for me, sat in for the rehearsal. We have two big holiday gigs coming up so I have to be at the next rehearsal. It’s tough but we do all the scheduling.
Given the band’s busy schedule, do you think that it’d ever be possible for the band to tour?
We’ve talked about it. As an actor, everytime you book something, something can happen. I’m married and have three kids and whenever we book a trip, I get a gig or offered something. It’s Murphy’s Law. It was even tough to do four to five days for “Hoggin All The Covers” and that was local. We’ve definitely talked about this dream of getting a bus and a couple of trucks and just driving and doing a California tour. We’ve done other shows at casinos and flown all the way to Niagara Falls and we’ll say “while we’re over there, let’s play a few more shows”. We opened the Taste of Chicago and while we were there, we played the Vic (Theatre), before the White Sox-Cubs game and we also played Harry Caray’s Tavern on the Navy Pier. So whenever we visit a city, we try to play three or four shows. The shows can take a toll and I want everyone to enjoy playing. We don’t do it to make money and we donate our time. It’s all about raising money for charity but at the same time I want everyone to have a good time. A tour is certainly something we want to do but I don’t think that that we’re all going to be out of work at the same time unfortunately and fortunately.
Was Band From TV the original name of the band?
We had plenty of names. Band From TV was the simplest that we came up with. It’s hard to get across with the name of the band that we’re from TV, we’re charity driven, and we’re a band. Everytime we tried to come up with something, we came back to it. Rich Winer, who’s a great guitar player, was in the band at the time and said “What about ‘Band From TV'” and we went from there.
Besides Hoggin All The Covers Unleashed!, what would be a great holiday music gift that you’d want receive or give this year?
I would love it if somebody gave me the Beatles collection on iTunes. I hate Apple for doing this because I have most of this music already but to have it in a digital form with all the videos and extras, it’s just awesome. It’s just soo expensive. haha. It’s great though that someone could just say “Hey, here’s the whole Beatles collection”
You’ve done a lot of television and film work. If you could relaunch one of your previous characters right now, who would it be?
There are some characters that I’ve played on pilots that didn’t get picked up. J. J. Abrams, who’s a good friend, created a character on a pilot called The Catch where I played a detective, more like a P.I.. It was kind of a modern day Rockford Files. Don Rickles played my grandfather. It was awesome. I’d love to play that character again.
I’m doing a show right now that’s kind of a remake. It’s called Love Bites and I’m having the time of my life. I play a married guy and I’m working with some incredible people. It’s going to be on NBC in March and I’m really excited about that.
If we’re talking about an existing character I’ve already played, I loved Sean Blumberg, the character that I played on Felicity. His life was very similar to my life. He was always coming up with new ideas and inventions and I’ve created my own iPhone app and my own businesses. I had a lot of fun playing that hopeful, inventor character.
You’re very savvy with social media and you’ve created an iPhone app. With your business acumen and love of music, could you see yourself starting your own label? Perhaps a digital-only label?
That’s something I’ve definitely though about. I have 5 to 10 different projects outside of TV that I’m working on. I’ve thought about it. I would do it in a way that would be organic to what I’m doing. There’s so many celebrities in different areas: movies, sports etc. They have music to give and I know how to do it. I know how to put that band together. That’d be something I’d love to do given all the success from Band From TV.
For more information on Band From TV, head over to www.bandfromtv.org where you can find out their upcoming shows schedule and the charities that they support. You can also keep up to date on the band by following them on Twitter @TheBandFromTV.
We’re giving away the “Hoggin’ All The Covers Unleashed!” album with the bonus DVD and a poster to THREE readers. To win, you must answer the following:
1. Which charity does Greg directly support for Band From TV?
2. What was the name of the episode that Greg appeared on the television show House?
3. Name three songs on the the “Hoggin’ All The Covers Unleashed!” album.
4. What’s the name of the iPhone application that Greg created?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (with the subject: I LOVE BAND FROM TV!) with your name AND the answers to the four questions above and we’ll email you if you’re a winner! (Winner must have a US mailing address) Good luck!