Drake Bell Talks 'Honest' EP, Sketch Comedy & Favorite Albums
Honesty is always a good policy, especially for Drake Bell.
Following his 2014's rockabilly-inflected Ready Steady Go!¸ Bell followed his creative muse to pursue a new pop direction. The result is Honest, a four-track EP that gives off good-time feels, top-down thrills and sunny California vibes.
In an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview, the former Nickelodeon star opens up about his path on Honest, his YouTube channel and family sports ties, plus his five favorite albums of all time.
Honest is your first release since Ready Steady Go! Why did you decide to go with a four-song EP this time around?
I was touring that last record, the rockabilly album, almost for two years and I was feeling so deprived creatively because it was more of a cover album. And when I got back in the studio and started writing my own material, these songs started coming out and I was so excited to get them to the fans. I thought, "Why wait until I have 12 or 13 songs when, the way music's delivered now, I could just drop four now and drop another four in a couple months or drop a single?" I was more interested in getting this new sound out to the fans than waiting for an entire album.
What was your goal with Honest?
I mean, it's a complete departure from the last album. The last album we recorded with all these musicians and everything and total stripped-down rockabilly. But this new album is completely different … it goes back to my earlier albums as far as the songwriting process. And sonically, it's just totally different. We've taken on a whole new pop, EDM dance … sound. It's really exciting. I don't know how to describe it, but it's really fun and new.
Tell me about the inspiration for the track "Rewind."
I have a big Latin following. I go down there and play in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and all these places. I think being down there and around that culture and hearing the music down there, it influenced "Rewind." There's a Spanish guitar and a very Spanish sound to it. Spending so much time down there kind of contributed to that sound.
Your cousin is former Major League Baseball pitcher Heath Bell. Ever step in the batter's box against him?
(laughs) No, no. I never batted against him. But when I was a kid, I played little league and, before he was in the majors, I would go out and practice with him and he would teach me pointers and show me stuff. Everyone in the whole family was like, "He's going to be in the majors someday!" And you just think, "Everybody's parents say that about their kid who plays baseball." And lo and behold, he became one of the best closers. It's pretty awesome to say, "That's my cousin." And all the baseball fans were like, "No way!" They didn't care about what I did. They were like, "That's your cousin. That's amazing!"
Speaking of amazing, your mom, Robin Dodson, is a champion pool player.
My mom is a two-time world champion pool player. She's in the WPBA Hall of Fame. She's incredible — one of the top three women who have ever played pool. It's unreal.
Did you ever beat her at a game of pool?
No, I've never beaten my mom at pool. Never. The thing is when we were little, she used to have to practice all the time. And we would want to go in and play. She would need the time to practice and when we'd play she couldn't practice. It would be distracting. She'd go, "OK, we can play. Go ahead and rack the balls." And then she'd break, and she'd run out. She's like, "OK, go ahead and rack the balls again." Break, run out. And then we'd get bored. All we'd do is rack the balls so we'd end up going outside and playing. And then she would be able to continue and practice. But yeah, she doesn't miss.
You've got a variety of fun content on your YouTube channel. What do you have in the works coming up?
We do the "Where's Walter" series on there, which is a throwback to "Drake & Josh." I love sketch comedy and I love playing different characters and writing for different characters and being wacky, zany and funny. Coming from "The Amanda Show" and that background, I just love "SNL" and [Canadian comedy show] "SCTV" and that style. Probably just more sketches and fun stuff like that. Also, I'm about to go on tour for six, seven weeks around the country. So a lot of vlogging and I'm probably going to be showing a lot of the tour for people who aren't able to make it out to the dates.
What is your favorite TV show now?
Right now, my favorite show that I've seen recently is "Better Call Saul." I didn't watch "Breaking Bad" so I came into "Better Call Saul" with a completely blank slate. I can sit and binge-watch that for the entirety of the season.
You can only stream five albums for the rest of your life. What are Drake Bell's five desert island albums?
Oh man. Let's see, I would take [the Beatles'] Sgt. Pepper, Revolver [and] Magical Mystery Tour. Graceland by Paul Simon. And then I'd have to [add] an Elvis greatest hits.