'Awkward': Brett Davern, EP Explain Jake's Sudden Musical Shift (Exclusive Video)
Drawing on influences like John Mayer, Jack Johnson and yes, even Taylor Swift, executive producer Mike Chessler wrote three original songs ("a little bit bubblegum") -- the first of which debuts in Tuesday's episode.
Senior year in high school means changes and on Awkward, that's no different. One of the show's main characters may be taking a step further than the rest.
Jake Rosati began the series as your everyday jock and best friend to Matty. Fast-forward to season four: Jake has grown out his beach-blond hair, preferring to sing moody, oftentimes funny coffeeshop ballads about love and despair. (Three of those original songs will be featured this season.) It was a drastic character shift, one that new executive producers Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini dreamed up early on. "One of the first things they asked when I sat down with them was 'Can you sing?' " Davern, who went to musical theater school, tells The Hollywood Reporter of his meeting with the duo. "I thought, 'Wait, what's that got to do with Jake? He's a jock.' " Adds Chessler: "With Jake, we felt he's always been the clean-cut good guy who always does right, so what if he's a dude who sings songs?"
Some may see the change as coming from out of the blue, but Davern points to a season-one episode where Jake makes mention of his propensity to music. "Jenna is getting into the back seat of his car -- this was when he was still dating Lissa -- and he says to Jenna, 'Hey, be careful of my amp back there,' " Davern says. "He's always played the guitar in my mind. But when he lost the class presidency to Tamara, which was pretty emasculating to him, he had to find a new path." It just so happened that Davern had begun playing guitar for an indie he had recently finished about the Beach Boys, Love & Mercy, in which he plays founding member/lead guitarist Carl Wilson. "It felt justified," he says of Jake's turn.
Singer-songwriters Davern and the producers modeled Jake 2.0 after included Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and John Mayer. Because of Palos Verdes High's Southern California locale, a beachy, relaxed vibe seemed most appropriate -- "that barefoot, walking along the sand with your guitar is kind of Jake's thing," Davern says. The personal nature of his songs conjure references to one popular female singer, whose music is often fueled by personal relationships: Taylor Swift. In fact, Jake's girlfriend Tamara is quick to make the connection: "OMFG, he's Taylor Swift-ing me."
The three original songs that Chessler wrote, with music composed by Brad Breeck, are intentionally awkward. One of them, "Tamara Never Comes," is about -- well, you can guess what the song is about considering Jake and Tamara's intimacy issues. "[The lyrics] all dovetail to what's going on in the story. The first song you hear is Jake's love song to Tamara," explains Chessler, whose approach was simple. "I wanted the songs to be engaging, catchy and fun, and for lack of a genre description, a little bit bubblegum." Davern, who auditioned for Glee, is hoping more original songs are in the show's future: "I've been begging Mike to write more."
Snippets of the tracks will be featured on the show, while full-length versions -- some include rap bridges -- will be made available as a free download on the MTV website the day the particular episode airs. The second song will be featured in the April 29 episode, while the third will be in the sixth episode. After they all debut, the songs will be bundled. (There are currently no plans for an iTunes release.)
MTV has put together a webisode of Davern in character as Jake as he attempts to make a music video, an excerpt of which opens Tuesday's episode. "Ridiculous" is one adjective Davern uses to describe it. "I think he takes it very seriously. It is not a joke at all. It's hard to remember that being Brett playing Jake," he says. "It's important to remember that he's a real teenager coming from a real place writing these real songs."
Davern and Chessler remain coy about whether this Jake is here to stay. "We'll see how far they take it," Davern says when asked about his character's full season-four arc, while Chessler explains that "it will be a little bit of a journey for him trying on this new persona that may or may not to who he really is."
Does Jake's musical arc open the door for an all-musical episode down the line? "That's something we're certainly open to if there was a good reason for it. It's not something we've ever planned on," Chessler says. "We'll see and we'll see where Jake's musical journey goes because it might come back in the second part of the season in an unexpected way."
Awkward airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.