Now that Justin Bieber has proven he can sell millions of albums, the search is on for the next pre-teen singing star. Enter: Majors and Minors, a new talent show premiering on the Hub network tonight, which has gathered a dozen young performers age 10-16 and giving them the experience of a lifetime: a chance to be mentored by some of the industry’s top names, including OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Adam Lambert, Brandy, Avril Lavigne and Leona Lewis, among others.
The man tasked with guiding these mostly pint-sized talents: Evan Bogart, whose nickname, appropriately enough, is “Kidd.” He’s a songwriter (Rihanna’s “S.O.S.”), producer, creator of Bravo’s Platinum Hit and an Executive Producer on Majors & Minors, whose father Neil was an infamous music industry figure of the 1970s (Kiss and Donna Summer were signed to his Casablanca Records during the height of their popularity).
These days, the junior Bogart is busy as ever, not just with Majors & Minors, which awards an RCA Records contract to one lucky participant (contestants aren’t eliminated on the show, however), but with his writing and production work, including a recent stint in the studio with Lambert, and plans for some big future projects, not the least of which involves producing a movie about his father’s life and legacy.
Bogart recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about the show’s mission and offers his two cents on what Justin Bieber should do next.
The Hollywood Reporter: Between American Idol, The Voice and X Factor, there are so many singing competition show on TV right now. Where do you see the place of Majors & Minors?
Evan Bogart: We’re honing in on the fact that people really want to see the process, and on a show that’s more inspirational. So we take these kids and give them their leg up. I wanted a more positive feeling, as opposed to the cut-you-down-you’re-voted-off-going-home-you-suck mentality which, I think, is going out. The Idol judges were nicer this year, The Voice kind of did some mentoring, but at the end of the day, it was still a competition, and this is not. They competing maybe against themselves in trying to make themselves better, but this is about a family-friendly feeling — a great show for parents and kids to watch together.
THR: It feels like a little like a TV version of the Grammy in the Schools program…
Bogart:We thought all of our performances on the show felt like a mini-Grammys. During casting, it was essential that we didn’t pick pageant kids or trained kids. It had to be raw talent. I was looking for kids who were primed to be mentored. It’s cool, you want to root for everybody.
THR: These kids get to spend time with real working artists, who do you have on tap and why did you choose them?
Bogart: We have Will.I.Am, Sean Kingston, Avril Lavigne, Leona Lewis (pictured), Adam Lambert, Jordin Sparks, Ryan Tedder, Brandy… RCA obviously brought a lot their people to the table, and we reached out to a lot of different people. Our main criteria was that they have some experience working with kids, but mostly we’re were looking for people who started out when they were young – doing, film, musicals… That’s why Brandy is so important, because some of these kids want to be in acting, and she did it all at their age. When I started working with Kingston, he was 16. Avril was a kid. Adam Lambert, he went through the Idol thing. Also, each of them was chosen for something that they’re known for. Like Adam digs into stage presence, Jordin works on vocal technique, Kingston, Ryan Tedder and Claude Kelly did a lot of songwriting mentoring. It’s very calculated.
THR: Who were some people you wanted to get but couldn’t?
Bogart: We would love to have Justin Bieber, but I don’t want to say whether we’re getting him or not — there’s still time and the finale to shoot! Beyonce we’d love to get…
THR: You mentioned Adam Lambert, what are his strongest attributes when it comes to participating in a show like Majors and Minors?
Bogart: First of all, he’s an incredible singer. His range is ridiculous. But he really wanted to work with the kids on stage presence and delivering the right performance. Even when you’re not the person singing, what you’re doing, how you’re interacting with other people on stage, how you’re being a part of it when you’re not the center of attention. And then when you are the center of attention, how you grab that, run with it, and then pass it off. Because a lot of the performances are done as an ensemble. So, Adam worked with them individually on their movements and their presence. It was something he specifically said he wanted to do.
Bogart: We’re still talking about stuff. You know how it is: like with a song, I want my song to be number one, and if it falls short of that, you’re bummed. We spent a lot of time on it, obviously I wish it could’ve done better.
THR: What did you learn about TV from your experience with Platinum Hit that you might apply to Majors and Minors?
Bogart: I actually had to un-learn a lot. Platinum Hit was about the cutthroat music industry, as far as songwriting goes, so I found myself transitioning to Majors and Minors feeling like I was being judgmental. I had to re-teach myself to be more inspirational, as opposed to being the Simon Cowell.
THR: You recently announced the formation of Boardwalk Entertainment Group with your brother and partner Gary Randall, you’ve rented out Casablanca’s former office space, and are planning a movie based on your father’s life called Spinning Gold. What’s the status of that?
Bogart:My father passed away in 1982, and Boardwalk was his entertainment company that never really got to take off. My brother Tim and I, had so much fun together creating Platinum Hit that we thought, why don’t we try to do some more? So he’s writing the script right now.
THR: If your dad were alive today, do you think he’d still be in the music business?
Bogart: Yes, but I don’t think it would just be the music business. He actually ventured into a million different things — films, in which Peter Guber was his partner way back and they had Midnight Express, The Deep, and Thank God It’s Friday. They had Casablanca Kidworks for children’s programming. He had a bunch of sub-labels and producers and songwriters that were signed. And he was expanding. He wanted Boardwalk to become a distribution company. I think he’d be right there with us, grinding away. He’d be in his late sixties now.
THR: What would he make of talent shows like Idol and X Factor as A&R tools?
Bogart:I think he would’ve created it. He was best friends with Dick Clark and Merv Griffin. I mean, I think he would’ve thought of it way before then. He would have been at the forefront.
THR: As one of a couple dozen hitmakers who’ve submitted songs for a new Justin Bieber album, what kind of direction should he take next?
Bogart:He should make an age-appropriate Justin Timberlake record — something that’s more aged up and sexy where he can push the limits and be more artistic. He should go into it and not worry about radio singles, which I don’t think he has before, try some different sounds, futuristic stuff… I’d love to see him really try to place himself as a performer in the same world a Justin Timberlake, who’s focusing more on films these days. So when one Justin walks one way, one Justin walks the other.