Based on his tastes and musical interests, you could argue that Seth Kessel was born into the wrong generation. Skillfully moulding a throwback-heavy sound into something that still has a modern flair to it, Kessel is functioning at peak level performance on his latest single “Everybody Misses Me,” a fun, catchy little tune that you could picture being played by a bunch of guys in matching suits, providing the soundtrack for the high school dance in a film about the 1960s. It’s an easy-to-like song that will have you doing your best impression of Kessel’s vintage, twangy voice all day, singing “everybody misses me but my missus.”
And while it’s certainly an upbeat, lively song, there’s also a less fortunate aspect to it. As Kessel explains, “This song captures the fun and sacrifices of life on the road. Having spent years traveling around the country, there’s a lot of good times to be had. Lots of great people, venues and towns that would never have been seen otherwise. The cost of these good times is steep. Friends, family, and relationships all suffer. So as catchy and upbeat as the line “everybody misses me but my missus” is, it hits home with many people who spend lots of time away from home.”
In listening to “Everybody Misses Me” and some of Kessel’s other musical output, it’s not hard to derive where he draws his primary inspirations from. You can hear a lot of Elvis within both Kessel’s voice and his musical arrangements, and there’s certainly a degree of Johnny Cash in there too. But Kessel also looks to other, less predictable artists when it comes to his songwriting, like Django Reinhardt, The Clash, and Bad Brains. Raised in Brooklyn, Kessel has been quite the road warrior since choosing music as his preferred line of work, as a solo performer and as a touring guitar player. Capable of many sounds and styles, it’s that 1950s early rock n’ roll sound that really drives him as an artist. There’s also a rawness and an honesty to his songwriting, as well as a working-class attitude that makes it easy for audiences to connect with him.
Along with our premiere of the “Everybody Misses Me” music video, we took the opportunity to speak with Kessel directly to go behind-the-scenes of the making of his last music video for “Let That Train Roll By,” as well as hear some of his thoughts on his favourite videos of the past, and what goes into making a really good one.
Any mishaps on set?
Seth Kessel: “I usually expect some kind of disaster on set, but somehow this was smooth. Besides the band shot, everything else was done separately and with minimal gear. The closest thing to a mishap was a crazy drunk guy trying to fight my director and I for no reason in Chinatown. The hardest thing about shooting was dealing with COVID-19 safety (protocols). Coordinating people, and looking for locations was just exhausting. But we did it and did it safely.”
Any concepts where you started and, midway through, thought what “The fuck are we doing?”
“We originally wanted to have a gang of roller skating women, but it was hard to lock down everyone’s time and again, COVID safety concern. In the end, my two friends filled the spot and did an awesome job. Thanks Erika and Addie!”
If money was no issue what would be in your perfect video?
“To take this question very literally, I have a single called ‘Dear Moon’ coming out later this year, and well, yeah we would shoot it on the freaking moon! Can’t think of a better excuse to leave this planet. However, money is absolutely a concern and we went with a different concept. We are very much looking forward to that!”
If you could have any guest appear in a video who would you have?
“Steve Buscemi. Nobody looks cooler on camera than him. Maybe he would be dancing around or just looking into the camera. I don’t really care what he would do, but that would be awesome.”
Do you prefer writing a video around the theme of a song or just going to a warehouse and banging out a live performance?
“I think there’s a need for the live performance videos, but prefer having an idea fleshed out from the song. I love adding a visual element as well and it’s a great opportunity to take the essence of the song and flesh it out with a new interpretation. Adding a new dimension seems to make it more tangible as well.”
Tell us about any good, bad or crazy director or film crew-related incidents.
“Nothing too crazy because the sets were very small and we shot it all in chunks. But while we were shooting the roller skating shots, some teenagers came by and asked if we were shooting a porno. Also, as I mentioned earlier, some crazy drunk dude tried to fight the director and I in Chinatown. But we didn’t fight him or take him too seriously.”
How does the music inform the video in terms of visuals matching sound?
“The song is high energy, fast-paced, very New York City, rough around the edges. And I think we just took that cue for the video. We got lots of energy in the performances and grit in the cityscape as well. The song has appealing, yet a poisonous character and we got different people representing that in the video.”
Have you ever had such a baller idea for a music video that you’ve written music for it?
“That’s an awesome question, but unfortunately I haven’t yet. You just got my mind working! Let’s reconnect about this question in the future (laughs).”
What is your favourite childhood music video and have you any secret nods to it in your catalogue?
“Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’ video had a huge effect on me. I saw those kids skateboarding on a halfpipe, and it inspired me to go out skating. I never got good enough to do halfpipes though. After a few good falls, I was like fuck skating and hung it up. So to answer your question, maybe there’s a secret nod to Tom Petty with the roller skaters in my video. But that was a secret to me as well.”
How important are music videos in terms of increased exposure?
“Music videos have the potential for tons of exposure and much more. Of course it depends on the video. Without exposure in mind, I think they serve a purpose to further connect the listener with an artist and help with their brand.”
How much more effective or beneficial is creating a music video now compared to 20 or 30 years ago?
“I can’t speak from experience, but I know 20, 30 years ago, most people got their music from the same big sources: MTV, VH1, Fuse. Getting a video on those platforms was essentially for superstars only. Many people have great careers and are even unsigned because of YouTube. And yes, it’s more saturated, but it’s equal. There are so many more opportunities now for all types of careers.”
Are the benefits worth the costs and effort involved?
“I used to struggle with this because videos don’t directly bring in money. But it builds your brand and branding is undervalued. So a few high production videos that you can afford are absolutely worth it to me. And it’s cool to have lower budget videos too. Really anything that makes the art more tangible.”
Is a well-made DIY video just as good or beneficial as a professionally-made/directed video?
“From what I’ve seen, people seem to respond to quality. All platforms will push higher quality videos as well. So a high production video on YouTube will probably get more views. However, I think the possibilities these days with a DIY video are pretty impressive. I wanted my video to have an authentic, gritty punk rock feel to it. I think a high-end produced video would have taken out the authenticity to the song.”
In terms of a crew for the video, who did it include and how did you put together the team?
“The crew landed mostly on my filmmaker buddy, Drew Wood. He directed, shot, gaffed, edited, as well as helped produce the video. I helped as much as I could with the talent and on the production side. Our friend Ava helped with production on the band scene. It was done in small chunks on different days. A lot of that is because of COVID. Everything is just a little more difficult when adding more people.”
How much of the video was self-made?
“My director Drew is really the superhero of this video. He made the song come to life. I worked alongside him as much as I could, but he made most of it happen. Not to mention the editing process alone, which can take countless hours.”