Teddy Geiger enters post-teen idol era

05:00 AM, May 02, 2013

Teddy Geiger's new album departs from his debut in subtle ways. The Press House/

Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

If you go

What: Teddy Geiger, Tyler Hilton and Ryan Cabrera.
When: 7 p.m. May 10.
Where: The Club at Water Street, 204 N. Water St.
Tickets: $15 in advance ($20 the day of the show), available at waterstreetmusic.com and (888) 512-7469.

Levon Helm has died, but the event that he created in his Woodstock barn, the Midnight Ramble, goes on. Teddy Geiger was there one evening when the guest was David Bromberg.

There’s something cool going on,” Geiger says. “You’re, like, in this little room, and you see this organic thing happening, and everyone’s playing, and everyone’s there because they like the music. It was very inspiring to me.”

He was particularly struck by the guy who’s generally the Ramble house guitarist: Larry Campbell, best known for playing in Bob Dylan’s band, and who’s had a hand in making records with Paul Simon, B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Rosanne Cash. And now, Geiger.

I said, ‘That dude has got to be a part of this record,’ ” Geiger says.

Which explains in part why Geiger’s second record seemed almost ready to be released last year at about this time, but instead is coming out just now. He celebrates The Last Fears’ release with a May 10 show at The Club at Water Street with two others of the same young singer-songwriter ilk, Tyler Hilton and Ryan Cabrera.

At this point, if you’re familiar with the story of the Pittsford kid whose meteoric career as a teen idol in music, TV and film was met with a meteoric, one-hit-wonder fall, then you have the story wrong. What happened to Geiger at the start of his career was freakish. Signed to Columbia Records before he had a driver’s license, his first album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard magazine chart. He had a fairly major supporting role in Love Monkey, a TV show that lasted only six episodes but that has attained a bit of a cult status. And in the movie The Rocker, not a bad comedy at all starring Rainn Wilson.

But then he was dropped by Columbia, and seemingly dropped out of sight. Something that’s happened to thousands of musicians who get tangled up in the machinery of the music industry.

And, actually, where Geiger dropped to was where he probably belongs. And where he wants to be: A highly regarded young singer-songwriter, still developing his sound, taking steps to some day soon become a producer.

His 2006 album, Underage Thinking, became less about Geiger when the songs left the basement of his parents’ home, where they were written by the self-taught music prodigy. “The first record, I already had the songs written, but the connections were made really fast,” Geiger says. “When it was time to put something out again, it was no longer about me being in my basement writing songs. It was more about, ‘These people want that and these people want this.’ And you start slipping into a people pleasing mode.”

Fans were invited to select their favorites from 33 songs he’d written and recorded for the follow-up album for Columbia. But when the label dropped him, that music went into the ether.

The Last Fears, he says, “is the first album I’ve made from start to finish. It’s more like a personal thing.”

Geiger — who’s 24, still pretty young — wanted a follow-up that wasn’t too much of a departure from Underage Thinking, generally well received by critics. But there are changes. Campbell contributed string instruments to some of the songs. Geiger’s become interested in electronic dance music. And his voice is less charmingly gruff, more polished pop after he had his tonsils removed.

They kind of told me going in that there was a pretty good chance that would happen,” he says. “I was getting sick every two weeks, and they were increasingly upping the antibiotics. The choice was stay sick, or take them out and having my voice change.

Being on the road all the time, my voice wasn’t sounding that great anyway.”

He stays in touch with the team that made him a pop idol, including producer Billy Mann. And he even had a role last December in an episode of the USA Network comedy Royal Pains, playing a musician at a wedding. Being typecast as a musician beats being typecast as a homicidal-threatening lunatic, which is what’s happened to Ted Nugent.

But the days of screaming girls chasing the teen idol through the mall are gone. “Totally,” Geiger says. “I’ll get together with people and reminisce over those days. I don’t necessarily miss it. I’m growing a lot of ways off the back of that.

It’s never like I went into the whole thing asking for that. It kind of came along with everything that happened. It’s hard to understand how people actually seek that level of fame, where you can’t leave the house.”

Geiger, in fact, is a bit of a homebody. “I don’t go out at night, it’s not much of a night life,” he says. He prefers hanging out in his Queens apartment, watching Mad Men. And writing songs, just like he did in his parents’ basement.

Maybe once every three or four weeks,” Geiger says, “someone will come up to me and say, ‘Hey, are you that Teddy Geiger kid?’ “