Saturday, July 21, 2007

Constantine Maroulis, Master Multitasker

In their interview with Season 4 finalist Constantine Maroulis, EW called him a master multitasker and says he is determined to stick around for these reasons:

  • Barely a week after being eliminated, it was announced he had a TV development deal with Kelsey Grammer.

  • Then, he was hitting the stage in New York, joining the cast of Broadway's "The Wedding Singer"

  • Next, he was in the Off Broadway production of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris."

  • Since then, Maroulis has toured the country playing solo gigs.

  • Gone to work on his debut album, Constantine (out Aug. 7) .

  • And found time to guest on the CBS soap "The Bold and the Beautiful."
And he's doing so on his own terms. After a major-label deal with Atlantic fell through, Constantine pressed on with his album, paying for the production himself and hiring all the players. Then he formed his own record company, aptly named Sixth Place Records, and, like Elliott Yamin, secured a distribution deal. Should he sell even half of the 150,000 copies being pressed next month, Constantine will likely enjoy a very nice payday. But it's not all about the money, says the Boston Conservatory of Music grad — his focus is on having a career. And whether you consider him a heartthrob or a cheeseball, Constantine doesn't care much either way, as long as you don't count him out.

What happened to the deal with ABC?
We had a show we were developing, but it didn't work out. When Kelsey Grammar calls you up, you put a year of your time into developing something because he's a legend. You have to pursue these opportunities, see what they are, and nurture them. You have to take time to see if there's something there.

Tell us about your character on "The Bold and the Beautiful."
I play Constantine Parros, an international rock star, which, of course, I'm not. He's a really cool, hard-working guy who's producing records and looking for artists. He becomes fascinated with Phoebe Forrester [played by MacKenzie Mauzy]. She's the heiress to Forrester fashion house, which is a big f---ing deal. The whole show is based around this family, and she's really beautiful and can sing incredibly well. I see this YouTube-equivalent [video] of her and I say, ''Look at all the buzz this girl's getting, look at all the views, she's got the paparazzi after her...'' She's a good girl, though. She's like Hilary Duff but with Paris Hilton exposure. So I see potential and I want to produce her record. And, of course, a romance ensues.

You perform your songs on the show as well; do you give her the staple Constantine stare?
Definitely. It might have been written into one of the stage directions. The script said, ''Constantine gives her 'the look.' '' I laughed out loud, of course. I take my work really seriously, but that's funny s--- when you see that written into the script.

Certainly it must be easier to gaze toward Phoebe than Simon Cowell.
Yeah, a little bit. Although he might have liked it. He did call me ''smoldering.''

You went from "Elimidate" to "American Idol" to "The Bold and the Beautiful" — some may say there's some cheese there.
I say it's cool to be cheesy. But also look at Boston Conservatory, [the] Rent [tour], record entrepreneur, classical actor. You can see all sides of it. As long as they're talking about me, that's all that matters.

Why did you choose to self-release your album?
It just ended up becoming the best situation for me. Anytime you can have control of an album's direction, that's a good thing. I own this record. I'm the label — I lay out all the money for the studio, the musicians, the producers, rights and clearances to songs ... There's a huge advantage and a much bigger profit margin for units sold if you can do it like this.

Care to predict how it will do?
If we can sell enough to continue making records and stay on the road long enough to get more people into the music ... that's the goal. Numbers are irrelevant now. It's about who your target audience is and trying to move them. I'm realistic. I know I'm not going to be like the major artists out there. I think that's so silly when artists talk about [how much they'll sell] ... I've taken the time to consciously build a career. I wanted to do Broadway, I wanted to do soap operas, I wanted to start my own label, I wanted to host and write. There were all these ''I wannas'' and I got to do them all.

Would you say you're proof that you don't have to win to have a successful career?
I'm just a hardworking kid from New York. I'm about perseverance. You pound away, you keep working and things will happen. If you're not fortunate enough to be Carrie Underwood, you have to f---ing bust your ass. That's it. I've stayed out there without being too much out there. I've quietly done good work. I plan on sticking around for a long time as a result of it. Then one day, I'll move to Greece and retire with my 10 children.


EW says that 14 months after his Season 5 on "American Idol" ended, Elliott Yamin's self-titled debut album, which was released in March, is quickly approaching gold status. It's about to overtake runner-up Katharine McPhee's total sales and is outpacing current numbers for winner Taylor Hicks.

How did Yamin defy the odds? Judge Randy Jackson has a theory: ''He's the same guy he was on the show,'' he tells EW. ''The pop, R&B thing worked for him and that's what he's doing now. People [respond] and go, 'Yeah! This is no different than the guy I voted for, it's right on the money.' ''

Yamin's other smart decision was how he went about releasing his album. Rather than pursuing the major label route, Elliott saw being passed over by SonyBMG (the music conglomerate that has first dibs on Idol contestants) as a blessing and opted to go indie. With a publishing deal in hand (from Sony/ATV, who signed him after hearing one song) and guidance from his manager, Jeff Rabhan (who previously worked with Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken), Elliott's team became a "virtual label," with many of the key elements (sales, promotion, press) outsourced to various experts of their field.

As luck — and hard work — would have it, Yamin's first single, "Wait for You," was an unexpected hit, and with a new shaggy 'do and (gifted) $50,000 veneers, he looks poised to be the next solo pop star to break out of the Idol mold. EW caught up with Yamin at a café near his home in Los Angeles to talk shop.

We'll have to start with the teeth, because they look great!
And now it feels great! [The process] was excruciating. I was wrecked from the neck up. It hurt to talk. I'd had a couple cavities filled and my wisdom teeth pulled, but that's it. I would never even go to cleanings. So that was tough. I didn't think the pain was ever going to go away.

Did that make you insecure?
Yeah, a little bit. I always had a complex about my smile. I would have to smile a certain way, knowing it looked better than the other way, when my teeth were exposed. I never thought I'd have the whole mouth done, but they offered to do it for free! That was definitely the Jew in me.
You're part Israeli, aren't you?
My dad's Israeli. He was born in Baghdad to Iraqi Jews. Then, at age 2, his parents wanted to move to their homeland and he grew up in Israel. I've been there twice, once as a baby and once when I was 15.

Did you have a Bar Mitzvah?
No, I didn't. I was a bad kid. I got kicked out of Hebrew school for making fun of [my teacher]. She was pretty strict with us and her husband was the rabbi. We used to clash.

And you dropped out of high school, too?
Yeah. I was never really good in the classroom setting. But I got my ''Good Enough Degree.'' [Chuckles]

Do you think being deaf in one ear had anything to do with it?
No. I hear okay. It's never been that big of an issue other than in crowds, or on headphones.

What about on the Idol stage when the judges are talking to you?
On the stage, you can't see, but the sound up there is good. They have tons of monitors that protrude through the floor. Sitting on the side of the stage, though, I could never hear a word Ryan [Seacrest] or any of the judges were saying.

You watched Idol before your audition, and now you've seen another round of contestants. Was your season the best?
I think it was the best so far, and I'm not being biased. That seems to be the general consensus from everybody; this year wasn't as good as last year. It's cool to be a part of that alumni.

Your single is a Top 40 hit. Do you think performing it on Idol gave it a big boost?
It was on the rise, but yeah, it wouldn't be where it is today if not for performing on that show. 100 percent. Thirty million people saw it! There was an 87 percent increase from one week to the next. I was really pumped.

Why didn't you sign with 19 for management?
I felt they weren't going to pick me up on the management side or the record company side, so I called Simon Fuller personally and I said, ''I appreciate everything you've done. I've gotten amazing opportunities.'' I thanked him and told him what a great time I had on the show, then I said, ''I'd like to cede the deal with 19 Entertainment.'' And he said, ''That's cool, just don't put out a record before Kat, Taylor, or Chris.'' I was, like, ''No problem, I'll take my time.'' That was that. I wasn't like, ''That's f----d up, why didn't they pick me?'' I was more relieved. They were trying to manage a lot of people at one time and they didn't indicate that in the future, away from Idol, they'd give me 100 percent of the attention that I need. It wasn't the right fit.

What were your expectations for the album?
I wasn't too sure. I had preconceived notions, probably like the public did. You know, what's he going to sound like? Are people going to buy it? Not literally, but like buy it. I wanted it to be good, quality music — a singer's record, because I'm a vocalist — and something I could be happy with and grow from. I think I did that.

And the album is an independent release, so you stand to make more of a profit ...
Yes. But there are so many ways to make money in this business: Touring, endorsement deals, I'm doing something with Oscar Mayer, I'm doing a Christmas album with Target ... There are all kinds of opportunities coming my way that have nothing to do with singing but are other sources of income.

Still, it must feel good to have an album that's selling so well.
It feels amazing. We worked tirelessly and it's really paying off. Pounding the radio, going to three or four stations a day, sometimes in two different states, for five weeks straight. We played every chance we got, it was almost like a country-music radio tour; meeting the fans and the listeners. But people really like the song, they like me, they like the record!

Have you come to terms with the fact that you'll likely be talking about American Idol for the rest of your life?
I've accepted it. I know I'll be forever synonymous with those two words. But so what? I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn't know the magnitude of how big it was, but I'll talk about it until I'm blue in the face. So many doors have opened because of it. Now, I get to do what I love every day.

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© 2007

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