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Photo provided by Stephen Kramer Glickman.

Q&A: Stephen Kramer Glickman talks new album, TikTok fame

For Stephen Kramer Glickman, quarantine was a time of reflection and creation.

When The Post last talked to Glickman, better known for his role as Gustavo on the hit television show Big Time Rush, he had released a stand-up comedy album through 800 Pound Gorilla Records called VOICES IN MY HEAD and was working on the podcast he hosts called ‘The Night Time Show.’

Now, thanks to TikTok and some talented friends, Glickman is making the jump to music with the release of his debut album, The Moving Company, consisting of covers of popular songs.

Featuring songs from artists like Billie Eilish, Gnarls Barkley, Post Malone and Green Day, The Moving Company mixes piano and vocals from Glickman with the musical talents of other artists like Casey Abrams, Rachel Grace and Jessy Greene.

Glickman also spent quarantine garnering TikTok fame, with 10s of thousands of followers tuning in for his TikTok live streams, where he performed songs and told stories. His cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley went viral on TikTok and actually became a trend on the app.

Additionally, Glickman released a music video corresponding with the cover with references to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in Joker. He’s also working on more videos for his covers that fans can expect soon.

The Post sat down with Glickman to talk The Moving Company, collaborating with CeeLo Green in the future and more.

The Post: First, tell me about why you decided to make this album.

Glickman: Well, depression is a heck of a thing. During the quarantine time, when you couldn't leave your home and there was absolutely nothing to do, I was basically just trying to get through this time period with my girlfriend at the time, and then we broke up right in the middle of the worst part of the pandemic, the part where you couldn't go anywhere. And then after eight years together, she moved away. And then suddenly, I was alone with just my dog and my friends. I was like, “I'm gonna get out there. I'm gonna stay out in the world and hang out with people, and have dinner and go see people.” And I'm not kidding you, two weeks into doing that, I got COVID. And then I was like, “Oh, now I don't even have that, now you're just alone.” And so then it just became me and my dog, staring at each other. 

I started feeling better, and then I did a livestream at my piano on TikTok. And I was like, “Hey, everybody, I'm going to have a livestream where I take song requests just for fun,” just like a fun night screwing around, trying to find something to do. And my first livestream on TikTok was 40,000 people in a half hour. I couldn't wrap my head around it, like it was just so many people, and it was still really early in the TikTok world as far as the boys from Big Time Rush hadn't all joined yet. I was one of the only cast members. I think it was maybe me and Kendall on there at the time, but no one else was using it. So September, almost exactly a year ago, September of 2020, all of this attention was being flooded toward my TikTok lives. And I was like, “Hey, guys, I'm doing song requests. Give me songs,” and so then I would sit at the piano, and I would sing whenever they wanted. If they wanted Big Time Rush songs, I would do Big Time Rush songs. If they wanted Billie Eilish, I would do Billie. I was just doing whatever people wanted. 

And then the next day, I'm like, “I'm gonna do it again,” and so the next episode, 50,000 people tune in. And then one of the people that was watching was the producer of U2, who had won the Grammy for Best Album of the Year — this guy named Greg Collins. He sent me a text afterwards going, “Dude, you should make an album; this is really good. I can help you if you want, and we can work together.” Recording music was, I quickly realized, one of the only socially distanced things that you can actually do because I’d go in the studio. I'd record a song, we'd send the music to Casey Abrams from American Idol, an amazing bassist, he would record the music in his studio and then send us tracks, and then we'd reach out to like Rachel Grace, who plays with Ariana Grande — it's her violinist — and Grace would do the same thing at her home, and then Jessy Greene, the violinist for the Foo Fighters, she records and sends us tracks and before you know it, you're building an album. And then it came time to actually put the album together. And that's when I brought my sister in, who's a recording artist at a big label in an amazing band called Hey, King! So, my sister Natalie London came in, and then she put together the actual album, and that's how it all went down. 

TP: There’s a wide range of artists covered on this album, from Gnarls Barkley to Billie Eilish. Why these artists? What about them made you want to cover their music in your own way, and how did you go about choosing what songs you were going to cover from these artists?

Glickman: It's more about the song than it is the artist. Like I went on a date ... and then I drove home, and while I was driving home, I just started singing out loud, and it was “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele, originally by Bob Dylan. I started singing that song, and it's like the words, everything just lined up to how I was feeling at the time. And so then, I would just go, “I'm gonna write that down in a little notepad as something to remember so that when I go back in the studio, I'll knock that out.” “Crazy,” the Gnarls Barkley song, I used to sing that song at the piano when I would work music gigs, and I would sing a lot like way back in the day, and I had forgotten about it completely. And I'd met CeeLo one time and told him I love singing his stuff. It was just a cool song, but it didn't really hit home with me until I was in the studio. I'd recorded six songs that day. None of them worked. And then at the end of the day, I was like, “All right, We're good. I'm done.” And I'm walking out, and I go, “Actually, you know what? One more.” And I sat back down, and I played, and I started doing it, and it just worked. So, I recorded it, and it was so funny that it played into a whole bunch of feelings that I didn't have for the song earlier in my life. Suddenly, there's so much into that song that I relate to. That one take is the take that is on the album. 

I basically decided that I was only going to do songs that emotionally affected me and that I feel I have a story that pushes the song in a new way, instead of just songs that sound pretty. It's like,  “No, let's do stuff that actually means something and has been sitting in that catalog in my head for so long,“ and there's a lot. There's so many more that I want to do, but these were the ones that it got narrowed down to.

What was really crazy about it, too, is there were some songs that I recorded, like “Circles” by Post Malone or “Basket Case” by Green Day, that were fun to record. I'm a huge fan of the songs, and each song on the album means something to me and sits with me very personally for one reason or another, but then there were songs in there like “When the Party's Over,” which I couldn't make it through singing the song without getting all choked up and teared up because it just was too on the nose of what I was currently going through at the time. I keep hearing that it feels very personal, even though it's just me doing covers of other people's stuff.

TP: You told me CeeLo Green had reached out through social media to congratulate you on the cover. What did it feel like to have one of your favorite artists shout you out this way?

Glickman: I mean, it was insane. He reached out by posting my song and saying that the album was going to be amazing on TikTok. Completely a surprise. I had tried to reach out to him because my cover had gone viral on TikTok due to some other folks — Addison Rae, Ben Platt, Lauren Gray — and a bunch of other people had used the track of me singing the song to tell the worst dating stories or the most toxic behavior they've ever experienced from an ex boyfriend or that they are guilty of doing. And my sound went from being played around 200-300,000 times to 209 million times. Right now, it's at 209 million plays on TikTok, which is shocking. I mean, that's insane numbers. So, it caught his attention, and he reached out to just be kind and share it with his fans and stuff, which was really cool. And then, a little more recently, what's happened since then, which is completely insane, is I got asked by a charity event in Texas if I would be interested in opening for him. And I was like, “Oh, my God, of course I would.” And then CeeLo had to listen to my album, the whole thing, and then pick out the songs he wanted me to do his opener, and that was super intense. The event is going to be in April 2022, so I'll get to open for him and I'll get to sing, and I get to do the beginning of “Crazy” and then bring him up to the stage and let him do one of his big hits and, I mean, that's insane. I'm so looking forward to it.

TP: On that, your cover of “Crazy” went viral on TikTok. What did it mean to you to see your work so widely appreciated on that platform? Additionally, in your opinion, what TikTok has done for your career?

Glickman: That's really interesting. When it went viral, it was intense because when something goes viral, you lose control of what it is. And it had got to the point where like people that I'm friends with, that I've known for like 20 years, were on TikTok using the sound and not realizing that it was me. Like ex-girlfriends were using the sound to tell funny stories about their recent exes with my voice playing underneath it, and then hitting me up and going, “Oh, my God, that's you. I didn't even know it was you.” A lot of people just thought it was the original song slowed down, or they thought it was an alternate track of CeeLo singing, or they thought it was something else. It was definitely a thing that caught a bunch of people off guard, and it caught me off guard, too.

TikTok, in a lot of ways, it's the same as Instagram and how Twitter was and other social media apps that I've watched bring people a new batch of fans and folks and stuff. But the thing with TikTok is that I've found musicians, and I found new friends because of TikTok. TikTok, it has connected people and connected me with them, and I feel very lucky about that.

TP: The music video for “Crazy” is out with a really cool Joker theme. I want you to talk about making the video and choosing that theme, and are there going to be any other music videos corresponding with the album?

Glickman: Oh, yeah, I have to hold myself back a little bit from some of the things I want to do. There's a makeup artist who's unf------believable. She's a special effects makeup artist … This woman is just amazing on TikTok. And I reached out, and we had a chat, and we're planning a video right now for the Billie Eilish song “when the party's over.” The plan for the video, as of now, is that I start the video by singing the song, and as I'm singing it, I start peeling off the skin on my face until it's just the muscles underneath my face. So, she would do the full muscle prosthetic work on herself, and then we would transition the video halfway through from me, which is insane. But there's a singer named Robbie Williams, and he did a music video a million years ago, where he tore all his skin off, and then he would be muscles, and he tore the muscles off, and then he's a skeleton at the end. And I've always loved that video. It's so weird and creepy and kind of scary, but I was like “If we just did something that was really controlled in a studio setting, it would be shocking.” And Billie Eilish is one of the few artists that I feel like I could do that with where her fans would actually like it. 

We shot a music video for her other song. I did a cover of “Everything I Wanted,” and we brought in marionette puppets. So, some of the marionette puppets lip sync the song, and it is super crazy. That video is insane. It's finished. It'll probably drop in mid-September, and then I'm hoping to be able to drop the next one by Halloween. 

When it comes to “Crazy” and doing the Joker, we shot that one in downtown Los Angeles because it's the most disgusting place I've ever been to. It is so brutal in downtown L.A. that I just drove my car around and was just looking for a place to shoot something. And I loved Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, and CeeLo when he used to do “Crazy” back in the day like on a late night or wherever he would do it, he would always wear a different costume than the whole band behind him. They'd all dress up in different costumes, and they did Star Wars as a theme. They did The Wizard of Oz. They did a whole bunch of different like themed costumes. So, I was like, “I want to do something like that to honor the original.” And Suicide Squad was going to come out, so I was like, “Let's plan this as a DC Comic-themed thing, and let's drop it right before Suicide Squad.” So that's what we did: we just kind of planned it around a big movie release and then just tried to recreate some things that felt like they were from that universe. And you could do that in downtown Los Angeles because it's gross. It was so much fun going into an alleyway in downtown Los Angeles with a 6K drone and a 4K drone. We had two drones flying with me in the alley, and then on the rooftop, it was the same thing. We had drones flying over and doing all sorts of cool stuff. I loved that. I loved every minute of it.

TP: There are also a good range of artists that you featured in your covers. Tell me a bit about your relationships with them, and how you chose who’d be working with you?

Glickman: On the album, the two artists that are featured probably the most are Jessy Greene, who is the violinist for P!NK and the Foo Fighters, and Casey Abrams, the upright bassist and singer, who also duets with me and sings with me in “Basket Case,” the Green Day song. With Casey Abrams, he would come over to my place, and he'll stand on one side of the room with his upright bass. I'll sit on the other side of the room at my piano, and we'll just go song after song after song after song just playing together for fun. He's one of my closest friends, so just having someone that I can bounce music around with and test things and try stuff and have fun, it's such a good time. And getting to translate that into actual music that then people get to listen to is awesome. 

The other thing about this kind of stuff, too, is I've loved music my entire life, but I have had absolutely every reason to not pursue it and put out music of my own. I was on a TV show where I was the person that was a series regular that wasn't the musician and the handsome boy band guys, so it's like, “Why would I put out an album when everyone just wants them to put out an album?” I'm a stand-up comic, and when stand up comedians release music albums, it does not go well usually. I'm an actor, and when actors release music, it's usually super embarrassing. But when I got sick, I was like, “I don't want to not do stuff anymore because people may not like it. I don't care about that anymore.” It's super vulnerable to do something that doesn't have a punchline, but at the same time, it was really refreshing and then that helped me kind of reconnect to myself as a person, and that's a great thing.

Jessy Greene, I knew her through Jeff Ross, the roast comedian. I've known her for years and years, and I've always wanted to do something with her. I've never had anything that would be worthy of hitting her up to record stuff, and I think she's on four of the songs on the album, which is so cool. And then, Marza (Wilks), the one from that I met off of TikTok, her and I did “Crazy,” and we did “The Long and Winding Road'' by The Beatles, which is such a beautiful song and just always kind of hit home with me. 

My sister and I, when we were growing up, we would record music videos in the early ‘90s on VHS tape. Then, we would fly to Canada and go see our family, and we would play them music videos from America because back in the early ‘90s, they didn't have anything like that. One of the songs that I recorded multiple times was “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum. Because the story around it was so fascinating, and it's something that I'm really working hard to try to duplicate and I'm in contact with the band, the original band Soul Asylum and their management team has been super supportive. So, Soul Asylum in the early ‘90s made a song called “Runaway Train,” and in the music video, they featured photos of missing children that were missing here in the U.S. with their name and the date that they went missing, and they featured, I think, 30 missing children. And of the 30, I think 27 were recovered and returned and went back to their families, and it was a national story. I, with my sister, re-recorded the song and did a slower, softer version of it. And so the reason that I did it was trying to do the same thing but using TikTok. And because they didn't have social media back then, I think if we could get it to go viral and we could put 30 to 40 kids into the video that are missing, it may help people find some kids, find these people. But there's some stuff that has to happen with associations that have missing children and stuff to be able to pull that off. There's some hoops I have to jump through to be able to make that happen. I'm trying my best to get that set up.

TP: How does it feel to make this performance jump from comedy to music? Obviously, you have musical experience, but is it weird to take this on the road instead of your comedy?

Glickman: The goal has been two things with the music stuff. Number one, I wanted to have something out in the world that showed people that I can sing so that I can be considered for stuff like when they do these TV movie musicals. I'd love to be able to do a movie musical. That's one of my biggest dreams, and I've gotten to sing a few times in movies, like I got to sing in Storks, and I got to sing a little bit on Big Time Rush and some other stuff, but man, that's a huge, huge dream, goal for me. So, I wanted to have some really nice quality stuff that my agents and my managers could use to help me accomplish that, so that was one reason to do it. And then the other reason, the other big thing I've always wanted to do is to tour a country doing a show, like an evening with Stephen Kramer Glickman, where I get to sit at a grand piano, have a guest artist like Marza or Casey Abrams or someone like that who's on stage with me. Then, I can tell stories that are real, sad or funny and be able to tell a funny story or tell an interesting story about my life and then do a song. That, to me, would just be amazing, like I have always loved that. Oh, my God, you'd have to pry me off the stage. It is so much fun. And there's so many different ways you could do it, so I've been planning that and working on that and talking to different venues around the country just trying to figure that out so I can go and make that happen. That's the dream. And combining a little bit of stand-up into that because my stand-up has always just been true stories about my life, so being able to do that and combine it with music would just be awesome. I'm an entertainer. I'm not a band, I'm just an entertainer, through and through, across the board, so being able to entertain a room full of people as part of the show would just be wonderful.

TP: We have to ask about BTR with the big reunion coming up. You’re going to the BTR concerts, and after watching them grow up for so many years, what are you most excited to see from the dogs?

Glickman: New music. That's what I'm excited about. Of course, I want to see them do some of the old stuff off the old albums. I mean, if they don't do “Worldwide,” I think people will riot. I'm so unbelievably proud of them. When we finished doing Big Time Rush, I could not stop talking about Big Time Rush: the show and the music and the band and my own stuff, because when I would go on stage and do stand-up, if I didn't talk about Big Time Rush, people would get weird. So I really let my past fuel my future. And I'm never embarrassed to talk about it. But these guys had to go on and start careers and do all sorts of stuff on their own and so much build up and then they had to go off and create their own stuff. Logan toured all over the place and teamed up with other people, and Carlos and Alexa made movies, Carlos won an Emmy for Grease and James did like 25 movies or something crazy like that. Kendall toured on his own and with his own band and his own stuff and we saw everybody do their own thing. And then, when Big Time Rush would get brought up, some of the guys would just sidestep that a little bit because they didn't really know what to say, and I'm so proud of them because now you see James Maslow posting pictures of Bandana Man on his Instagram, and it's like, “Hell yes. Let people celebrate the fact that you're a piece of what raised them.” I'm unbelievably proud that they're excited to get back together and to sing and to do all the classics, then also do new stuff that we haven't heard them do yet. I think that's gonna be really interesting, like Big Time Rush 2.0. I can't wait. And they don't have a giant television network on top of them anymore telling them what they can and cannot do. This is them doing their own thing, which is super impressive. I'm super excited. I bought tickets the second they were available. All of them have been super supportive of me and everything that I've done in my life. I mean, Kendall was at the premiere of Storks when I did it, James was on my podcast and answered fan questions, Logan sang “Till I Forget About You” on my podcast live for an audience and they've all been there in their own cool way to be supportive so I got to do the same thing.

TP: Is there anything else in the works your fans should be getting excited about? 

Glickman: August has been a big month. I've had two movies premiere this month, which has been exciting. Monster Hunter: the Legends of the Guild, that just premiered on Netflix, and I played Nox the cat in that movie, and that was super cool. It's an anime that Netflix produced. And then Tales of a Fifth Grade Robin Hood just premiered on Tubi, and that's me and Jon Lovitz, so that was super fun and exciting. 

When it comes to music and the album, I'm just excited to make some music videos and put more cool content out into the world and collaborate with more talented people. If there are people out there that are interested in collaborating with me, hit me up. I'm an open book. I'm down to do more stuff with people that I know or I don't know. It's a fun part of this whole new world: working with cool folks.

TP: Anything else you’d like to add?

Glickman: It means so much to me to be able to talk about music and talk about stuff that I love. Making a leap over from acting and from stand-up, from all that kind of stuff, to doing something that's really meaningful and comes from a real place, it's a special thing. So, I appreciate the support because it's just fueling me to keep doing stuff and have fun. It's awesome.


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