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Brad McNett on the Set

Michael Jewett visited with Michael Feinstein's assistant and tour manager and WEMU alumni Brad McNett. The two discuss the upcoming show presented by UMS this Sunday at the Hill Auditorium featuring Michael Feinstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.


Michael Jewett: A distinguished member of Team WEMU--alumni of Team WEMU--is in town on business, and I guess kind of a visit as well. So, we thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with him. We are on the set with Brad McNett. Hello, Brad McNett. It's so good to hear your voice again, man.

Brad McNett: It's so great to hear you. Michael. And I have not heard "on the set with Brad McNett" in a long time. So, it's very good to hear that.

Michael Jewett: Because I think that was just our special thing. We should say at the outset. You're here in your business capacity. UMS is presenting Michael Feinstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet in a double bill. I guess that's technically a double bill. 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. You work with Michael Feinstein. What is your job title technically?

Brad McNett: So, I'm a man of many hats, which WEMU prepared me for very well. I'm his tour manager and assistant, so I keep very busy.

Michael Jewett: I would imagine. Yeah, I would imagine. You've had this professional arrangement or responsibility for some time now. You worked with Michael Feinstein for a few years now, right?

Brad McNett: Yeah, it's been it was four years in September. I moved to L.A. from Michigan in September of 2019.

Michael Jewett: Uh huh.

Brad McNett: I moved out on the 10th and then started my job with Michael on the 11th.

Michael Jewett: Now, this is something that I'm sure you applied for and everything, but you knew him just through music circles beforehand?

Brad McNett: So, for me, it really worked out well because from my singing, I was connected with a guy named Sandy McGraw, who is part of the Whiting family--Margaret Whiting and Richard Whiting, the composer.

Michael Jewett: Right.

Brad McNett: And, actually, the first time we met was, if you remember, I used to sing in that band Rampage Swing.

Michael Jewett: Right.

Brad McNett: And we did one of the 501 jazz series. And he came out to hear me there because we did a Richard Whiting song. And he was 16 at the time. And so, we kept in touch and worked very closely together. And he's a big supporter and he worked as my manager for a little bit on the music end. And then, he had this job that I currently have. And when he was leaving because he wanted to move to Nashville and start working with a record label, which he's doing now, he asked if I might be interested in taking on the job. And I said, "Sure." And so, I flew out to New York, and I met with him and I interviewed, and that was in August. And then, in September. I was out in L.A.

Michael Jewett: Fantastic. Fantastic. And well, you know, here's the lesson for all of us. This is a great passion of yours. You know the great American Songbook, songwriting and whatnot. It's going to be a select few, an elite connoisseur level of someone that would know the Whitings in terms of American popular song. So, just that connection leads to this relationship and then this professional opportunity. So, bravo, bravo, Brad McNett!

Brad McNett: Yeah, it's funny because it's not how I ever envisioned my career or life necessarily going, but it all makes sense when I look back on it. It's kind of like I was training since I was a teenager for this. So, it works well.

Michael Jewett: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean, as we're talking today. And they remind me every now and then that I've been doing this at WEMU for 40 years, and I never set out to do anything. I never set out to do this. But you know what? I can't imagine it not being it. And I can't imagine a life story for me that's any different. So, you know, doing what you love. There's something to be said for doing what you love and having it work out.

Brad McNett: I know it is. I mean, what's better, right? Getting to work in music and collect comic books. That's like the dream life, right?

Michael Jewett: That's right. Our shared passion. We should probably delve into that for a little bit. I do want to mention, though, once again 4 PM at Hill Auditorium: Michael Feinstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet and a program of, well, celebrating the Great American Songbook. And it will be some, I would imagine, mostly well-known artists: Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Gershwin, I would imagine. Perhaps Irving Berlin. You know, that's not enough to go hear the two of them. Can you give us a little teaser? Is there something that's maybe not as well known or some, you know, a composer or a songwriter who's not as well-known as, say, the Porters, Rodgers and Gershwins of the world?

Brad McNett: So, the thing that's interesting about this show is that, for the most part, the songs are all very familiar.

Michael Jewett: Okay.

Brad McNett: But what's unique about it is the way that they're performed, because it's not very often that you hear two pianists playing these songs. I mean, we're talking there's a 20=minute Gershwin fantasy. It just goes through all these Gershwin tunes and the two of them playing. And it's really, to be honest, this is my favorite show that I've seen Michael do. And over the last few years, I've seen a lot of them because it's just so unique and it's so interesting, especially. And it's been amazing to watch the show kind of develop and take place because Jean-Yves Thibaudet, coming from a classical background, is, you know, they're very much heavy on the reading. Everything is notated and played out and they can read better than anyone ever. And then, Michael, though, coming from the more jazz/cabaret/pop background, is much more of an improviser. And so, that the way that these charts were laid out, these arrangements were created specifically for this show. And it was kind of laid out so that Jean-Yves could play things in a classical manner. And then, Michael can do things his way, and it really complements each other. And there's some really nice moments where they'll play, and Jean-Yves will play and Michael will sing still a little bit. It's very piano-heavy, but there is still singing from Michael, and it's just really interesting to watch the two of them interact. And it's been amazing to watch the show develop and take place.

Michael Jewett: Fantastic, fantastic! Complete information about the concert. UMS.org. I have to say, as your friend and fan, I'm going to be speaking as the advocate for Southeast Michigan music fans. You're missed. You're missed in our scene. No one has really picked up....well, I don't want to say that there aren't vocalists doing great things, but you are such a champion of this tradition, this sound, the Great American Songbook and not having you here, you had a real impact when you were active in southeast Michigan. So, we do miss you. I know I'm speaking for your friends and aficionados that we do miss Brad McNett on the set locally. So, I thought I'd put that out there.

Brad McNett: I appreciate that.

Michael Jewett: I would get that.

Brad McNett: I appreciate that. And I may come back at some point. And it's not out of the question. I'm always trying to figure out something. It's just a matter of getting the time where I can be home enough and do a show. That's the thing.

Michael Jewett: Well, what is music making like for you these days? You know, I know we're sort of connected via, you know, the odd thing and modern life. We're sort of connected via social media, but you're also kind of like disconnected when you're not like in someone's backyard or something. I run into musicians living and working here at the grocery store or whatnot. And I haven't run into you at a comic shop in a while now.

Brad McNett: Yeah. It's been a minute.

Michael Jewett: Yeah. What's music making for you like now?

Brad McNett: So, for me right now, there's not a whole lot of music making because I stay busy with being on the road and Michael's shows. And it's hard to with someone with a schedule as intensive as his. And I go to every show. It's hard to book your own things or do anything, but I will. I haven't done a gig since January 2020; I think was the last time I did a gig. And then, but every now and then and Michael is very supportive of my singing. So, they do a thing at Birdland on Monday nights called Cast Party, hosted by Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch, and it's kind of an open mic variety show type of thing. So, I'll go there whenever we're in New York when I can and go sing up there. And it's a ton of fun.

Michael Jewett: Fantastic. Fantastic. Okay. We've been talking about all the good stuff, the professional stuff. And it's now it's our time to geek out: comic books, comic movies, anything. I have to tell you, I'm going to take this moment. I don't know if you've seen the Godzilla movie, Godzilla Minus One from Toho Studios. I know you're very busy or whatnot. If you happen to get a couple of spare hours, you really, really need to see this. It's one for the ages. But what, if anything, that you've been enjoying the last recently on that front?

Brad McNett: Yeah, on that front, I've been a little. I've been behind. I still haven't seen The Marvels, although I've heard very good things from people who have seen it.

Michael Jewett: I liked it.

Brad McNett: Did you see that?

Michael Jewett: Oh, yes. I'm a huge fan of Ms. Marvel. I am on record. I love it.

Brad McNett: And remember, you and I used to bond over. You were the first to meet Kamala Khan, and I went to the comic book shop and bought issue number one. I think that was you that did that.

Michael Jewett: It probably would be. I really love that character.

Brad McNett: Yeah, she's great. And so, I'm excited to see that. Into the Spider-Verse movies have been amazing. You know me, I'm a big Spider-Man fan, and so I can get into those.

Michael Jewett: Yeah, well, that's going to win the Oscar. It's going to repeat. It's going to win the...I think what's it category? I think it's called animated feature, full length animated feature.

Brad McNett: Yeah.

Michael Jewett: Yeah. So, I'll be shocked if it doesn't win. It's such a brilliant piece of work, one of the great, great pieces of filmmaking this year. So, yeah.

Brad McNett: It really is. Even if you're not a comic book fan, I feel like those movies and just the story is so compelling that it's in the animation is so well done. It's what we want from those movies.

Michael Jewett: Now that we've ventured into cinema territory, I'm gonna say on record I think that the Spider-Verse movies--the animated features--to me, they really are the ultimate comic-based feature length films because they really do have everything that makes a feature length film a feature length film, but they're also they're comic art. They're animated. And so, I think they have that same kind of, appeal of a printed comic in terms of comic art and everything. And as much as I do enjoy live-action, comic-based projects, I just I think the Spider-Verse things just have more of the vibe of what makes comic book art and as an art form so magical. I think they bring that to film better than others. There's my big opinion about that.

Brad McNett: Oh, I do not disagree with you one bit. I think it's the closest thing you could get to watching a comic book, if that makes sense.

Michael Jewett: Bingo. There you go. See, this is why Brad McNett is such a great interpreter. He gets to the essence of things. And yeah. So, man, it is so great chatting with you and whatnot. Keep on doing what you're doing. Again, we do miss you, but we wish you all the best, and congratulations on your success. And we just know more great stuff is coming from you. And again, just, the Great American Songbook, if there are a few things as rich. I don't think there's anything quite as rich or as dynamic as that tradition. So, thank you for being a great champion of that. And best of luck in all your future endeavors. Brad McNett on the set! The return of Brad McNett on 89 one WEMU. Thanks, man!

Brad McNett: Thanks, Michael.

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Michael Jewett is the long-time host of 89.1 Jazz every weekday afternoon. Besides his on-air work; Michael is WEMU’s Operations Manager. Mr. Jewett started working for WEMU in 1983. He’s been on the air longer than any other current WEMU music host.
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