Friday, August 26, 2022

Big Time Rush Talks Reuniting, Nickelodeon Days, Fall, Upcoming EPs & More | Zach Sang Show

Big Time Rush Talks Reuniting, Nickelodeon Days, Fall, Upcoming EPs & More | Zach Sang Show

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Big Time Rush became overnight teen sensations in 2009 before going their separate ways in 2014. Now, they're working together as a band again — but this time, they're calling all the shots.

The Big Time Rush boys called it. Sitting backstage at New York’s Madison Square Garden – where, in a few hours, they’d perform for the first time, in front of a sold-out crowd – Carlos PenaVega, James Maslow, Kendall Schmidt and Logan Henderson squeeze together on one sofa and chuckle that, in spite of all the time-tested, ultra catchy pop songs they plan on playing that night, it’ll be one called “The Giant Turd Song” that gets their audience the most excited.

“Just like any artist who’s had massive hits, you always have to play that hit song,” says 32-year-old James.

“And ours is about the turd!” Kendall, 31, chimes in with a grin.

It is indeed. Cut to the midway point of their two-hour show – the sixth so far of their summer Forever Tour – when they start singing over Carlos’ ukulele: “Oh you’re such a turd, oh yeah, a giant turd.” The crowd, a gender-mixed group of mostly twenty-somethings, are suddenly pre-teens again, cheering like it’s The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

Like most of the songs on BTR’s setlist tonight, “Turd Song” was released as part of Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush TV show, on which the guys got their start in 2009 playing four Minnesotan teenagers who serendipitously score a record deal, move to Hollywood and form a world famous boy band. Their real life success quickly echoed that of their characters; between 2009 and 2014, they released three Billboard 200 top 20 albums, landed four singles in the Hot 100, embarked on five headlining tours and filmed four seasons of Big Time Rush before everyone involved agreed to end the show.

From their flirty, highest-charting hit “Boyfriend” to their old show’s instantly recognizable theme song, the guys are strictly playing oldie after oldie. The only exceptions are four new tracks all released in the past year, and one unreleased Spanglish project titled “Dale Pa Ya” – during which they bring out its producer Maffio, a three-time Latin Grammy winning producer who’s worked with Latin music superstars Farruko and Nicky Jam.

For their fan-favorite “Worldwide,” in which the boys lament the struggles of rock star life on the road keeping them away from their sweethearts, they bring four swooning girls from the audience onstage and serenade them directly. During the encore, they each take off their shirts and drink in the subsequent applause. Reminiscent of the pop music machine that once marketed Justin Bieber or One Direction with similar tactics to swarms of teenagers, the Garden is ablaze with nearly painful shrieks from start to finish.

But while tonight’s show may feel like it never stopped being 2012, almost a decade has passed since Big Time Rush last toured through arena stages like this one. This time, though, it wasn’t a major record label or a mammoth TV network that put them here.

Now, they’re here on their terms – and they’re aiming bigger than ever before. “We are outrageously exceeding every bar that we set for ourselves – and any expectations that anyone else might have,” Kendall says with bittersweet triumph.

“We’re blowing them all away.”


A week after the MSG show, Logan, James, Carlos and Kendall are delighted to hear that one girl came wearing a bald cap, painted-on facial hair and yellow-tinted sunglasses to cosplay Gustavo Rocque, the boys’ 40-ish, chronically infuriated manager played by Stephen Kramer Glickman on the TV show. Carlos, 32,  jokes that, “If I had my helmet with me – it’s at home,” he’d gladly put on his old character’s trademark accessory and laugh about it onstage with fans.

They are painstakingly self-aware — even between all of the slapstick gimmicks and pubescent humor forever part of their early branding — that they wouldn’t have the same Madison Square-sized doors currently open to them had they not long ago been handpicked from a nationwide casting call in the late 2000s for roles wanted by thousands of other aspiring young entertainers.

It took about two years for Nickelodeon to cast James as the vapid but loveable James Diamond, Carlos as the hyper adventurous, intellectually-lacking Carlos Garcia and Logan as the group’s brains, Logan Mitchell. Kendall was the last to be added; in fact, the other three filmed an entire pilot episode with a completely different actor playing their team leader.

At the last minute – in an effort to get the lineup for their The Monkees-reminiscent show, which would inevitably run in unspoken competition with similarly-premised programs like Disney’s blockbuster Hannah Montana and Jonas, exactly perfect – the network swapped in the Kansas native to create Kendall Knight. With their roster set, the foursome set the standard for groups of young male heartthrobs in pop-rock at the turn of the ’10s, a couple years before One Direction and The Wanted started topping the Billboard charts.

“That show, in my opinion, brought back the boy band,” Carlos says. “We were so fortunate to be able to do that. I’m so thankful to Nickelodeon for the opportunity, because we would not be here without them.”

If there was a time when Big Time Rush did resent their roots, it was toward the end of their first run as a band. They’d spent every weekday for years filming and pumping out songs written by other people; meanwhile, their weekends were devoted to performing live. The schedule became so unsustainable, all four were ultimately ready to set the band aside indefinitely after finishing one last round of North and South American tour shows in early 2014, a few months after the TV show’s fourth and final season ended.

“We didn’t have a day off for years,” James reveals.

“We were burnt out,” Carlos agrees. “It was brutal.”

Before that, though, they’d never performed onstage as their characters: They were only ever themselves. Moments from their real lives then started popping up in their show scripts — “Maybe [the writers] were running out of ideas,” quips Kendall – and gradually, the boys were allowed to help write some of their songs.

“They couldn’t really stop us,” Logan, also 32, shrugs. “At a certain point, they knew that the music we were turning in was – .”

“Better,” Kendall cuts in.

“Sometimes they would let us come in and like our music and writing,” clarifies James. “Other times they were like, ‘That’s adorable, no thanks.’”

As the show’s four seasons progressed – each bringing more success and more overlap between their fictional personas and their real, 22-year-old selves – the guys began envisioning a much broader potential for themselves than the showrunners did. “We didn’t just want to be hired actors,” Carlos says. “We became Big Time Rush… and obviously, tensions will arise.”

Without getting into specifics, the four of them laugh about “that one time” they were almost fired over such tensions, while Kendall reveals he was nearly axed “several times.”

“Every time there was something important, good or bad, we usually had dinner with Sony at Quality Meats,” he laughs, presumably referencing the famously pricey steakhouse in New York City. “We knew if we were going to Quality Meats, it was either really good or really bad. But the meal was always good.”

“Which, by the way, I guarantee they added to our bill,” throws out James. “I guarantee we were paying for it.”

Their relationship with Nick and Sony could definitely be complicated – “Isn’t that all of the music industry, though?” Logan points out – but hindsight has allowed the guys to realize that not even two of the world’s biggest entertainment companies could have prepared for the band’s level of real world success.

“It became such a monster of a brand and a company that I think they started to get a little scared at a point,” says James. “Without saying anything disparaging, [Nickelodeon] definitely did some things that were less than appreciated to threaten us to keep us in line.” (Nickelodeon did not respond to Billboard‘s requests for comment.)

“We’ve also always had such big dreams for this band,” Logan adds. “We really saw this as a legacy band and wanted to keep it going, so I think they didn’t even know how to handle it.”

Kendall just shrugs. “To be fair, they also spent a lot of money on it.”

“Hey,” Carlos counters. “We also made them a ton of money.”


The endurance of “Turd Song” wasn’t the only thing about their comeback that Big Time Rush predicted correctly.

The group felt certain in 2020 that their fans were all still out there waiting for them to make their return – which they’d always planned on doing, once all four agreed it was the right time. When they tested the waters with a remotely recorded acoustic performance of “Worldwide,” their catalog streams surged upwards of 10 million just that year.

They also bet on their ability to finally write their own music and independently release four songs – 2021’s “Call It Like I See It” and 2022’s “Not Giving You Up,” “Fall” and “Honey.” All were received so well by fans, the band is now working on finishing up two EPs, one of which will be fully bilingual and also produced by Maffio.

And when it came time to try performing again, they didn’t listen when an agent they used to work with (emphasis on “used to”) advised them not to book their two comeback shows in December 2021 because not enough people were predicted to buy tickets. “Guess what?” boasts James. “They sold out in three minutes.”

“We’ve always been really good at following our instincts and doing what feels natural to us,” Logan explains. “That’s always served us really well.”

“There were definitely a couple handfuls of people who didn’t believe in us,” adds Carlos. “It’s so cool to be on this side, selling out all these venues left and right – we were right!”

It was that same confidence that benefitted them during two years of negotiations with Nickelodeon and their former label, Sony, when they initiated their comeback about two years ago. In an industry famous for rigid contracts often used strategically to give artists the short end of the stick, Big Time Rush was able to walk away from the table with very little opposition from either company.

“You don’t know if you don’t ask,” Kendall says of the process. “Basically there wasn’t really any pushback. Almost none.”

The specifics of their deal with the entertainment behemoths is cloaked in confidentiality agreements, but clearly, the band is allowed to continue making music under the name Big Time Rush, while also performing old songs at concerts. Manager Jared Paul, who led the negotiations process, says there are some built in “checks and balances” to ensure the band will “do right by the brand,” but that Nick hasn’t stopped them from doing anything they’ve wanted to do so far.

“We had a very frank conversation – ‘Does everybody believe we can do this without Nickelodeon, without Sony, without help?’” James recalls. “We all said ‘Yeah, absolutely. Then we said, ‘Do we think it would be more powerful and more productive if we could use the name and the brand?’ The consensus again was, ‘Yeah of course – but we don’t need it.’”

“There was no option, we were going to move forward,” he continues, confirming that their former network accepted their request to take over the brand and declined any further involvement. “It’s very powerful when you believe in yourself that much.”

The band stresses they have a friendly, supportive working partnership with their old bosses — but they also think even Nick was curious to see how it would play out if one of their creations tried to find success without their backing.

“We got very lucky,” Carlos says. “I don’t think [Nickelodeon] will ever do that again – only because, look at the success we’ve had [since going solo]. How could anybody know?”


With no Sony and no Nickelodeon, Big Time Rush is its own creative director, merch team and everything in between. In place of a label, their music can be traced back to an LLC cleverly named Bought the Rights, and as a nod to the pressures of their old nonstop schedule, their self-owned touring company is lovingly called Day Off Touring.

They coordinate almost everything amongst themselves, in group chats dedicated to each branch of the BTR business, and joke about how they must annoy their team with their attention to detail and insistence on getting everything exactly perfect. It’s the unadulterated creative control they’ve always craved – and they’re enjoying every wonderful, stressful part of it.

“I don’t think any of us are capable of not being 100% involved,” says Kendall. “We were also doing that before, it just wasn’t interpreted the same way. Now we can see our impact on it.”

“It was one of the blessings of taking several years off – everybody got the chance to develop their own skills and life experiences,” James adds. “We’re coming back this time around a little bit older but I like to think a little bit wiser.”

“And still damn good looking,” cracks Logan.

With “Dale Pa Ya” out Aug. 19, two EPs in the works, and an album somewhere on the horizon, the band is pushing out new music so fast, they’re constantly playing catchup with themselves. And after the Forever Tour concludes Aug. 20, they have their eyes set on even more expansive projects, which will find them back in the negotiation room with Nick and/or Sony.

But whatever it is they do next, Carlos, James, Kendall and Logan plan to continue beating the odds while doing everything their way – and always laughing at themselves in the process.

“Obviously we had two big machines behind us, but even then, Big Time Rush was always sort of an underdog band in the music industry,” Kendall muses. “I think that was probably because of the TV show – people were confused as to whether or not we were a band, our characters, whatever. But now I think we’ve established ourselves as the artists we always knew we were.”

Then, he dives headfirst into a big time pun: “You could say we’re always in a big time rush!”

“You don’t have to write that,” groans Logan.


Big Time Rush Share Favorite Memories From Their Biggest Hits, New Songs And One Unexpected Fan Favorite

As Big Time Rush continue their comeback, the former Nickelodeon stars relive making hits like "Boyfriend," new songs like "Dale Pa' Ya" and, yes, "The Turd Song."

Just over one year since Big Time Rush announced their reunion, the TV-made boy band have proven that they weren't just made for a show. With 18 million followers across social media and a 44-date North American trek — including a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden — the group has certainly made a comeback.

The foursome — Carlos PenaVega, James Maslow, Kendall Schmidt, and Logan Henderson — were initially put together for Big Time Rush, a 'Monkees'-style Nickelodeon series that had a four-season run from 2009 to 2013. Big Time Rush released three albums that only spawned a couple of charting hits (2011's "Boyfriend," which featured a remix with Snoop Dogg, and 2012's Blur-sampling "Windows Down"), but built a dedicated fan base that couldn't wait for their return.

This time around, the band is free from the obligations of their contracts with Nickelodeon and former label Columbia Records, officially taking ownership of the Big Time Rush name and music thanks to their cheekily titled LLC, Bought The Rights. And as Henderson hints, Big Time Rush is only getting (re)started. 

"We have so much music we're about to release," Henderson tells "We're still excited and hungry to keep on finding Big Time Rush — what the sound is, what it means to us, and records that really make us tick."

They kicked off their reunion with the single "Call It Like I See It" in December 2021, which marked the first time all four members contributed to a single since their formation. They've since released four more new tracks, most recently their first Spanglish single "Dale Pa' Ya," an homage to their Latin American fans. On Aug. 25, they revealed five shows in South America for 2023 — further confirming that they're not slowing down any time soon. 

As Big Time Rush wraps their U.S. tour, the guys share standout memories from some of their biggest hits, a couple of new songs, and one that, as they put it, has "taken on a life of its own."  

"Till I Forget About You"

Schmidt: I remember a rented mansion for the music video. We were joking about it because the way the video turned out, it seemed like only the guys in the video liked us — like, the way it was edited in the end, we were like "Wow, it seems like every girl in this music video hates us."

Maslow: We play that currently on our tour and it's one of the crowd's favorite songs every single night. When we put together this little section with a bunch of classic songs, including that one, we really didn't know what to expect or how much we'd even enjoy it compared to the new songs. But it's one of my favorite times in the show, because everybody's just rocking out, they know every single word, and they scream that song at the top of their lungs.


PenaVega: We made a couple of music videos for "Boyfriend," the first one was on the TV show. That one stands out to me because we were on the Paramount lot in the parking lot. They blocked off the parking lot for like two or three days and we literally brought in a carnival — ferris wheels and the spinny machines, just a full-blown carnival that they rented. They brought it on, they set it up and we shot a music video. James rode a ferris wheel with a plant.

Maslow: Highlight of my BTR journey right there.

PenaVega: That was probably the start of the epic music videos for the TV show. We hadn't done one that elaborate, and Nick really put some money behind it. That was a lot of fun. Then the second music video was obviously with Snoop Dogg. 

Schmidt: Do remember, in that video, the little green man in the cup? Now that I look back on that, I'm thinking, "What is that about?"

Henderson: We had this huge dance breakdown at the very end, and we were sweating bullets because there were so many people in there and the air conditioner wasn't working. And Snoop has this huge, like, trench coat on, and I was like, "How are you not sweating? It is so hot in here." And he goes, "It's all in your mind."

PenaVega: He said, "Being cool is a state of mind."

Henderson: I was like, "Okay, well, I'm about to pass out."


Schmidt: We did the music video at the airport, obviously. That was pretty wild.

Maslow: To rent out an entire airport just for a music video, that was another step in terms of "Wow, things are growing."

Henderson: That is still our biggest song today. Even when we go to other countries, some of our fans speak very little English and that's the one song they know every word to. It really is such a special song to have with fans all over the world.

Maslow: And when it comes to live performance, it's one of our favorite moments, because we always pick one — usually four, these days — "Worldwide" girls. It's a cool opportunity to bring somebody up on stage and sing directly to a fan. 

The song has aged well. Not so sure that those dance moves have.

"Music Sounds Better With U" (feat. Mann)

Henderson: That song was a little complicated, because there's a lot of things going on. You have a guitar sample from Chaka Khan, Ryan Tedder is the one who produced that one.

PenaVega: That song cost us a lot of money. 

Ryan has since sold this house, I heard, but it was out in Colorado. His basement was turned into a ginormous studio. It was the most beautiful studio I've ever been to, still. 

Henderson: We got to see the place where Adele recorded all of those massive songs. You could feel it in the air.

"Windows Down"

PenaVega: I was actually hanging out with Justin Bieber back in the day, and I played him this record, and he was like, "Yo, they pitched that to me, and I passed on it." I was like, "Oh, really? Well, we're taking it!"

Henderson: Honestly, it works with four voices really, really well.

Schmidt: And again, getting a Blur sample, that's huge.

Henderson: I don't know what happened behind the scenes for that. Probably something we don't want to discuss.

PenaVega: Again, it cost us a lot of money.

That music video is probably my favorite music video that we did. The boys and I took a trip to Maui and literally spent five days there, had the best time ever. We went cliff jumping, did all this stuff, we had all this footage, and when we got back to shooting the TV show, I made a quick little 25-second trailer like, "Oh, here's us in Maui, what happens next?" I pitched it as an idea for a music video, and they said "Let's go." That next month, we went to Maui for a week, and they paid for everything.

Henderson: We were like, "Haha suckers!" and then it was billed back to us and we were like "Aww."

Maslow: It was way before the technology we have now, [where] we can have a GoPro that shoots 4k or 8k. We had to actually custom build a waterproof casing for a huge RED camera. So you had this six-figure camera with some kind of janky plexiglass thing and our cameraman would go jumping off cliffs with this huge thing splashing in water, and we just kept praying, please don't get water in it.

PenaVega: The best scenes [were when] they mounted the cameras on the front of these jeeps and we drove around, just us and our, like, "video girls," hands up, going crazy. 

Henderson: Why can we not do a music video like that anymore?

Schmidt: We can, actually!

Maslow: I'm thinkin' Turks & Caicos for the next one, boys, what do you say?

"Call It Like I See It"

Henderson: That was the first one [we wrote together upon reuniting] that felt like a real Big Time Rush song.

Schmidt: There were a lot of Zoom sessions early on in the pandemic, and it just was really hard to make the connection. I know people wrote great songs during the pandemic over Zoom, but it certainly is way better to be in the room going back and forth. The same trajectory happened [as it did in] the beginning [of writing songs together], where it took a while to get to something [good]

I feel like, in the funnest way possible — and I'm joking about this — but it feels like writing a song is a bit like a battle. You know? You're waging war against a brain fart. And everyone's got an opinion, and they all matter, so it's trying to weave together something to become a beautiful tapestry. That's a couple of metaphors.

Maslow: You can pick whatever cherries out of there you want to. [All laugh.]

Schmidt: ["Call It Like I See It"] was basically just a party at James's house. 

Maslow: The record sounds like we were having a good time. 

Schmidt: We felt like people needed a party, so we brought them the feeling of a party.

"Dale Pa' Ya" (feat. Maffio)

PenaVega: Our Latin American and South American fans have always been incredible to us. I mean, we put 30,000 tickets on sale for Mexico for this tour, and they sold out in six hours. It's seriously unreal. We always wanted to do something to give back.

Maslow: And the amount of fans said they did learn to speak English because of our songs, to your point, we always felt — ever since we first went down to Mexico and Latin America, we felt such a love for those fans. Just such a welcoming appreciation. We've always wanted to give back and show our appreciation and our effort the other way around. [Motioning to Schmidt and Henderson] Us three have learned a little bit of Spanish touring down there so much.

Schmidt: Carlos had a good head start.

PenaVega: The day we got in the studio with Maffio, he was just like, "Let's make a song that we can make the world dance." I feel like that song, even though it's Spanglish, it's such a universal song. I feel like the world is gonna hear it, and want to get up with us to dance.

"The Turd Song"

Schmidt: "The Turd Song" has developed a life of its own. It actually wasn't that big of a thing for us back in the day.

Maslow: Until this tour, we never played that song.

PenaVega: We did it at one show, and I was just like, "Oh my god." I stopped singing, and everybody is just shouting, and I'm like, "There's freaking 10,000 people singing 'The Turd Song,' oh my god!"

Henderson: It's a little cringey, but I've just had to let Jesus take the wheel on this one.

PenaVega: We didn't do it at one show, and the next show there was a sign that said, "Justice for 'The Turd Song.'"

Schmidt: It was written in the script [for the TV show], and [when] we did the table read, none of us knew how to sing it.

Henderson: The creator of the show [Scott Fellows] is literally 12 years old.

Schmidt: He is probably just loving that his creation is taking on a turd of its own. 

Henderson: You know, we actually have legitimate music that's coming out.

PenaVega: A "Turd Song" remix! With Dua Lipa!

Maslow: Probably called Doo Doo Lipa.

Schmidt: Maybe we can get another one from Pooplo!


Originally published: June 22, 2022 at 00:07 BST.

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