Earlier this year, Jordan Witzigreuter, a.k.a. The Ready Set, found himself in what you might call an enviable position. “I was kind of trying to pick between a bunch of different record companies,” the 20-year-old Fort Wayne native and Homestead High School graduate told me in a recent phone interview. (Incidentally, that bunch included Universal, RCA, Jive, Mercury and Triple Crown.) “It was a tough decision, but in the end it came down to who we thought would work the hardest for us, who seemed to really believe in what I was doing .”
Eventually, Witzigreuter settled on Decaydance Records, an imprint of Warner Brothers spearheaded by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Wentz was a fan of The Ready Set, having seen Witzigreuter perform in New York, and an invitation to tour the Decaydance studios soon followed.
“They seemed like a good fit from the beginning,” said Witzigreuter. “I felt really good there. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic and I got the feeling that they really cared about my work.”
And so this young drummer, keyboard player and singer, used to recording his music in his parent’s basement, suddenly found himself in Los Angeles where he’s been finishing up work on his first full-length album, as yet untitled and scheduled to hit the shelves come April.
“It’s obviously awesome, what’s happening. I didn’t really expect it, but now I’m just taking it day by day. I’m focusing on the music, just trying to stay tuned to what’s going on and what work I have to do to get the album done,” he said.
Perhaps it only makes sense that Witzigreuter would take his new-found fame in stride. After all, he started playing drums when he was eleven and was a key player in a number of Fort Wayne bands by the tender age of 13. A year later he was thumping the tubs for Take Sides when they won the very first whatzup Battle of the Bands in 2004. (Take Sides were, in fact, such a young band that whatzup changed the BOTB rules the following year to ensure that participating musicians were of legal age.)
Witzigreuter started The Ready Set when he was 17 and pondering what would turn out to be one of the most important decisions of his life. Should he, like many of his friends, take the college route, or should he instead take that leap and devote all of his energies to becoming a full-time musician?
“The Ready Set name refers to being ready to push through all your inhibitions. It means I finally decided that I wanted to do this, that I would follow my dream and not worry about the consequences,” he said.
The decision obviously paid off. Witzigreuter is looking forward not only to a national tour come spring but a 26-stopper this winter with Friday Night Boys which will take them to Texas, New England, the Midwest and finally south to North Carolina and Florida. While The Ready Set is for the most part a moniker for Witzigreuter, he takes his friends Andy Snyder (bass) and Travis Rountree (drums) on tour with him.
He’s eagerly anticipating the release of his first album, which he said is more polished and accomplished than his previous work, Tantrum Castle and Syntax and Bright Lights, both of which came, as mentioned before, out of the studio in his basement.
“I think if people have heard the old stuff they’re going to like this too,” he said. “In a way it’s a continuation of the old material, but it’s better. There’s a lot more to the new songs. It’s hard to tell now, but I think this will gain me a lot of new fans.”
When we spoke he’d just finished up work on a new song, “Sign of Relief,” a track that got a little help from hip-hop producer J.R. Rotem who’s lent his talents to chart-topping singles from such stars as Rihanna, Lil’ Kim and Britney Spears.
“It was totally different from any other recording experience I’d had before. We were in a huge studio, and there was J.R. Rotem working on my song. It was a really great atmosphere, a lot of fun,” he said.
Having fun happens to be a specialty of Witzigreuter who describes his music as “upbeat pop music with a little bit of hip-hop influence and tinged with electronica.”
That isn’t to say that The Ready Set can’t be serious. Take a few of his lyrics from “Giants,” for example: “I’ve left town, and I won’t come home / Ohio, I don’t know. Michigindiana, California. / Where’s home?
Witzigreuter said he gets his songwriting ideas from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes he mines his own life. Other times he reacts to something he sees. Maybe his next song will be about his new, adopted home of L.A. and the hotel he’s been living in on Hollywood Boulevard for the last month.
“I’d been to L.A. before to perform, but that was only for a couple days,” he said. “It’s different living here. I like it. The weather’s mild. People are nice. Hollywood Boulevard’s crazy. There are all these people dressed up in costumes walking around. One day I saw Mr. Incredible taking a picture of a tourist, and I saw Jack Sparrow too. That was pretty awesome.”v