Music Review: Spencer Ludwig – LIVE At Mercury Lounge!

Spencer Ludwig
Mercury Lounge, NYC
February 13, 2020

On a chilly Thursday night in February, PopCultureReview had the opportunity to sit down with Spencer Ludwig, the red hot singer, songwriter and trumpeter that is poised to blow the doors off the room.

The Los Angeles-born, half-Filipino vocalist and instrumentalist puts on a high energy show, overflowing with funk and pop vibes that, as one fan told us, “makes you want to shake your ass.” She was 100 percent correct.  A Spencer Ludwig show is a great time and if you can catch him on tour, do yourself the favor and check him out!

Read on for our interview with Spencer Ludwig and our review of his show …

Photo Credit: Sheila McGann

The Interview

Spencer graciously sat down with us just moments before taking the stage for his sold-out show at the iconic NYC club, Mercury Lounge.  The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

PopCultureReview: My first introduction to you was the Target ad back in 2017. I Shazam’d it. Do you get that a lot?

Spencer Ludwig: “You’re one of the good ones. Even if I get that once, it’s amazing. That someone hears it and thinks it’s good enough or they are curious enough to Shazam it, that’s the hope. I think it’s an incredible thing that can happen. I’ve been a big fan of trying to create an audience through that alternative form of promotion. “Diggy” is a very specific song that works for something like that.”

PCR: Do commercials like that and more recently, the Ford commercial with “Best Life” generate a lot of traffic for you?

SL: “Yes! Right now that song, “Best Life” is, miraculously, in three major ads for Ford, Royal Caribbean, and a Pepsi ad. Hopefully with all these things happening back-to-back, people are going look up the song. It’s great. Any time a song is used or appreciated or played it means a lot.”

PCR: If someone was new to your music, what would be your recommended song intro? 

SL: “I think “Diggy” is a good starting point. I love playing it.  The show has more energy than the recorded music. I wanted to bring that to my recorded music. The next album is going to have so much more. I actually brought in my band so the record will have so much of that live energy, that live air and that chemistry.”

PCR: You’ve said you are a self-taught trumpet player. Is that true? Were you a “band nerd” in school? (Self-proclaimed band nerd here!)

SL: “Yeah that’s true. I was a band nerd since fourth grade. I started with the saxophone in the fourth grade. Then I kind of hopped around a few instruments and landed on the French horn in high school. By the end of high school, going into 12th grade, I needed to pick an instrument. I really didn’t want to dedicate my life to just any one, but I was most interested in the one I hadn’t tried yet, which was the trumpet. I just kind of took what I knew from the other instruments and applied it to the trumpet. It took a little getting used to the differences.”

PCR: Can I ask why the trumpet and not a more traditional “rock” instrument?

SL: “I think the trumpet is a rock instrument. It depends on how it’s being played. I hope to put that spotlight on the trumpet as a rock instrument. That’s my goal.”

Photo Credit: Sheila McGann

PCR: Who are your influences, instrumentally and vocally?

SL: “They’re different and sometimes the same. I mean, I love Chet Baker as a vocalist and a trumpet player. Miles Davis I love as a trumpet player. Vocals, I mean I love Prince. He is just has an awesome authenticity to him that makes me feel like I can do whatever as long as I‘m being me. That’s what I’ve been most focused on with this new music is not to sound like anyone except for me. Which is definitely a step forward because I think I’ve always been using my ear to create music that sounded good and right. But now I’m using my personal stories and experiences to write songs that no one else can sing because it’s just my story.”

PCR: Now that you make your home in Brooklyn, how does the NYC music scene differ from LA?

SL: “The NY scene is a little more funky, disco house electronic and rock, and LA is more like a folk Americana thing. It’s hard for me to say because my NY and LA years are split. I’ve been living in Brooklyn since 2013. There’s a lot of disco and dance music happening. I’m just trying to bring like a funk rock thing.”

PCR: Tell me about the picture of you dangling upside down in a subway car from your website and cover art for “My Nature.” I feel like that would make me light headed.

SL: “It did make me very light headed. The train was moving. At the time I had a residency at the Freehold, and at that residency I was crowd surfing playing the trumpet. There was a lot of spontaneous, jungle behavior. I felt like my nature is to do things like that and I wanted to do something that you would experience, a sort of hanging, playing trumpet player.”

PCR: I read online that you used to pop up at subway stations for impromptu shows. Is that still a thing you do?

SL: “I love to do that! I love it as a form of practice or promotion. So probably leading up to the release of any of these new songs I’ll do it because it’s just fun. I have a sign that says “No Tips, Just Dance.” It’s just about the music. I use it as a time to test the songs … but it sounds like you’re playing in a subway station.”

“I have a sign that says ‘No Tips, Just Dance.’”

Photo Credit: Sheila McGann

PCR: You touched on that you have new music coming up, and you released a slew of singles in 2019. Are there plans for a cohesive album?

SL: “Yeah, there is a full album done and I’m playing most of it tonight. The goal is to move forward with the new music. It’s kind of a new sound, an evolution. The plan is to definitely release it, but the question is with who? I’m taking my time to figure out who that’s going be. I’ve been focused on writing music from the heart and just telling true stories and getting that right. Then all the rest of it will figure itself out.”

PCR: When you talk about the evolution in your art, you got married last year. Congrats! Does that play a role in your evolution?

SL: “Thank you. Yes. That’s a big part of the album too, is talking about our relationship. My wife and I met in high school when we were 16, so there’s a lot to talk about. It’s been an amazing experience and there’s a lot to write about. We’ve been through a lot together.”

PCR: What are your plans for 2020?

SL: “I have the residency at the Freehold, the last Friday of every month, starting in March. It’s called Le Trumpet, which is the name of the party. The album is in the planning. There’s plans to tour. I’ve signed with AGI as an agency and they’re going to put me on the road with the new music. We’re working on a bunch of stuff that I just haven’t announced. Find me on Instagram to follow along [Ed. Note: Spencer can be found at @spencerludwig on IG].”

PCR: Your shows are legendary for their all out, high-octane energy parties. How do you balance that? What’s the yin to the yang of the show?

SL: “Hmm. There is none, it’s all yin. I just play as if it’s my last moment and then I’m glad I can breathe. It’s a lot of breathing and singing and playing and running. It’s fun to work really hard for what you’re trying to do. I chill super hard and watch shitty TV. Trash TV is one of my hobbies.”

“I just play as if it’s my last moment and then I’m glad I can breathe.”

Photo Credit: Sheila McGann

PCR: What else should our readers know about you?

SL: “I don’t really love shitty TV that much. It’s just that if I’m working 20-23 hours a day. I need an hour to watch something good-bad, like The Witcher. I just love weird sci-fi and documentaries and biography books. Also, cooking and chilling with my two cats, Suki and Willow. @sukiandwillow on Instagram.”

spencer-ludwig

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The Show.

At tonight’s show, there were two opening bands: Wilmah and Maris. Wilmah is a pop band with a great sound that I hope to hear more from. Maris is an acoustic singer with a tremendous set of pipes, not to be missed.

Spencer’s show, itself, was a party from start to finish … the kind of party you don’t want to end. Spencer was stoked that this was his first solo ticketed show and all of New York showed up to sell it out!

The Trumpeter’s charismatic presence and style of music refuses to be categorized into just one feeling or one genre. We were getting so many different vibes, from Prince to Bruno Mars to James Brown; even a Green Day-sounding harmony at one point. The show is high-energy, with a bright, funk feel. His music has an infectious beat you have to move to.

“His music has an infectious beat you have to move to.”

Photo Credit: Sheila McGann

As a brass musician myself, one thing I give Spencer Ludwig major props for is his ability to modulate between singing and in the next breath, launching into a trumpet interlude. Where singers would get a breather break in-between verses or at the bridge section, not Spencer. His trumpet parts feel like their own verses and are very lyrical.

The older songs, like “Diggy” and “Best Life” did their job to get the crowd moving and excited with their familiar beat. They also provided excellent segues to his newer music. Spencer told the crowd that the new music is a reflection of all the different things we are in life. As he said in our interview, the newer songs are definitely more about his experiences and the influences of where he is right now in his life. As an example, he told the crowd about his marriage and thanked his wife for her support.

For two of the newer songs, Spencer told the crowd that his Dad pursued a music career in the late 1950s, but it didn’t get very far. Part homage to his father and part new sound evolution, Spencer sampled a few of his dad’s tracks for inclusion in his new music. The  doo-wop sound worked with Spencer’s style, seamlessly. Spencer explained that through this integration, he and his Dad would live on together through music in a very sentimental way.

Spencer Ludwig is definitely living his “Best Life.” We’re excited for all the things coming his way. For more information on Spencer Ludwig, follow him on Instagram @spencerludwig and Twitter @SpencerLudwig and visit his Website. Also, his Parties have an IG account: @letrumpetparty.

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Thank you for reading! Catch up on all your pop culture news at popculturereview.com  and follow us on social media, Twitter @popculturereview and Instagram @pop_culture_review for breaking news, information, and hot takes. Follow associate writer, Sheila McGann, on Twitter at @SheilsMcGangsta!