PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You’ve seen it pop up it in your feed over the past couple of years. A 30’s jazz cover of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” here or a 50’s doo wop version of Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” there. It is all the work of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox which continually goes viral by taking hits and flipping them in a classic style from ragtime to soul. Bradlee along with a collective of musicians have built a YouTube following that’s 315 million views strong, transforming that success into sold out tours like the one Scott Bradlee and friends will embark on this week.READ MORE: Bobby Henon Resigns From Philadelphia City Council 2 Months After Bribery Conviction
“Even when I was a kid I was kind of an old soul. While my friends were listening to gangsta rap and Nirvana and stuff I was listening to ragtime and jazz” explains Bradlee. “I guess I always kind of had it in my head, a way to bridge those generations and bridge today’s pop music with all the sounds of the past.”
“Essentially it started as kind of a hobby for me, but then it became pretty real. I started putting up YouTube videos. I guess maybe 2013 was when things really took off for Postmodern Jukebox. A year later we started touring and never really looked back since.”
For Scott Bradlee, it’s a classic story with a 21st century twist. The struggling artist moves to New York City to follow his passion for music – only he doesn’t get discovered in a seedy piano bar – but on YouTube with the help of a graphic novelist. “I was trying to make it as a jazz pianist and found it was pretty hard to find work. I was playing a lot of restaurant gigs where I was just background music” Bradlee remembers. “I found that by uploading these YouTube covers there was a much bigger audience than I ever imagined for the stuff that I was doing. Fortunately I don’t have to play for tips anymore which is kind of nice.”READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Winter Weather Advisory Issued For Delaware Valley As Rain Transitions Into Snow
“My first video on YouTube was a medley of 80’s songs for ragtime piano. I put it up and within a day somebody had sent it to Neil Gaiman the writer and he had tweeted it to everybody. So that was like my first viral video” laughs Bradlee. “Part of me was thinking like, what does this mean? Does this mean I’m famous? Am I gonna be recognized? No it doesn’t mean that, but it provided kind of a starting point for us. From there I’ve just been kind of obsessed with creating this whole universe where pop music of today exists in other times.”
The success has continued for Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox, gaining and retaining fans rapidly, partly due to his assembly line-like production. There’s a new video and song every week, a schedule that is supported by his stable of talented musicians and ultimately his freedom. “I can do that because I don’t have a record label. There’s no record label telling me what to do or making us clear things or anything like that. It’s basically very self-contained” he says.
The songs are infectious and often so is the style as many fans come dressed up in clothes from a different era to see Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. “That’s kind of most fun thing. That’s something that didn’t come from me, I didn’t even have that idea I don’t think until we came out there and we started seeing people all dressed up just like the way that we do in the video” Bradlee says with a smile. “Sometimes it’s confusing because with so many people dressed up it’s hard to tell who the performers are.”
With or without your fedora, you can see Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox on Thursday November 5th at The Keswick Theatre. To hear more from Scott, listen to the full interview below.MORE NEWS: Men Injured In Double Shooting Near Southwest Philadelphia Gas Station, Police Say