The members of Hot Chelle Rae didn't go into this year's American Music Awards expecting to win the Best New Artist category.
But the Nashville pop quartet had no complaints about taking home the trophy.
"I feel like this is going to be a big boost for us," notes frontman Ryan Follese. "We all felt like we'd won already, just being nominated -- which sounds cheesy, but it's true. It's the first time we got to go to an award show and not just sit there but actually be part of it...in a category everyone was going to see.
"And our fans are so...avid at promoting us that it's kind of like we don't have to do as much, you know? They do it for us."
The honor, meanwhile, couldn't have come at a more opportune time.
Hot Chelle Rae released its sophomore album, "Whatever," earlier this week, riding off the momentum of its double-platinum single "Tonight, Tonight" and, now, the AMA victory. So the boost Follese predicts has actually been happening already, and after the middling showing for the group's 2009 debut "Lovesick Electric" hopes are high for something big this time out.
"I've heard my whole life that you spend your whole life writing your first album, and the second one always sucks," says Follese, 24. "Thank the Lord, I think this one is going to be the opposite."
Follese says he and guitarist Nash Overstreet, who met in a Nashville music store in 2005, "hadn't really figured out exactly what we wanted out of music and who we were" when they made "Lovesick Electric." All four members -- including Follese's brother Jamie and Ian Keaggy -- are the progeny of famed Nashville songwriters Keith Follese, Paul Overstreet and Phil Keaggy, but their first recording attempt was "about jamming" rather than songcraft. "It was very much a growth phase and experimental thing," Follese acknowledges.
After the first album came out, however, "we got back to just writing, not jamming. We went back to our old style of writing, which is sit in a room and try to beat the last thing you did. We just wrote songs to enjoy writing songs."
The cheeky "Tonight, Tonight" -- "We're not a band that takes itself too seriously," Follese notes -- was one of the early creations, and good enough to put out even as Hot Chelle Rae was still working on the rest of the "Whatever" material.
"We knew we didn't have another single from 'Lovesick Electric,' " Follese explains. "We knew ('Tonight, Tonight') was really catchy and fun and pop and the direction we wanted to go in. So we put it out in February, and it went so much further than we expected -- not just success but also time-wise. It just continued and continued throughout the summer and ended up being this really long run for us.
"That gave us plenty of time to get in the studio and work on all the other stuff we had."
Hot Chelle Rae considered nearly 30 songs for "Whatever," according to Follese, and the combination of time and volume of music worked in the group's favor. "We didn't put a song on this album we didn't think could be a single for someone or be in a movie," he says. "We wanted to write the best, most melodic stuff we could. It's like picking your favorite kids, which is impossible, but you go to put your best stuff out, and we think that's the stuff that we used for (the album)."
"I Feel It Like That," the second single from "Whatever," features the rap duo New Boyz, while other album tracks include guest appearances by Demi Lovato ("Why Don't You Love Me") and Bei Major ("Radio"). Hot Chelle Rae is playing a series of radio concerts during December, and Follese says the group is firming up its 2012 tour plans, though he expects to be on the road for most of the year.
And the live shows, he promises, present a markedly different side of Hot Chelle Rae.
"As fun as our music is, we started out as players first," Follese says. "We can play any of the songs and make it sound pretty much like a real band that's rockin' out. There [i]is[/i] going to be a five-minute guitar solo, y'know? That's just the way our show is.
"So if you don't like guitar solo or harmonies or drum fills or crazy bass playing, you're not gonna like our show. But seems like most our fans are into it, so we're not too worried."
The 98.7 Amp Radio Kringle Jingle with Hot Chelle Rae, Wiz Khalifa and Sam Adams takes place Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29-$89.75. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.
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