Mixing Old, New, Postmodern Jukebox To Perform Friday

Postmodern Jukebox

By Chris Chapman


New angles are often the perfect path to finding a new vision.

Mixing old with new finds that new view for some. That’s exactly what Scott Bradlee has done with his revolving door of an ensemble musical and theatrical troupe in Postmodern Jukebox.

The entertainers that have graced the stage often take their talents and produce a new version of a well-known song and make it sound like something from a bygone era. Some of those entertainers are stars in their own right. Others are at the outset of their careers, showcasing talents that will take them places in the coming years.

“This sound brings together a bunch of people that wouldn’t otherwise get along,” Brielle Von Hugel said of the success of Postmodern Jukebox. “Music is a healer, and is the universal language. We get a good mix of people coming to our shows. I have never seen such a diverse mix of age and gender all enjoying the same sound under one roof.”

Brielle Von Hugel, one of the featured performers that will be on the stage with Postmodern Jukebox at Chautauqua Institution on Friday, has taken a few steps beyond the entry level, but is still working on her own identity, her own musical journey, as it were.

If that name sounds familiar, Von Hugel was on both, Season 10 and 11 of American Idol. Her second appearance saw her go through to be one of the top 12 female singers at 17 years of age.

Now, the 25-year-old Staten Island native is bringing her soulful, vintage-sounding voice to the stage to remake tunes people are sure to know as something that could have been played 100 years ago.

“I started this journey as a fan,” Brielle said. “I was on American Idol with Haley (Reinhart) and Casey (Abrams). They were both in the show and I went to a show back home, at the St. George Theater, on Staten Island. I met Scott (Bradlee) after the show and we talked a bit. That was November 2015. I was shooting my first video for PMJ in February of 2016.”

Video is the means that Bradlee uses to push his classic remakes out to a broader audience. The pieces are not just audible but offer a visual component that could make you feel like you are right there, in a speakeasy or a New Orleans supper club.

“That first video session saw the creation of three pieces in two days,” Brielle said. “We did versions of Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade,’ ‘Same Old Love’ by Selena Gomez, and ‘All of Me’ by John Legend.”

If you take the time to go to YouTube and check out the visual, which is highly recommended, you’ll see great pieces, presented in a manner consistent with the sound of the era that you’re hearing. Brielle said there’s a secret behind those pieces.

“We shoot those in one continuous take,” she said. “Yeah, we might shoot something a few times but it’s an all or nothing thing with the videos.”

When you take a modern pop song and translate it into a style that focuses on a clearer enunciation of the lyrics, you may find a few strange phrases, or even a line that may surprise you. Brielle said it has happened to her a few times since she started this journey. Nothing bad or silly, but a better appreciation, she said.

“We were recording a couple of all-girl trios, ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’, by NSync and Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up.’ Man, those songs are deeper in meaning than I think people realize,” she said, singing the chorus of the latter. “The verses are very deep and you can really get an understanding of where she is and what she is feeling.”

While these songs all take some time to arrange and to make into a new classic. Brielle said that is all Scott Bradlee, and his skill actually makes the process seamless for the performers.

“Scott’s the genius behind it all,” she said. “Scott will talk to you about a song so you know what he wants the feel to be, in terms of genre and tempo, and you get about 10 minutes to rehearse it. Then you start shooting the video. Remember, YouTube is a live shoot; a jam session. IT’s real music. To be honest, there’s not a lot of planning for them.”

But what’s been Brieele Von Hugel’s favorite piece to transform and perform?

“Well, that would have to be ‘Genie in a Bottle’ by Christina Aguilera,” she said. “I’m a child of the 90s and I have really always looked up the Christina. I will be performing it at Chautauqua.”

Postmodern Jukebox will be live, on stage, at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater Friday.