Among One Tree Hill’s crop of fresh faces this season is Grubbs, a bartender at Tric. If you’re wondering where the name comes from (Is he supposed to be grubby? Chubby? Just an odd duck?), meet Mike Grubbs, the actor who plays him.
In our exclusive interview, Grubbs explains how his band Wakey!Wakey! led to a role on One Tree Hill, who his character may or may not get together with and how he uses Twitter to interact with his growing fanbase.
TeenDramaWhore: Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you first get involved with the show?
Mike Grubbs: It’s actually a very interesting story, Shari. A friend of [OTH creator] Mark Schwahn’s saw me play. She called Mark and said, “When you’re in New York next time, let me know. I’ll arrange it so this guy plays where you’re at.” Mark came to town and I got a call the night of. I was actually out on a date at the time and I got a call saying, “We need you to go to this place to play for Mark” and I was like, “Well, actually, you know, it’s kind of a bad night for me.” At that time I didn’t know Mark but they explained to me who he was and everything. So I said, “Yeah. Okay. I might as well try it.” But I was on a date so it took me a little while to get out there. Mark sat at this open mic night for three hours waiting to hear me play, which is pretty amazing. Most record executives, the way they handle hearing someone play for them is you’ll fly out to where they are and go to their office and sit in some cold waiting room until whenever they’re ready to let you in and do the audition. They’ll give you maybe about 5 minutes of their time usually but Mark came and sat for 3 hours to hear me play at this open mic in Brooklyn, which just kind of points to the fact that he’s doing something right. I think that’s why shows like One Tree Hill get such good music and good people. So he came and saw me play. He was really into the songs I played and he said, “I really want to use those on the show.” So the first song was “War Sweater” and he used that on the season finale last year [Episode 6.24, Remember Me As A Time Of Day].
Then Mark and I just really became friends. It wasn’t about a professional relationship for us. When he came to New York, we’d hang out. When I went to L.A., we’d hang out. And then he was here a few months ago and we were finishing this new album we working on so I called him and said, “Hey man, I want to play you my new album,” just ‘cause he’s my friend. So we sat down and I played it for him and he was like, “I’m really into this. I really like this music and I want to help you release it. Why don’t I write you a few cameos on the show and we’ll try to have you perform on the show and bring as much attention to the project as we can?” And I was like, “Oh, this is amazing!” He knew I was a bartender–I was bartending at the time–so he wrote this little cameo for me as the bartender on the show and that went really well so that led to another. They wrote me into the next episode and then the next one and the next thing you know, now I’m Grubbs on the show and kind of a regular occurrence on it. It’s kind of cool.
TDW: How familiar were you with the show previously?
Grubbs: I had watched the earlier seasons of the show but had fallen out of touch with it for a while. I love TV and I love to watch TV but I’m kind of more of a sci-fi nerd. I really like Battlestar Galactica and nerdy stuff like that. Lost. Those are my shows. So the drama stuff hadn’t really been as much on my radar for a while so I didn’t really know what I was getting into. It was really cool to see once I actually started researching the show and catching up on what was going on. It changed so much and was so good. They had these really exciting new characters and I was just really proud to be a part of the show at this point.
TDW: It’s funny because a lot people didn’t know you were an actual musician. I saw some comments online saying, “Wait–was the bartender the guy at the piano at the end of that episode?” when you performed “Brooklyn” [Episode 7.12, Some Roads Lead Nowhere]. People explained to them that, yes, it was the character of Grubbs at the piano but the actor is also Mike Grubbs who has his own band.
Grubbs: Everyone started to piece it together. I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen but I think it might become more clear to people in the next few episodes what my part is in everything.
TDW: Was there ever a question of what name to give the character or was it just Grubbs from the outset?
Grubbs: Mark had always known me as Grubbs. That was my nickname throughout college. So it was like, what kind of bartender name can they give me? And I guess at that point, the natural name was just Grubbs. I mean, that’s who I am and he wanted the character to be as much like me as possible. So that was pretty locked in pretty early.
TDW: You were in a few episodes before we actually saw you perform rather than have that aspect of your character revealed right off the bat. Do you know what went into that decision?
Grubbs: I just think it’s something that’s maybe more exciting for the viewers, to watch the growth of the character that way. I also think, in all honesty, that Mark just wanted to make sure that I didn’t completely suck before he put me on as this character. The fact that I started as just this bartender gives us a little more arc to the character, makes it a little more exciting. But that’s really who I am. I’ve been this guy who is working every day and living a really real, normal existence just tending bar and working like everyone else. I’m not someone who’s just a musician. It kind of humanizes the character as well.
TDW: You are, without a doubt, the most recognizable face of Wakey!Wakey! but the other people you play with, what have they said about your experiences on the show?
Grubbs: They’re really stoked about it. They, of course, love the attention it brings to the project and everything. It’s really fun. The first episode I was ever on, we got together and it was just a small group of friends. They were all really close friends to me because I didn’t want it to be–like all of my friends came to me and said, “We have to throw a huge party! You’re going to be on TV!” and all this stuff. Everyone was really excited. But I wanted it to be quiet because I wanted people to actually watch the show. I didn’t want it to be a raging party with the TV on in the background and then we’d just miss it. So we kept it really small but the majority of the band was there for that. They’re super-supportive, they’re super into it and they’re really excited about it. They’re proud of me and they’re happy. It’s cool.
TDW: Can you give us any hints on what’s coming up with Grubbs and how many more episodes you’ll be in?
Grubbs: I don’t really know for a fact but I think you’re going to be seeing a fair amount more of me. But as far as what’s going to happen to my character, all I can say is of the scripts I’ve read so far, it’s really cool and it’s really exciting. People are going to love it.
TDW: There’s two little fandoms brewing. There’s some people who think Grubbs and Miranda [India de Beaufort] are going to have something going on.
Grubbs: I’ve definitely heard that one.
TDW: And there’s others that are looking for some cougar action with Victoria [Daphne Zuniga].
Grubbs: Yeah, you know, I’ve actually seen people suggest that. I saw another one suggesting I get together with Sophia Bush [Brooke], which is really funny because I love that people not only want to pair me with Brooke but her mother as well! I love that people are speculating about it because it means maybe I’m doing my job well or the writers are doing their job well and people are excited about it. As far as who my character will end up with, man, I think that all of those actresses you just mentioned are the coolest chicks in the world and I would be thrilled to be with any of them.
TDW: That’s a great answer. So what would you say has been the easiest thing working on the show, the most difficult and the most surprising?
Grubbs:I would say the easiest part of working on the show has been how accepting the cast has been of me. The first night that I got down there, James Lafferty [Nathan], Stephen Colletti [Chase] and Shantel VanSanten [Quinn]–and, actually, I think Robert Buckley [Clay] was there as well. All these people came out. I think Mark set it up so that everyone I was working on my first scene with came out to meet me so I would be comfortable with everyone the next day and they would know who I was. Honestly, they are just the most accepting and wonderful people you can ever think of working with.
That actually leads really well to the next question, the most difficult part of working on the show. It’s funny because the most difficult part of the show for me is getting used to acting on camera. I have an actual background in theater and I’ve done a lot of acting before as a theater actor but never as a screen actor so the changeover to that has been really challenging for me. I really feel lucky to have such great people on set with me and working with me to kind of teach me. The scenes that I have with India or Sophia or [Bethany Joy Galeotti, Haley], there’s always sweet, little hints that they give me. You know, “Keep your eyes up here,” “Make sure the camera catches this kind of thing”–things that you really want to look out for when filming these kind of things and it’s really amazing how much they’ve helped me. So the most difficult thing has been getting used to filming.
The most surprising thing I think was definitely how big the production scale is. I knew what One Tree Hill was, I had seen the show before and I knew Mark and all that stuff but you never can imagine what it’s like to be on set and in the process of filming until you’re there. There’s literally like a hundred crew members, a hundred extras. There’s things flying around past your head–cameras, lights, everything. It’s really overwhelming. So probably the scale of it is the most surprising thing.
TDW: Do you have any favorite anecdotes from the set or from hanging out with everyone?
Grubbs: Wow. There’s just so many great moments we have down there. When the cast goes out, it’s always a blast because everyone is super cool. We really are like a family. My favorite anecdote ever would be the first episode that I did down there [Episode 7.09, Now You Lift Your Eyes To The Sun]. Like I said before, it was completely overwhelming to me. The first day I walked on set, I didn’t know where I could go or what I could do, what was off-limits, when I was making a fool of myself. It was a whole different world and I didn’t know the etiquette of it or anything. As the day went on, I slowly became more comfortable and suddenly, before I knew it, the day was over and the episode was over for me. The first episode I was in, it was just a very small scene. So they wrapped the day and Mark Schwahn was on set and Sophia Bush was directing and, as they wrapped, finishing my last take, I didn’t really know what was going on because they do so many different takes and so many different angles and everything so I didn’t know if they were turning around or whatever and then one of the guys that works with us and says “Hey, man. That’s it for the day. You did a great job. We’re all done.” And I was like, “Okay, cool” and I kind of had a “That’s it?” moment, you know, where I was like, “Okay, well, I guess I go home now and I don’t know if I’ll ever be back” because at first it was just like a one episode cameo. So I was slowly kind of wandering off set, not knowing where to go or what to do and I heard someone yell from the other side of the room–to this day, I’m not sure who it was. I don’t know if it was Mark. I don’t know if it was Sophia. Austin Nichols [Julian] was on set that day; it could’ve been him. It could’ve been one of the other producers. All the guys that work on the show are just so cool. But somebody yells, “Hey, everybody! Can you just stop what you’re doing”–and, literally, at this point there’s like a 100 crew members on set and a 100 extras so I’m in a room with 200 people and everyone stops and turns around–“Can everyone please put their hands together for Michael Grubbs. It’s his first day ever on set, wrapping his first-ever episode” and the whole room just burst out. By that time I was friends with everybody and everyone was cheering for me. That was probably the coolest moment ever in the whole process so far.
TDW: That’s sweet. How is Wilmington treating you? It’s a bit different than Brooklyn…
Grubbs: Wilmington is quite different from Brooklyn. But it’s a really cool town. I don’t think people realize how great they have it there. The people that I’ve met, the locals and stuff, are all super sweet and super kind. There’s some really cool bars, some really cool restaurants down there, too. It’s a great scene. There’s some great little clothing stores. There’s a little place called Edge of Urge that I try to hit once every time I’m down there. They have great clothes. It’s funny that I would go all the way to Wilmington to buy clothes when I live in Brooklyn, a place where there’s so many great stores and stuff but that’s just something in Wilmington they do really well.
TDW: What’s next for Wakey!Wakey!?
Grubbs: The next thing we have coming out is this album on February 2nd. It’s called “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You.” It’s our first real live studio album and we’re super proud of it. We got really great distribution so it’s going to be widely available and just kind of another introduction of Wakey!Wakey! to America so I’m really excited to see how that goes and get that out there.
TDW: You’ve done a great job of capitalizing on social media tools like Twitter and video blogs. What value do you think they have?
Grubbs: I think there’s a big difference between actors and musicians. One of the big differences is actors, unless they’re trying to build some general form of celebrity, really want their social media to be private because they’re not trying to brand themselves. They’re trying to get people to watch the show that they’re on. They don’t really want people to take as much interest in them. For someone like myself–or India’s actually in the same boat. She’s a fantastic singer and has a MySpace page and has a lot of great music on it. For someone like her or someone like me, using Twitter, using blogs, using MySpace and different outlets to get to people to kind of spread the word of what we’re doing with the band and other stuff is a totally vital tool. I want people to know me. I want people to know my band. I want people to feel comfortable with me and my music and everything. One Tree Hill fans are so cool and so supportive of the show and they work really hard to find music. If a song’s on the show, everybody goes and finds it, which is just amazing. If they like it on the show, they talk about it and they get out there and they’re asking about it. They have just such a great community online, I’d be stupid not to talk to them and try and put my name out there as much as possible and get people to see me and follow me on Twitter and come to my Facebook page. So I think social networking is just vital. Not to mention the way it allows me to interact with the fans and just kind of connect with them; it’s really cool. I would say it’s absolutely a vital tool for anyone and definitely something to watch. So I hope everyone comes and follows me on Twitter!
TDW: You’ve had people send you questions through Twitter that you then answer through videoblogs on your Tumblr. How did that start?
Grubbs: The first day I was on set, my manager told me our goal should be to answer every question we got on Twitter and kind of let all the other stuff go. The first appearance I had on the show, the response was pretty overwhelming. We got hundreds of letters and stuff. So to respond to everyone was pretty possible. I sat down and tried to respond to all the tweets one by one and it took me like a week. I finally got it done and I went to my manager and was like, “There’s no way I can do this. There’s no way I can make this my life because all I would do is sit there and answer tweets.” So we decided the best way to do it would be to do the series “Ask Grubbs.” Basically every Wednesday what we do is I’ll sit down and pick some random questions from Twitter–I can’t answer them all but I’ll pick as many as I can–and answer them on a videoblog. So every Wednesday they can come check it out and maybe they’ll see me answer their question on the blog. It’s kind of cool that way. It’s a great way for me to easily connect with people. For instance, on the last one that I posted, there was a girl that said she fell down and hurt her leg and she was at home with ice on it listening to Wakey!Wakey!. Such a sweet, sweet little message and for me to tweet back to that seems kind of shallow. To just say, “Oh, thanks. I hope your leg feels better” seems empty. So if I get to actually go on camera and say, “Hey, you! Thank you for listening to us and I’m glad that we’re making you feel better,” it feels a lot more direct.
Come back tomorrow night after One Tree Hill to find out how you can win an autographed copy of “Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You” and get a shout-out on Grubbs’ blog.
Then come back next week for another exclusive interview!