By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
I cannot believe that it has been over two years since my mentor, Josh Skinner, visited Jake’s Take.
A lot has changed for the media personality as he prepares to help launch the CW’s Hot Video Countdown with his fellow co-hosts Brit Sheridan (Supernatural), Sam Sarpong (BET’s All Access) and Deja Riley (dancer and philanthropist) this fall.
In addition to the launch of Hot Video Countdown, Josh continues to rack up success as a songwriter as his collaborations with frequent songwriter partner Drew Seeley: “Living Off the Page” and “Off the Ground” premiered at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards last year.
Outside of his hosting and songwriting career, Josh charted out unfamiliar territory: the acting world! He produced and co-starred in The Rules of the Game with Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison, played a supporting role in Confession with Chris Pine and recently filmed Do Over with Seeley and Jonathan Bennett.
In this edition of Catching Up, Josh opened up about Hot Video Countdown, the decision to end With Josh and what he looks for in artists who want to collaborate with him.
Jacob Elyachar: How have you grown as an entertainment industry professional since the last time we spoke?
Josh Skinner: A lot has changed over the past two years. The biggest thing that changed was my perception of the entertainment industry. There are moments in your career that you don’t know what direction you should go. The last time we spoke, I just came off of a TV show and I had some hit music. I honesty did not know if I should just focus on hosting or just focus on music. Over the last two years, I realized I didn’t need to put myself in a box and I could go where my passion would take me. You can do anything your heart desires; all you need to do is balance it. I loved the last two years because I have come into my own and when you reach your 30s, you know exactly whom you are and what your brand is! I want to make a difference, change the world and make it a better place. The projects that I am attaching myself to and the things that I want to create; I want to forward positively and I want to leave some kind of impact on this world.
JE: My readers came to know you as the host of your web series: “With Josh.” Recently, you decided to end the web series. Why did you decide to pull the project off the Internet?
JS: The reason why I started With Josh is that I wanted to know what I was capable of doing if I had my own show. Often, I made it to the end of a network casting session and I almost book a show, but at the end…it didn’t happen. At the end of the grieving period (as insiders call it), I realized I wanted to do a show, a job and a paycheck. With Josh was my passion project and I did not make any money off of it; it was just me finding who I wanted to be as a journalist and an interviewer. I believe that everyone has a story and With Josh was a part of my story. I produced over 40 interviews with celebrities from around the country. It has been two years since I stopped With Josh and I used the footage to pitch a new show and it helped me booked jobs like Hot Video Countdown.
JE: Speaking of your new project: “Hot Video Countdown.” How did you get involved with this show?
JS: Honesty, I answered an ad on the Internet. (JE: Really?) This story goes all the way back to 2003, when I booked a gig on a Ryan Seacrest show called Look Like A Star. I also answered an ad on the Internet. While I was having a lot of behind-the-scenes pitching sessions, I wondered: “What else is out there that my agent does not know about?” I had a conversation with my grandmother who asked: “How did you book the Seacrest show?” I told her that I answered an ad on the Internet. She told me: “Why not check it out again?” After listening to her advice, I returned home and went back on the Internet to search. I sent my reel via e-mail and they called me within a few days. I was on hold for seven months before we shot the first episode. Hot Video Countdown will air on over 108 CW affiliates (which is 80-percent of the country) starting in October and we have already shot five episodes.
JE: When I first heard about “Hot Video Countdown,” I instantly thought it might be the second coming of “Total Request Live” (TRL)?
JS: Hot Video Countdown marks the return of music video and it is TRL for the West Coast. As the viewer is watching the show, we let you count it down. Regardless of what market that viewer is in, you are going to see that particular music video. In addition, you will see a live performance from an artist; a really fun interview and have the show play out in front of a studio audience on the West Coast. Everyday, our viewers will have the chance to vote (and control) which music video airs on the show.
JE: Who are some of your dream guests that you would like to stop by on “Hot Video Countdown”?
JS: I think it would be fun if Ariana Grande and One Direction visit the show. For selfish reasons, I would love to see classic acts such as the Goo Goo Dolls, Michael Buble and Celine Dion stop by.
JE: You will be co-hosting “Hot Video Countdown” with Brit Sheridan, Sam Sarpong & Deja Riley. How would you describe the chemistry between you and your co-hosts?
JS: We are four strong individuals, but when you put all four of us in a room…you will find that we have instant chemistry and anything is possible. We feel like we’ve known each other for 10 years. It is so rare to have that kind of chemistry. All of us come from different backgrounds. Brit has a recurring role on Supernatural. Sam Sarpong hosted for BET and Deja Riley is a dancer for Trey Songz and has done so many incredible on-air gigs as a TV personality. I feel that I fill the Larry King/Ryan Seacrest/Barbara Walters role that is thrown into the mix. Plus, I am a songwriter that has hits on the Billboard charts. While the show is only 30-minutes-long and we have five videos on the countdown, I promise you the viewers are going to laugh so much when all four of us are together.
JE: I think I speak on behalf of my readers…when we all breathe a collective sigh of relief, now that music videos are back on television.
JS: Exactly! This is also the first time that the viewer can actually control what goes on, while the show is live.
JE: Let’s shift gears and talk about your songwriting career. How do you think you evolved as a songwriter since we last spoke?
JS: I think I have evolved as a songwriter since the last time we spoke. They say that pain is the greatest teacher (laughs) and as you go through different situations in your life, you might realize how much it might heal you as an artist. I feel great at where I am; I feel really centered and I think I have been able to really expand my writing. I know that I want to encourage people and be a part of different projects that I believe in.
JE: What factors do you look for in an artist that makes you want to say: “I want to collaborate with you!”?
JS: I look for two things! One, “How bad to these singer-songwriters want it?” If you want to come into the studio and collaborate with me regardless if it is a one-on-one writing session or meet with a team of songwriters, I do not want this to be your hobby! I want them to have no Plan B. They need to eat, breathe and sleep music and the arts. You should never do anything half-ass! They should give it 100-percent and their attitude should be: “I want a career in the music industry!” Two, I am looking for someone who is humble and not into the Hollywood BS. At the end of the day, it is a job and your job is your career.
When you are an entertainer, your career is also who you are! If you are going to come into the studio and think that you are it…we are all just trying to do our jobs. In fact, I rather go have a burger or have game night at my house than work with your ego. People come to LA and think that they have to be a certain way but you should be who you always are! Be planted and be ready to blossom, LA should be able to give you the soil that need to grow as an artist. They also think they need to wear Gucci when they walk down the street and be rude to people. I think that behavior might get you to a certain point, but when you realize your friends are falling to the wayside…you really need to reevaluate your life. I surround myself with good people that I want to work with and vice versa. If you are going to be an artist, there has to be a bigger purpose other than fame and fortune.
At the end of the day, I am just trying to figure out where am I going to live, what is my next job and what am I going to do with the opportunity that has been given to me? It’s not about your success or how much money you have. When we die, all that matters is who you loved and what legacy did you leave behind. To come full circle with this interview, the projects I have chosen and the projects that I want to be a part of are going to be a part of my legacy!
Every time, I approach a project….I think these questions to myself: “What do I want out of it?” “What is the world going to get out of this project?” “Will I have fun working on this project?”
Look for “Hot Video Countdown” to air on CW affiliates all across the country this fall! Check your local TV stations to find out what time it will air.