Carson Daly interview, NBC New Year’s Eve Extravaganza and more

Carson Daly will host the NBC New Year’s Eve Extravaganza.

The New Year is an auspicious one for NBC host Daly, who will be a new father in 2009.  He and girlfriend Siri Pinter are expecting their first child together.

The former MTV VJ and host of “Total Request Live” and Siri, a writing assistant for “Last Call With Carson Daly,” will welcome their wee bairn in early spring.

The fifth annual live “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly” will for the first time broadcast in primetime from 10-11 p.m. (ET) and continue in late night from 11:35 p.m. – 12:35 a.m. all in high definition.

In addition to the musical lineup, Daly will have help bringing the celebration to the home audience with Saturday “Today” co-anchor Amy Robach and NBC News correspondent Luke Russert giving live reports from Times Square.

As in years past, the NBC special will give viewers the experience of being in the middle of the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve destination, Times Square.

Daly has secured a great lineup this year.

Already announced are Grammy nominated artists T.I., Katy Perry, Ludacris and The Ting Tings who will be performing.

Monsters and Critics spoke to Carson Daly and Executive Producer, David Friedman about the show and music.

Carson, I’m sure you’ve seen just about everybody in music – is anyone coming on the New Year’s special was an act or performer that you’ve not seen?

Carson Daly: On our show no, I’ve seen everybody on our show really by way of the late night show.

One of the things that we’ve liked to do historically and have done with some of the acts that we’ve had on the past, like Maroon 5 and a few others, we use the late night show as a vehicle to give new acts – primarily new bands, a shot in late night and for them to make their TV debut.

So we’ve nurtured a lot of relationships that way. I saw Katy Perry in Austin, Texas last year at a showcase and came right back to LA and booked her for the late night show where she made her debut.

She went on to have a great year, so I’m always looking forward to seeing her. T.I. is, great. The music is fantastic. I saw The Ting Tings at the MTV VMA’s this year and fell in love with them as well.

Who do you think will surprise people the most this year; a band under the radar that really deserves more of a spotlight that will surprise people with their performance?

Carson Daly: You mean just music general outside of who we have on the show?

You can also mention that and on your show, both.

Carson Daly: Well I think for New Year’s Eve for this sake, we’re being in primetime this year, getting this extra hour, it’s given us more real estate on air to work with.

So that enabled us to book a little bit broader and larger than we normally do. So obviously the addition of Katy Perry and T.I. – I mean T.I. is arguably the artist of the year.

They’re only, I think two or three singles deep on that record and his collaborations with Justin is incredible. That song hasn’t come out. My Life Your Entertainment, the duet he does with Usher, hasn’t come out.

T.I. is just – and Katy alone are two of the biggest artists, not to mention Ludacris.

I mean on the other side of things, I’d have to say that the rock band, Kings of Leon, I think is just going to be a gigantic band in 2009. I don’t think they’ve even touched the surface yet.

Do you have a cold weather survival kit?

Carson Daly:   I think a couple a years ago, the biggest thing was the weather.  I mean you just never know what it’s going to be that night. It’s historically been freezing.

They put a heater underneath me which was the greatest thing I’ve ever witnessed. So I really don’t need too much other than that heater and my jacket. And as long as my microphone works, I’m good to go.

How would you celebrate just on your own or with your friends?

Carson Daly: Well, between MTV and NBC, I’ve worked this night every year for the past I think 12 years. except one year. So I love working on this night. It’s a great chance to be a broadcaster.

I miss being in the moment.  After TRL Live everyday for five years, and doing that finale more recently when I hosted for two hours, it’s such a fun show to do.

I don’t know what I would do. The one year I wasn’t hosting I was on vacation and I felt like I needed to be at work that night.

But wherever I am I just start counting down from ten to one and I just pretend like there’s a camera there.

Carson, can you tell us a little bit about what the primetime hour means to the special?

Carson Daly:  I’ll let David, our Executive Producer, chime in on that. For me personally the short statement here is, at this tumultuous time in business across the – not to mention the entertainment business, it’s a huge vote of confidence that the network has expanded the show into primetime.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to be on earlier. But as far as, from the business side or from the network side, Dave what do you think?

David Friedman: Well I think the biggest thing for us is we’ve been doing this show for many years, about five or six years now.

Our goal at the beginning was to get NBC into the New Year’s Eve sort of broadcasting landscape because originally they would do inserts into The Tonight Show.

And they were doing quite well. But, Carson and I really wanted to be broadcasting live in the heat of – in the middle of Times Square and really try to capture what that excitement is like, and bring it to NBC.

He was coming off MTV and having done it for years. And so we started off doing it sort of around the ball drop which obviously is midnight.

Our goal is always to work towards expanding that broadcast and giving more and more viewers the chance to see what we can do.

Thanks to NBC we’re given that chance to go into prime and it just increases the exposure, and the profile, and the numbers, and hopefully viewers.

I think that’s what’s important to us is it’s the hard work paying off for us and we don’t take that lightly. And so this year we’re planning a huge, great show.

Obviously music is going to be a huge part of it. The countdown is a huge part of it. Carson is a huge part of it.

But it’s really what we bring to this night, and really capturing the spirit and the essence of Times Square I think, unlike anyone else who does it on that night.

We’re really excited about competing in primetime and obviously – and then expanding it right through midnight and the ball dropping.  It’s a culture.

How did you guys go about getting such a good lineup for this year’s show?

David Friedman: Well I think it’s all of that, clearly Carson leads the way in music.

He always has, and I think artists acknowledge that and they know that when Carson Daly calls or his show calls and says hey do you want to perform with us on New Year’s, they know that it’s because Carson has chosen that artist.

We’re not just putting out a blanket call of hey anybody want to perform on New Year’s Eve? We’re going specifically out to the people that we want to go to.

Like Carson mentioned earlier on the call, arguably T.I. and Katy Perry are the two biggest artists of the year and those were our two asks.

There are other performers out there that we love and respect, but those are the big ones and we went to them. And I think they acknowledged that this is a destination that they want to be on.

They want to be associated with Carson Daly and NBC, and New Year’s Eve. So I think that’s really the most important thing for us.

Sure, primetime helps, because any time you say to someone – to an artist, ‘Hey, you’re going to be on primetime,’ you’ll have one song maybe in prime and maybe a second song, somewhere around the ball drop, obviously the labels love that and the artists understand the importance of that.

I think that’s a secondary thing as well that adds a little bit of punch to us. But, I mean we’re thrilled with our lineup.

We’re not even mentioning Ludacris who is a Grammy nominated artist who is an actor, a performer, and a businessman.

And the Ting Tings, just, maybe not as known as the others but certainly a band that people sort of are taking more and more liking to, and even more in 2009.

We’re psyched about our list. And I think this year, if nothing else, the expanded hour gives us the chance to book more artists because it’s incredibly hard, when you’re on from 11:30 to 12:30, you only have about 43 minutes of live television.
So it always sort of made it tougher for us to book multiple, multiple acts and the prime hour gives us that chance, so we welcomed it. It’s great.

Carson, can you talk a little more about Katy Perry?

Carson Daly:   I go to South by Southwest.  I try and do as much as I can to always be at the forefront of where music is heading.   Plus it’s just a personal passion of mine. So, for – I guess it’s the same way the buyers go to Sundance and look for films and – or NATPE for that matter.

I go to South by Southwest with my little book and sit there for three days, and look at bands all day long, and check out acts, and talk to my friends in the business.

They’re just a lot of fun to do. There’s a bunch of bands that came out of there. But Katy was somebody that was playing in like the lobby of the Driscoll Hotel that a buddy of mine had said, ‘I hear this chick is – she’s kind of a pop act.’
But she’s got a nice edge to her and she writes her own stuff, plays a few instruments. She could be an interesting artist coming off the year that could cross charts and  let’s check her out. And plus she’s cute, and I said all right, cool. So we went and looked at her and I thought she was great.

I met her after the show. There were probably, 40 or 50 people there. It was a very small showcase, went back to LA and we got on booking her immediately.

And ‘I Kissed a Girl’ was just taking off right at that time and, I mean I was glad to be a small part of what became an incredible story for her in 2008.

David Friedman: Also let me reiterate we’re going to be on air almost seven years now on the late night show, and it’s always been a great sort of place for music, and first and foremost.

I’m breaking bands – not taking ownership of discovering Katy Perry but giving Katy Perry her first TV experience is what leads then to a relationship which then allows us to tap into that for New Year’s Eve when the more mainstream people catch on to her.

Maroon 5 and The Killers, and artists like that all made their TV debut on our late night show, ‘Last Call With Carson Daly.’

That’s because Carson does seek out these artists and we acknowledge them when they’re very young. And there’s less pressure on us because we’re on later in the night and it gives us a chance to (fade), you know, to a band like The Killers who no one had really heard of, and say ‘hey come do our show.’

Two years later The Killers are at the top of everybody’s list of artists and that’s similar to Katy Perry.

Carson Daly: Yeah but let me add that there’s a list of probably 30 or 40, or maybe 50 groups that we’ve broken and I know this from working in really small market radio and then finally getting to a station like KROQ in Los Angeles.

You got to give the artist credit because you can be there all day to break them, but the good people in music – and this is one of the things that I’ll back up and say, credibility is everything to us.

I think the reason that we’re here in our fifth year and we’re able to secure these large acts is largely due to the relationships.

But you also have to give the artist credit.  These are all great people who are sort of, honoring the system.  They’re recognizing that a year ago we were the first place that gave them a good look and they’re paying that back.

Not every artist does that. There’s a few artists that I’m sure you would love to have me name, but I won’t, that we call and they pretend like they don’t know who we are anymore.

We’re building this tradition slow and steady wins the race.

I mean this wasn’t like let’s just get a bunch of bold names, put them on TV, have a sloppy production, everybody is drunk that night, and try and get a big rating.

I mean we really meticulously think about the production that evening and it started very small, and music credibility was everything from Mary J. Blige to last year having Alicia Keys and Lenny Kravitz.

You start to build your profile and the music business takes note of that. And here we are, continuing – I never thought we’d top last year yet every year we’ve somehow topped the year before.

How do you feel about the other network’s competition?

Carson Daly: It really is two entirely different – we actually don’t – I don’t think the night is competitive. I mean this is a night really through the numbers — we all read them historically — that Mr. Clark has pretty much owned.  This is really his real estate.

David Friedman:  We think we’re chipping away. We’re the only New Year’s Eve show that has continually gone up in numbers over the last five years. And we’re building our story and it’s organic.

And we think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next 30 years. But we don’t look at what they’re doing. This isn’t counter-programming that night.

We’re not just throwing something on the screen. We’re doing our show our way.

Carson Daly: Yeah, and God bless the Jonas Brothers and whoever else ABC has. But we think the presentation and the thought process of why we have the artists we have and the way that we produce that show, as Dave said, putting this evening, this exciting night – I mean let’s face it, the star of the night is the ball.

The star of the night is looking at a half a million people freezing their you-know-what’s off, intoxicated. I mean that’s great television and that’s what we try and put in people’s living rooms.

Carson, with the economy the way it is do you expect the same turnout as last year or do you think people are going to be staying home more?

Carson Daly: I don’t know. The Dow was up 220 today so I’m hopeful. You know what’s funny, is I actually think – well I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I don’t think there’ll be as many people traveling obviously this – in the holidays.

If they do, New York I think, is the one vacation that they might still keep on their calendar although oddly enough, I think there’s a lot of New Yorkers that will not be traveling so they could sort of offset some of the physical bodies that are in Times Square that night.

It’s hard to say but I mean, whether it’s 400,000 or 600,000 there’s just – there’s a tremendous amount of people that night.

Carson – after the show wraps what will you be getting up to?

Carson Daly: That’s funny we’re working on this right now. Every year we do a little wrap thing. It’s just freezing in Times Square.

I mean by the time 12:30 rolls around and we’ve all exhaled, I mean the back scenes behind of all of this is that we’re a very small production group.

A lot of us come from the late night show. There’s a lot of sort of double duty going on between shooting both the New Year’s Eve show and the late night show.

So we have a small staff and a small crew. And everybody multitasks, to say the least. And it’s something that David and I both take a tremendous amount of pride in.

Rather than running off to some sort of celebrity BS event, it’s my main focus — and Dave’s too — to try and find a little bar or a little place where we can get these guys that built our set and the producers, and the writers and everybody that’s worked so hard over the last six months.

I mean this is really like almost a full year-round production for us given the numbers of – I mean you’ll see in the credits it’s over in three seconds.

So we’ll do something probably small and intimate, and hopefully walking distance from Times Square and thank the staff for a great night.

David Friedman: And then keep in mind that because we have the late night show year-round we literally get right on a plane and we’re back on the air on the late night show that Monday evening.

And a lot of what we’ll do on the New Year’s show and perhaps in rehearsal, and behind the scenes stuff – we’ll be shooting a lot of that stuff and put a piece together for our first night back on the air on the late night show come Monday.

So we’re not complaining. We love producing and we love being on TV and working. But there’s no – after that there’s no vacation.

We go right back to the late night show and we’re on the air. And it’s a grind and we like it. So – and the same producers and writers that come with us to do New Year’s will go right back to LA and do the late night show.

Carson – Would you say that you and personalities like Pete Wentz are like the new A&R guys today for the labels?

Carson Daly: That’s interesting. You know, arguably I guess maybe on some level, but the whole system is different now, with the Internet.  It’s the user, the digg factor online, the uploading, the social networking, the music cream rises to the top now more often than not on certain sites.

Word gets around.  I was talking to Joshua Radin the other night about this. He basically was going to get dropped from his label. They didn’t like his record. It didn’t have the radio.

And he said we’re at a place in time now where he could say fine, I want to buy back my masters and put it out myself.

And he did. He has been tremendously successful. It’s such a great story. So I don’t think he needs – the A&R person and the functionality of them is just a different thing anyway.

I don’t know of any A&R people anymore to be honest because nobody is actually nurturing bands.

And the bands don’t get in vans and drive across the country, and suck for five years, and pay their dues. I mean this is just throw stuff against the wall time which is a shame.

I’ll tell you the reason I asked that question. I watched on Sundance, Iconoclasts. Bill Maher was paired with Clive Davis.

Carson Daly: Yeah.

And you’ve mentioned Katy Perry.  Clive Davis was sitting with his A&R guy in his office. And I don’t know if you saw this episode, but the A&R guy and Clive basically said if it wasn’t for the ‘Kissed a Girl’ song, the hook of the song she wouldn’t be where she is now.

This Iconoclast show was a celebration of Clive’s (and Bill Maher) great legacy. But it seemed like Clive and his A&R guy who were talking about Katy Perry were out of touch and it seems like guys like yourself and Pete Wentz have your finger on what people are listening and doing the legwork getting out there instead of sitting in a big office out of touch with how music is broken these days.

Carson Daly: Right.

It just seems like the whole zeitgeist of music industry has shifted, and that having your ear is much more important to an artist than some A&R guy not so passionate about the music. What do you think?

Carson Daly: Well yeah, I think that’s a true statement – not about having my ear but I think that’s indicative of the time and place the music business is at now.

Pete and I also are both very passionate about music and we love to do this regardless. So – but, if we didn’t have a destination – I mean there was a time when, I mean I had a record label that fell apart. There was a time where I would find a band that I loved and had nothing to do with it.

Thank god when Kid Rock came and deejayed ten years ago on my little show on MTV. I had an outlet. I took it to the music department one of the first times we heard M&M.

So when I was at MTV there was a place to go. Now there are really not too many places to go label-wise, but kids go right to the Internet and that today has been a big, big part of it. But thanks for the compliment.

If you could go back to the 60s, 70s, 80’s or 90’s, Is there an act that you could see live that you never got a chance to?

Carson Daly: God, I mean I’ll go back even later than that.  Tthe first big one I’m bummed I never saw was Nirvana. I mean I missed them by just, probably six months.

So that’s right when I became very passionate in music. I would’ve loved to have seen them.

I have seen The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac which are both acts that I loved a lot. You know, if I could go back any further than that I mean I’d have to say it’s something like Hendrix would’ve been somebody that I would’ve loved to have seen… or The Doors.



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