Putting the Soul in Fathead

Stevie Soul 2 There’s a lot of work that goes into filming a commercial, or anything for that matter. There’s all the planning that goes into pre-production: script writing, scouting for shooting locations, casting, etc., and then you have to actually shoot the whole thing. Depending on the complexity of the shooting script, this could be a few hours or few weeks, and that’s just for a commercial. Then in post-production the meticulous editing of the footage and sound must be fine-tuned and polished into a final product.  It can be an exhaustive process, and the viewer is rarely conscious of what happened behind the scenes that tied everything together.

This is the case with Fathead’s newest national commercial (it’s at the bottom of the page if you want to see it now), which features a local performing doing some impressive beat boxing to score the commercial. It wasn’t written to be in it, but how it happened to get in there is an amazing and hilarious story that shows the benefits of being part of a collection of diverse companies.

Before I get ahead of myself, I need to mention the multi-talented man behind the beat boxing, Stevie Soul. He’s been working with entrepreneurial startup company Bizdom for a while, consulting and doing graphic design. He and Eric Torenberg eventually got involved with Rapt.fm, a company that promotes freestyle rapping and teaching literacy along the way, and it was profiled last year in the Zing Blog. Stevie has also done voiceover work for radio and TV, teaches, and can be seen performing around the metro Detroit area.

Backtracking a little bit more; Stevie Soul had a terrible stuttering problem when he was a kid to the point of making it difficult to communicate. Stevie used his beat boxing as a way to cope with this, and has been beat boxing since around the 5th grade. Listening to his part in the Fathead commercial, or any of the videos he has on YouTube or StevieSoul.com, it’s clear he’s been doing this for a long time.  Speaking with him, as I did in the Compuware building early last week, you would never be able to notice his former speech impediment. The quick speaking and enthusiastic guy in front of me had no hint of it, except for the occasional mix up of words as if he was trying to say all three of the things on his mind at once.

So how did this Mr. Soul’s beat boxing make it into a national commercial that he wasn’t written into?
“The first big introduction to the family of companies was at the family reunion that happened in October in the Ren Cen…it brought about 3-4 top team players from every company to this one sort of space…everyone gets to mingle and mix from every company and Bizdom had a presentation in that.”
They brought Stevie in to beat box during people’s pitch session, and later him and Eric of Rapt.fm we’re going to “perform” what the company was about with him rapping and Stevie beat boxing.

“I didn’t know Dan Gilbert personally before that day, and about five minutes before we’re supposed to go on set…I go in the bathroom, I assume no one’s in there and it’s one of those luxury bathrooms that like the granite goes all the way down to the floor so you don’t know who’s there…I go in there and I start beat boxing, preparing the set we’re going to do…Eric’s in the other stall performing as well and we’re like rehearsing…He’s like ‘Steve, is that you in there?’ I was like ‘Yeah!’ Now we’re like talking and communicating, I didn’t think anyone was in the bathroom but us, turns out Dan Gilbert was in the stall next to us.”

Stevie says Gilbert was floored by their impromptu bathroom rehearsal, asking them to keep going (after they all left their stalls) and telling them they should perform today not knowing that they already were. They explained this, washed, then shook hands, and went about their day, no business cards exchanged but a great story gained.

About two days later, Stevie is sitting on his couch at home and, out of the blue, gets an email from Dan Gilbert about a new Fathead commercial that’s about to go national.

“He sends me this email saying ‘Hey Stevie, great meeting you, there’s this Fathead commercial that’s in production and it’s needs like an edgy rhythm kinda beat to it…kind of score the beat to this commercial…I have a studio where I live so it worked out. I just kind of demoed out 3 different concepts for him and the next morning I sent it to him…He picked one, and it all kind of worked out really quick.”

After some extended polish in his studio, Stevie Soul had ended up scoring a national commercial after a chance encounter in a bathroom. He said he knew it was the legit thing when it all happened so quickly, adding that any national project he’s worked on in the past (and he has with Hulu, Hotels.com and more) tends to get done real quick. Haste, like in how quickly he jumped on board with the commercial, seems to be a good summary of Stevie’s personality; quick to react but not without intelligence and consideration, and ready to pull the trigger when something needs to get done. When you get people with these characteristics, like the odd combination of Dan Gilbert and Stevie Soul, you end up with a great product. Stevie proved this again at the end of the interview when I asked him if he’d be willing to improvise a quick beat for the Zing Blog, which you can listen to here: Stevie Soul Zing Beat Box. It’s featuring me as the hypeman who laughs and yells “Dude!” at the end. Also, the commercial itself is right here:

 

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