‘It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve made’: Nikki Sixx dishes on this week’s episode of CTV’s ‘The Launch’
In life, all of our launches come to us in different ways.
Starting out in the mid-‘70s, for Motley Crue’s it meant pounding the pavement to get his music heard.
On CTV’s new reality series The Launch, it means getting a chance to sing the right song.
Each week, the show pairs celebrity mentors, who include Sixx, Fergie, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, Boy George, Alessia Cara and Shania Twain, with music mogul Scott Borchetta — who discovered Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line and others — and a roster of songwriters and producers like busbee (Pink’s Try) and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (Beyonce, Adele).
Sixx joins Borchetta and producer Dann Huff on this week’s episode, which airs Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
“If you’ve followed my career at all, you know I’m a big supporter of new music and trying to mentor and help artists through my radio show for the past eight years,” the 59-year-old bassist and co-founder of Motley Crue and Sixx:A.M., says down the line from Los Angeles. “It was perfect. To be able to work with Dann Huff, who is an amazing producer, and Scott, who is fantastic and his track record speaks for itself. For me to be in that mix and work with some new artists was very exciting.”
The series was shot in Toronto late last summer and early fall.
The show’s producers screened over 10,000 contestants from across Canada before narrowing down the list to 30 – with five artists appearing each week.
One artist is chosen to record a song that is then launched at the show’s end on iTunes and other streaming services. Week one winner Logan Staats shot to No. 1 with his rendition of busbee’s The Lucky Ones . Ditto for week two winners Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine who rocketed to the top of the charts with the Ryan Tedder-written Ain’t Easy .
“This was absolutely brand new for me and I’ll be honest with you, it really gave me an itch,” Sixx says. “It was something I could see myself enjoying doing again and again in the future.”
In the midst of putting the finishing touches on a Broadway version of his Heroin Diaries memoir and with filming about to start on the Motley Crue biopic The Dirt, Sixx rang up to tell us what sets The Launch apart from other reality singing competitions, reflect on his musical legacy and reminisce on his own big “launch.”
The Launch enters a landscape that has featured shows like The Voice and an upcoming reboot of American Idol. What sets it apart?
To be honest, I don’t see any similarities in those other two shows, which is great for all the shows. The last thing you need is shows that are copycats of one another. What they did with The Launch was create a program that allows for an intimate relationship between the mentors and new artists. Some of the people we saw are very young and don’t have the experience that the others have and we needed to work with them to help pull out their best. So, on our show, you get a lot of one-on-one time with the contestants and that gives The Launch a unique leg up on the concept of helping to discover new talent.
What can we expect from your episode this week?
There was so much talent that came through, and there’s that part of me as an artist where it tugs on the heartstrings. I think, ‘Man, I want to give these artists a shot,’ but you know, we can only pick one. And that was hard. It wasn’t like, one of them is a superstar and the other ones aren’t. There were a lot of considerations that go into it. But when it came down to that final decision, I’ll be honest with you, 10 minutes before we chose, I didn’t know who I was going to pick. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.
You’ve been in this business for over 40 years with London, Motley Crue and Sixx:A.M., did participating on The Launch get you thinking about your own big break?
Scott and I talked a lot about this. Scott worked in promotions in Los Angeles in the ‘80s. He was also a musician. We got to reflect back on that moment when there was no show called The Launch. There were no men and women with a lot of experience sharing it with younger artists. Back then, you had to go out and beat the bushes and play and develop and fine tune your act. What makes The Launch so exciting is, the artists are all doing the same stuff that I did. They’re working on their songs, their presentation; things that encapsulate what they do. But, how do they get exposed? In this situation with The Launch, the artist that gets launched is getting launched for the right reason. They’ve already done the work on their own. With the mentoring and some advice and with some hard work, they raise the bar. The one that raises the bar is the one that gets the launch.
You’re a huge success now, but can you remember the first moment everything turned for you?
I remember coming up in the late ‘70s, playing in Los Angeles and punk and New Wave was what was really happening. Rock ‘n’ roll needed to crawl out of the gutter and take the reins. The music that was coming out at the time was just flat and boring. I think that what I remember is being with other musicians that felt that way. We were like, ‘F— it. We have nothing to lose.’ So we went out and forged our own territory because there was really no place for us. Chances were that we’d never make it, but we thought at least we would fail doing something we love. That spirit has always been the spirit that changed the temperature of the water. Whether it’s Zeppelin or Muddy Waters or the Stones or Aerosmith or GNR or Depeche Mode – the list goes on and on. It’s the artists that are willing to fully flesh out what they love and not worry about what is supposedly popular at the time who change things. I met many artists on the show who said to me, ‘I can’t do what everyone else is doing because that’s not where my heart is at.’ Those are the artists that really caught my attention, and I know that they caught Scott and Dann’s as well. Those were the artists that we all thought were worth betting on.
At some point somebody saw a young me playing in different bands, first with London and then in 1981 with Motley Crue. People saw something different and unique, and even though at the time it was completely unpopular, it was the fact that it was unique that gave me the launch.
Motley retired in 2015, Sixx:A.M. has a greatest hits package on the way, you’ve got the Heroin Diaries musical coming up and biopic due out soon. What do you hope your legacy is?
I’m in my 50s and I was just sitting at the kitchen table playing the guitar and it was pretty loud and it’s funny, I was just thinking: ‘Wow, I haven’t made much progress.’ [laughs] I still love the same thing. I love music, I love finding unique chords, I love having those ‘This is Bowie-meets-Brian Eno-meets-f—ing Ramstein’ moments. I don’t know what my legacy is going to be, but I hope that someday when it’s all said and done, people can look at me and say, ‘That guy really followed his passion.’ I always try to remember my original purpose. I’m not in it for the money. To me it’s nice, but my original purpose is probably not unlike the original purpose of some of the artists that I get to work with on The Launch. Their purpose is, doing what they love. So I hope people think, ‘Nikki did what he loved and he was honest.’
The Launch airs Wednesdays on CTV.
2018 ‘going to be super creative’
With no radio show and no full-time comments to a band, you’d think that rocker Nikki is looking at a blank slate.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
“It’s going to be a super creative year,” Sixx says with a laugh.
After his 34-year run with Motley Crue ended in 2015, the 59-year-old bassist threw himself into Sixx:A.M. – his side project with vocalist James Michaels and guitarist DJ Ashba. The trio released Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 1 and Prayers for the Blessed, Vol. 2, and toured extensively.
In 2017, Sixx filmed a spot on CTV’s The Launch and put the finishing touches on a Broadway version of his memoir, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.
Last month, he ended his radio show Sixx Sense.
“I’m interested in some other things with technology,” he says.
“The Heroin Diaries musical is in full swing. It’s fantastic. I wrote some new songs with James Michaels for it. Then, the Motley Crue movie is greenlit and I know that we start filming that in the next month or so. Sixx:A.M. has a greatest hits coming, so that’s exciting.”
And if CTV’s The Launch is successful, he’s open to returning for another season of that.
“I know that it sounds like a lot, but a lot of that stuff took a long time to get going.”