By Jenny Schooley
Tom Schleiter knows a thing or two about Chicago’s music scene. The 25-year-old, who lives in Logan Square, is a professional songwriter and music producer. He got his foot in the industry while at Miami University studying sound recording. Bad City was his second band, which signed with Atlantic Records, made a record with Chicago producer Johnny K, and toured with Smashing Pumpkins, Slash, and KISS. A little over a year ago Schleiter left Bad City to focus on songwriting and producing for other artists full time. Learn more about the Chicagoan and what he labels as the city’s hidden music gem.
CBSChicago: What type of music do you produce and work on?
Tom Schleiter: This past year I’ve worked a ton with producer Mick Schultz, who I met through my manager Luis at GO Management. Mick’s work includes production of both of Chicago singer Jeremih‘s albums, and we’ve been writing and producing for genres all across the board. We are working with a pop group from Scotland called Tucker on their debut. I’ve also been writing with Chicago alt-rock veterans Kill Hannah for their next album, and producing and writing with a band from Boston called Me vs Gravity.
CBSChicago: Just how difficult is it to make it full time as a local musician?
TS: I think it’s incredibly difficult to be a local musician full time. I have a ton of friends in all kinds of different bands on all levels and, with a few exceptions at the top, they all have jobs on the side to pay the bills. My bands always toured as much as possible. Since you can’t play Chicago every weekend, let alone every day, that’s probably the best way to build a fan-base. However, it’s still a difficult way to earn a living, especially if you aren’t a big headliner.
CBSChicago: What are a couple of your favorite local bands?
TS: Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, and Chicago are my favorite legendary Chicago bands (even though Cheap Trick is from Rockford). Kill Hannah, Dastardly, The Academy Is…, and Local H are a few of my favorite local bands.
CBSChicago: What are some smaller venues that you have played at or enjoy going to?
TS: I seem to wind up at the Metro more than any other venue, and it’s also the coolest venue to play because there’s so much history there. I also really like going to the Bottom Lounge, HoB, and Beat Kitchen. JBTV’s studio is probably the coolest hidden gem in Chicago, and if a band you like is taping there you should definitely try to go. Also, the new Lincoln Hall is very cool, especially on dubstep night if you really want to get in trouble.
CBSChicago: Do you have any recommendations for up and coming musicians who want to get into the business?
TS: Over the years I’ve realized that anyone who needs a straight answer to questions like this probably shouldn’t get into the music business. It seems like the ones who make it are the ones who are so passionate about music they simply have to do it at all costs. Basically, if you really love what you do, you don’t think of it as work, wind up “working” harder than everyone else, and get good at it. Eventually, with a little luck, other people will recognize that.
CBSChicago: Describe Chicago’s music scene in one sentence.
TS: Billy Corgan mentioned in an interview a while ago that Chicago’s music scene in the 90s was cool because it wasn’t tainted by fads in NYC or LA, and I think to a certain extent that’s still true.