I’ve been waiting a year and a half for The Last Days of American Crime to come out on Netflix. Why? Because it was shot here in South Africa and stars American actor/musician Michael Pitt. And while Michael was in Johannesburg, but not on set, he was likely in The Cooler, recording a song.
As 2018 drew to a close, my plan was to finish my client work (day job) by mid-December, then spend a week preparing a ton of Songsmiths content before taking an end-of-year break. I had songs to finish, videos to edit and posts to plan if I wanted to keep Songsmiths rolling through the holiday and into 2019. But that didn’t happen. What actually came to pass that December was more client work came in at the last minute (not complaining) and Mr. Pitt booked out my studio for a week.
That week is one my family and I won’t soon forget. Because, even though Michael Pitt isn’t a household name, he’s a pretty big deal. I mean, he’s worked with Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johannsen for chrissake! No, when he first showed up on my doorstep I didn’t recognise him, but I had already seen him in at least 4 different movies and tv shows. Good ones, like Hannibal and Boardwalk Empire. But, despite being a super-hip, successful actor, Michael is a chill, down-to-earth guy who helped us move furniture and rinsed his dishes in the sink when he was finished eating. When he did the latter, I told him that his mother “did a great job” with him and he said that she would love to hear me say that. Maybe now she will.
Mrs. Pitt can also be proud of how Michael conducted himself in the studio. He’s a talented singer and guitarist and a super-creative recording artist. When recording, I found myself doubting his methods a couple of times, but just about every crazy thing he tried made the track better. So, yes, I learned a thing or two about music production from an actor. To be fair, he had learned those tricks from some of the world’s top engineers and producers.
As if working and hanging out with a movie star in my studio for a week wasn’t memorable enough . . . Michael and I are from the same part of the world. We’re not from the same state, but we’re both from a suburb of New York City. We grew up listening to the same radio stations, watching the same tv channels and calling the same city “The City.” I don’t know any other Americans in South Africa, so it was friggin’ awesome [sic] to spend a week with someone who reminded me so strongly of home. A guy I could have been in a high school band with. As I said to Michael when he left the studio for the last time, “it was nice to hang out with someone from the tri-state area for a while.”
So, despite the fact that work deadlines and acting cool all day had me pretty worn out at the time, I will always smile when I remember the week that Hollywood visited my studio. And maybe next time I’m in New York, I’ll see if Michael wants to join me for a beer. Not because he’s a big shot who can make me feel like a big shot by proximity, or because I should apologise to him for exploiting his name so shamelessly here, but because he’s a good guy to have a couple o’ beers with. The worst that could happen is I discover that the phone number he gave me isn’t legit. No, you can’t have it.
Unfortunately, I can’t share the song Michael and I recorded because it’s not mine to share. But you can find some of his music online. You can also see and hear him performing in movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Last Days.