Every generation has its musical heroes. For trumpeters, it was Louie Armstrong and Miles Davis. But since the jazz era, music hasn’t seen another trumpeting icon, that is, until Spencer Ludwig hit the stage with Capital Cities in 2011.
At 24 years old, Spencer has already been on three world tours and has collaborated with some of the leading names in music today, including Foster the People, RAC, AWOL Nation, Cherub and HolyChild. His passion for trumpet translates into a vibrant and captivating performance, stealing the show time and time again. It is this electrifying energy that commands a resurgence of true musicianship among his peers.
MiLLENNiAL met up with Spencer at his home in Williamsburg where he showed us one of the best views of New York. “I’m at the forefront of a revolution for instrumentalists” he tells us, “And I’m really excited because not only am I at the forefront, there is also a lot of room for me to make my mark on the history of music.” He plans on doing just that in 2015 with the release of his first single.
Becoming a Trumpet Player
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Spencer was looped into the Indie Rock scene as a teenager. Growing up with members of the Bell Brigade, Hiem, and Passion Pit, he adopted the instrument at 17 and often found himself jumping into jams as the default trumpet player.
And while he had played French horn in high school, trumpet was an entirely new beast that he had to teach himself. He explains there was a deeper connection to the trumpet and a completely different style he associated with it. “I was determined to learn the trumpet because it spoke to me.”
He gave himself two options after graduating high school. One was to go to Cal Arts and learn all the technicalities of trumpeting and the other was to go to New Orleans and train with best. Less than a year of playing, and Spencer was accepted into Cal Arts. For the next three years, he practiced for 10 hours a day, saying, “It’s really about time and how you spend it.”
Now known for being able to infuse trumpet into any genre, Spencer attributes his artistry to layering the rich sound of brass onto EDM and Indie music, which he believes has helped increase the instrument’s popularity. Jordan Kelly of Cherub says, “A big thing we noticed with Spencer is that he is always down to collaborate and immediately finds his place in any style of music.” The versatility of his musical expertise allows him to effortlessly plug into any band and add extra charm.
Music producer, Andre Allen Anjos, aka. RAC, insists Spencer “knows how to put on a show. He started playing a few shows with us this year and it was so refreshing to have him come out later in the set. It would give us the boost of energy that we needed.” The trumpet is such a fresh instrument to hear these days, that as soon as Spencer starts playing, he is met with roaring applause.
From his leather pants and loose paisley shirts to his tousled undercut and edgy accessories, Spencer certainly looks the part of a rockstar, but don’t let his style hide his humble and hard working nature. Louie Diller of HolyChild adds, “He’s got chops for days, but it is his personality, fire and flare that set him apart.”
Spencer is relentless about improving his talent and reaching the next level. Foster the People guitarist, Mark Foster, tells us, “One thing I love about working with Spencer is that he’s always pushing himself.”
Spencer Ludwig Joins Capital Cities
In 2011, Capital Cities released “Safe and Sound,” a song that reintroduced the trumpet to millennials. Frontman, Ryan Merchant, informs us, soon after releasing the song, he met Spencer at the Abbot Kinney music festival in Venice Beach. “He came over and began jamming over our songs and we knew immediately that the trumpet would become a part of the other songs beyond Safe and Sound. Three years and over 300 shows later, I feel lucky to call Spencer a bandmate and a very good friend.” Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
Merchant describes Spencer’s stage presence as a combination of “technical ability, improvisational spontaneity and performance swagger.” He adds, “What Jimmy Hendrix was to the electric guitar, Spencer Ludwig is to the trumpet.” Kenny Carkeet of AWOL Nation points out, “At any Capital Cities show, there is loud music, thumping bass riffs, bright lights, and screaming fans. Yet somehow, its all eyes on Spencer, for the whole show.”
Spencer gives some insight into his draw, “I’m really into the shock factor. I use that in my performance. I climb all over things. I jump off of things. I scope out the lay of the land before a show.” And in the age of technology, Spencer stresses the importance of letting go of your mobile device long enough to enjoy the experience. “There are so many cellphones out while I’m performing and honestly I feel compelled to make someone drop their phone.” He says this lovingly, as he too, admits his addiction to social media.
Building Momentum with Social Impact
Understanding the affect social media can have on good causes, Spencer takes great pride in utilizing his accounts to inspire action. He often creates campaigns to get his fans to turn their idol social media time into something productive for society.
Spencer has even gone so far as to turn his love for funky socks into a weekly “random act of kindness” contest. Every Sunday, he challenges his Instagram followers to perform a good deed for a chance to win a pair of fancy socks. Participants have to document their act of kindness, upload it to Instagram and use the hashtag #SpencerSocksSundays. Spencer then goes through the photos and awards the most creative and genuine act of kindness.
To make his love for socks even more upfront, he is currently designing his own line, which he says was inspired by a 1950s Matisse trumpet concept. “I think everyone should wear cool socks,” he says enthusiastically.
In addition to his social media campaigns, Spencer also shares time after each show with fans that want to learn more about the trumpet. He often coaches those who want to expand their technique, or encourages others curious enough, to try the instrument out. Spencer is also the official brand ambassador for XO Brass and is devising a way for the company to provide more trumpets to the communities he visits.
Modernizing a Timeless Instrument
Setting the precedence for how a trumpet can be used in modern music, Spencer says, “It’s about building awareness that the trumpet is an instrument of the times.” As a fellow musician and trendsetter, RAC supports trumpet becoming more prominent in music and says, “Genres are constantly being blurred to the point of irrelevance. This is great for brass because it will have a place in most music. It’s such a powerful and expressive instrument.”
Carkeet adds, “With songs like Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” and Capital Cities “Safe and Sound,” its safe to say that brass is back and here to stay. What Spencer has done for kids across the globe learning to play a brass instrument is amazing. He has made playing a horn very cool.”
While Armstrong and Davis may have originally paved the path for trumpeters, Spencer is updating the sound for the 21st century. “My goal is to be an iconic trumpet player that has made a positive impact on the world both musically and socially.”