From Vegas to Cruise Ships (feat. Bryan Cheatham)

Bryan has worked with artist like Cher, Anastasia, Kelly Clarkson, three-time Grammy award-winning producer Philip Lawrance and Bruno Mars and was thrilled to work at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles alongside Val Kilmer, Adam Lambert of American Idol and “The Voice” winner Alisan Porter in the musical “The Ten Commandments”.

He has also appeared and been featured on numerous national television shows including Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Hollywood Squares, Extra, The Maury Show, The View , and was the winner of Craig Robinson’s Caraoke Showdown on Spike TV. Bryan currently has taken his voice to the high seas as a featured singer for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

If you’re an entertainer or performer interested in the industry and what it takes, I suggest you read on and see what Bryan has to say.

Can you please clearly outline all your current musical projects and professions which make up your life as a professional musician?

I just recently retired from Creative Director and Lead Performer/ Singer/Host at Chippendales the Show at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where I did that for 15 years. Currently I am a Featured Singer for Royal Caribbean. I was also just signed to an agency to be a guest entertainer.

How long have you been living in Las Vegas?

16 years

What would you say to a musician looking to relocate and work in Las Vegas?

Just get there and get in the mix! Las Vegas is big on community! A lot of work is found by word of mouth. I can’t tell you how many gigs I have gotten just because someone that I did a gig with remembered me.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve noticed or been affected by in the entertainment industry over the course of your career?

I’ll talk specifically about Vegas with this one because I have seen it first hand. The biggest change is back when I arrived in 2002, you could go to any casino and see a plethora of headliners that you had never heard of but had a great show and you would leave a fan. Headliners like Clint Holmes, Danny Gans, The Schinta’s, Earl Turner, just to name a few! Vegas could make you a star!

The hotels would also have great production shows with the glitz and glamor you expect when you come to Vegas. Shows like Jubilee at Bally’s, EFX starring Rick Springfield at MGM, and Splash at the Stardust. This is before all the Cirque shows came in and took over. Now hotels bring in Mega stars like Celine, Cher, Brittney Spears, Jlo, Elton John, Ricky Martin, and Backstreet Boys.

Is there a reason why you planted yourself in Las Vegas and not NYC given your passion for musicals?

Like I said, Vegas can make you a star. I always liked the fast pace of it and the kind of shows they had to offer! The glitz and the glamour of the showgirl, the beauty of skin on stage that is almost forbidden! There’s an excitement about Vegas that when you went to see certain shows you would want to leave your parents at home! It can be a bit naughty- and that’s what I like!

I know you were artistic director for the revealing and intimate Vegas show 53X. I also read that you were very inspired by the music. Can you please share how exactly the music shapes your creative output and why you think music plays such a significant role on your imagination? (For example, does the melody or drum beats help direct your vision?)

Music has always been the driving force in my imagination! When I hear the music that is where my ideas come from. When I hear a song or a beat, I can envision the scene or direction I want to go almost immediately. I would never just put a song in a show just because it was catchy, it needs to tell a story and there needs to be a rhyme and a reason behind everything.

Your passion for performing and entertaining translates directly to an audience of any culture or age. I’ve personally witnessed this working with you in Asia and have marveled at your ability to turn a dull moment into something to remember. Do you have any advice to young musicians or entertainers struggling to feel comfortable on stage or simply being themselves?

As entertainers it is so easy for us to let people put us in a box. To be honest sometimes we put our own selves in a box. Don’t do that. Instead of trying to be what you think everyone else wants, just give them you. What makes you special or different from the one before you? That’s what you have to figure out. No one wants a carbon copy of someone else, especially an average copy! So find what makes you stand apart from the crowd and embrace that! Now the tough part is, not everyone is going to get it or like it or understand it at times, and that is ok. That is what makes you an artist. Be you!

What made you decide to try the cruise industry and leave Vegas given how well you were doing there?

In 2016 over 25 shows opened and closed within a year on the Las Vegas Strip. The entertainment community found themselves dumbfounded about what it was the people coming to Vegas wanted. These were great shows with great talent but it wasn’t pulling in the money and putting people in the seats like these big stars were. So the type of shows that I loved doing was becoming non existent on the strip! The cruise ship industry was ever changing before our eyes as well. I started seeing more and more money going into entertainment on cruise lines. Cruises in the past typically got a bad rap for being cheesy, but over the years bringing Broadway shows and quality performers on board really started changing how people looked at cruises. I heard a Broadway show that I loved “We will Rock You” was on board one of the ships and I decided to look into. I had seen the production when it was in Las Vegas for a few years at the Paris Hotel.

Can you please outline the key differences to being a performing musician in Las Vegas vs a featured singer on a cruise ship?

Las Vegas is where people go to party and live it up, do things they wouldn’t do back home. That’s what you give them on stage when you go to a Vegas act. It’s almost that rock star life, on and off the stage. Just think of the rat pack when they would bring drinks on stage and was very casual, the show would change from night to night, you never know what you were going to get, and that’s what people loved! The spontaneity of it all! The cruise ship life is anything but that of a rock star! It is very by the book and very strict. They expect the same thing night after night. Stick to the script kid!

How did you get involved in the cruise industry as a performing headliner?

My goal in excepting a contract was just that. Become a headliner. I wasn’t sure what it was all about so this was my project! I needed to do my homework and research. I wanted to see first hand, what the headliners where doing in there shows, what I thought worked and what i thought didn’t work. I needed to figure out what I was going to offer that hasn’t been done a million times before. I read books, looked online, talked to people that had been in the cruise industry for a while and everyday worked on creating my show! I would perform songs from my show any chance I got to see what worked and didn’t.

How did you go about creating your own headline show?

My show has been a long time in the making. I’ve always known I wanted to be a headliner. I knew I didn’t just want to be on stage and sing a bunch of songs. I wanted to tell a story. I want to make people feel something when I’m on stage! I’m very passionate when I sing and I want people to feel that passion. I want to evoke emotion. I want to take the audience on a journey. So for the past few years, when I would hear a song that moved me or I knew this will work great in my show, I would write it in my notes on my phone. When I got to the ship, I wrote all the songs on note cards and put them all up on my wall all over my room, it was like a puzzle.That’s when I would start to shape my show. I would move the songs around and around to help tell the story I wanted to tell!

How would you best summarize your headline show to the general public?

Soul! I would say your gonna feel my soul and your gonna feel something in yours! Its gonna be great music, good dancing, and gonna make you love a little more, when you leave your gonna feel good! I was born to entertain and if you aren’t entertained when you leave my show that means you ain’t got no soul baby!!!!!

What would you say to someone who is looking for advice about creating their very own headline show?

Think outside of the box. Be anything but boring. Have fun with it and tell your story! We all have a story. Do the work. Put in the time and effort and people will see that. There’s going to be some disasters along the way, it’s ok. Sometimes it’s the disasters that help make your story great! Learn from your mistakes and keep it moving!

Programs like Americans Got Talent are often given a bad wrap in conversations and public forums with musicians and artists in my experience. Can you please share your thoughts on your time on the program America’s got talent, and whether you would recommend other musicians apply for such public contests?

Everybody knows these contest now-a-days are not so much about talent but how good story is. The producers know who they want to go to the end. Period. That being said, I do think it’s a great platform for musicians because it introduces the audience to someone they otherwise wouldn’t have ever heard of. Now what the performer does after the show is totally up to them. We see so many performers who didn’t win the competition go on to be bigger stars than the people that actually won in most cases.

What’s the most valuable career investment you’ve made to get to where you are now?

Most recently it would have to be my decision to quit my job as Creative Director and Performer in Vegas and come work on a cruise ship. I actually took a pay cut in doing so, but I did this looking at the big picture. I knew it would be a great opportunity to develop my show. Investing in my show by getting great charts, which aren’t cheap if you want them done right and custom made just for you. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices now for the big reward later.

Did you ever have an 8 hour a day practice schedule before working full time?

Yes of course, in Vegas there is always something going on. It very easy to be doubled booked. Doing convention work, practicing for changes in a show, rehearsing new people, or putting new numbers in a show and then have to run off to your night gig. This is very common. Don’t complain about it, get it while the getting is good. 

If you had to play in one band only, who would it be?

I had the privilege of being the front man of the B.B. King All Star band in Orlando FL. I’d say that one, I love the blues and old school!

If you could pivot to another occupation, what would it be?

Nothing, this is what I was born to do! i couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of music?

Going to the gym and trying to stay in shape!

If you could study with any musician who would it be?

David Foster

Any other comments or insights you wish to share?

As an artist you have to follow our heart and let your passion drive you. Never feel stuck! You are never stuck! If you don’t like where you are, do what ever it takes to find your happy and fulfill your passion. Even if it means being broke for a bit! If you believe in your craft and do the work, the money and success will come.

If you want to find out more about Bryan head to:

http://www.bryancheatham.com

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