By Matthew Hacke
Actress, singer, songwriter, and Pittsburgh native Margot Bingham has starred in a hit television series, HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire;” a popular movie franchise, “Barbershop 3;” and an off-Broadway stint in the critically acclaimed musical, Rent. The talented 28 year old is now taking YouTube by storm with a new web series entitled Feel Good Studios.
“The concept evolved from simply covering a collection of my favorite pop songs to songs that once influenced real change in our culture,” says the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school (CAPA) alum. To date, Bingham has filmed and posted four episodes covering classics from Bob Marley to Eric Clapton, with more to come. “We plan on taking this project through the early part of 2017. However, the feedback has been so incredible and our fans have actually begun to request songs for us to record in the future. Who knows where this will lead, but I’m hopeful we can keep this train moving indefinitely,” Bingham says.
We recently caught up with the artist to discuss her new campaign and her hometown pride:
How did the Feel Good Studios campaign begin?
I wanted to cover timeless songs that are as relevant today as they were three decades ago. We have been living in volatile times, so I felt compelled to bring these messages back to the attention of music lovers. We pay homage to those that came before us, icons like Marley, Lennon, and Dylan. Hopefully I’m doing them justice! It’s one of my greatest honors to cover them.
How do you choose which artists to cover, songs to sing, and musicians to work with?
Call me old school, but I just got tired of the same club tracks and pop tunes that lack real substance. I knew I had to go back to when people used their music for something much greater. I asked my parents, their friends, other musicians, and peers for ideas. I take time to listen to the lyrics and understand the meaning behind them. The criteria for Feel Good Studios comes down to how socially relevant these songs are and whether, of course, it makes you feel good.
How did you come up with the interview component that occurs in each episode after your performance?
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the wonderful musicians, engineers, and producers on the backend that help make musicians like myself sound good. They deserve as much credit as the artists, so I felt this campaign presented a unique opportunity to shift the spotlight in their direction. It’s definitely the educational arm to Feel Good Studios that I’m so very proud of.
How often do you release new episodes?
We release one episode per week, falling on Wednesday at noon. I distribute the episodes through my many social media accounts, i.e. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my personal website, margotbingham.com.
Will you ever come back to Pittsburgh to film an episode? If so, who would you want to work with here?
While I have yet to record an episode in Pittsburgh, the goal with this series is that, eventually, we can take this well beyond NYC. It goes without saying but Pittsburgh means so much to me, and bringing Feel Good Studios back home would be quite the rewarding experience. The idea of revisiting the very first studio that gave me the strength to pursue music would really be the icing on the cake. I still remain close with several talented musicians in the City of Pittsburgh, including my dear friend, Rick Witkowski. Rick has not only been a monumental figure in my career, but he’s also suggested a few songs that we plan on featuring! Doing so at Studio L would really bring my career full circle.
What do you love most about coming home to visit Pittsburgh?
I try to come back home as often as I can. Every time that I do, there’s always new and exciting things going on! Venues like the Pittsburgh Winery seem to bring in world class talent almost nightly. It’s so impressive and inspiring. I like to stay up to date with the theater scene as well and routinely keep tabs on the local shows.
Do you prefer acting or singing more?
I’ve been fortunate enough to do both simultaneously. I have had several acting roles where they ask me to contribute to the soundtrack. I also stay active in the live music scene, performing at several venues around town with my band. I truly have the best of both worlds and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you enjoy the most about the Feel Good Studios campaign in comparison to other projects you’ve worked on?
I’ve never worked on a campaign where I played the artist and director. I felt that this series needed to be created, and for that to happen, I would have to wear many hats. It’s been a difficult year for humanity, and nothing has the power to uplift and unite quite like the role of music. Being able to provide that while paying homage to the legends that came before me has been one of my greatest honors. As I like to say, we’re all in this together. This is simply my small part in helping us get back on track towards a more positive and promising 2017.
Check out the Feel Good Studios YouTube channel here.