From booking boy bands to creating crossover stars, Eric Podwall has built a business on the back of his bromance with the likes of Matthew Morrison, Chace Crawford and Brody Jenner.Last week, Matthew Morrison, whose self-titled debut album was released on May 10, announced that he would be joining the New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys on the road. A prized booking that puts the Glee star in front of nearly 250,000 people over the span of five weeks, the opening slot also alleviates the financial pressure of carrying his own headlining tour (solo dates will be interspersed where the routing allows), production and the weight of performing some 19 songs a night. It had Eric Podwall’s name written all over it.Morrison’s manager since 2009, and a friend since the actor’s own boy band days, Podwall was a key member of the Backstreet Boys team in their heyday when he worked with David Zedeck at Evolution Talent. His tenure coincided with the teen pop explosion (’NSync, Britney Spears) and launched his career as an agent, but only after making one key decision: not joining Lou Pearlman at the talent shop-turned-pyramid scheme Transcontinental. “Seeing where he is today, it probably turned out for the better,” he deadpans.The 34-year-old Long Island, New York native transitioned from routing world tours to plotting multi-media domination as a celebrity manager, and over the last five years, his presence on the red carpet is nearly as ubiquitous as some of his clients, which include Chace Crawford, Brody Jenner, JC Chasez, Shawn Pyfrom, Joseph Mazzello and Colton Haynes. It’s all part of a grand plan that centers around full-time membership in Camp Podwall, which sounds like a secret society but is more like a brotherhood. “The best thing about working with Eric is Camp Podwall,” says Morrison. “All of his clients are great friends and he really makes that environment.” Podwall talked about his roster, the state of the concert business and his management philosophy in a recent Q&A with THR… The Hollywood Reporter: You worked at Evolution during the height of teen pop mania, how would you describe those days?Eric Podwall: Insane. I was really young and being on tour with some of the biggest pop groups in the world was a total blast.THR: Ultimately, you decided to leave the agency world, why?Podwall: The music business started to change and I started to feel like I needed the next challenge. The agency was about to go through some massive changes as well, with David Zedeck and Jonny Podell splitting up. It was time for me to take control. So I called up people like Randy Phillips, who are veterans in the business and asked for their thoughts and opinions and they all said, “Get your ass to LA and do what you’re meant to do.”THR: What was it about personal management that attracted you?Podwall: In the beginning, after being a music agent for so many years, I saw that for all the successful groups I had to work with, there were also a lot who were unsuccessful, and not because they didn’t have talent. I felt that a lot of them were misguided, so I wanted to be there from the beginning. As a music agent, you’re really narrowly focused on touring and live shows. As a manager, you’re involved with ever facet of an artist’s career. For me, it was always the path I wanted to go on and I was still young enough to move back from New York to Los Angeles and give it a go.THR: After leaving William Morris for Evolution, you brought with you a relationship with the Backstreet Boys. Where did that start?Podwall: Through going down to Orlando to meet with Lou Pearlman about a possible job. Ultimately, I went to work for William Morris in LA, but I met the Backstreet Boys then and my relationship with them started to develop. This was before their big break, and when I was working at William Morris, I maintained that relationship, even though I wasn’t working with them directly… It’s what brought me to David Zedeck, who wanted me because of my relationship with one of the biggest groups in the world. My stipulation was that I come in as an agent, so there was a mutual benefit to us doing this. I went there and had an incredible run working with Dream, 112, D12, Kelis, 3LW, Phantom Planet and Backstreet Boys.THR: And you first met Matthew through your boy band ties?Podwall: Matt was with the group LMNT, which was signed to Atlantic records and Evolution represented them. We became friends even after he left the group to do Hairspray. I went to opening night of Hairspray and closing night of Hairspray. It’s a friendship that’s now spanned a decade.THR: When Matt was offered Glee, what was your role?Podwall: Matt and I always dreamed of making a record together, we’ve been talking about it for years. And like American Idol is giving people a platform today, because record companies aren’t spending money to break artists, so was Glee. Matt got Glee for the pilot, he called me up, we went to lunch the next day. He said, “I booked this pilot, this might be an opportunity for us to make a record. We should do this.” It all started then. I wasn’t managing him at this time, but obviously right after that I was. It was an incredible experience.THR: Why didn’t Matt sign with Sony, the label group that releases music from Glee?Podwall: That was a situation where we negotiated between two labels. [Columbia/Epic chairman] Rob Stringer is brilliant and it had nothing to with him or the Glee connection. Ultimately, we felt that Mercury’s David Massey, as an A&R guy, could help us create the type of album that we wanted. It was about who’s going to help find Matt’s voice. That’s what lead us to that decision.THR: How would you quantify success for Matt as a music artist? Podwall: I don’t know if you can. I think our goal the entire time was to put together a powerful record that was true to Matt — something that everyone could draw from. I think it’s got to be about the product. We’re incredibly proud of this album. Beyond the three duets with Sting, Elton John and Gwyneth Paltrow, the collaborations with Kris Allen from American Idol and JC Chasez are great. So success for us would be for the record to find a home in peoples’ iPods and for them to take a moment to really listen to it and find something to connect to.”I don’t think there is any other manager who’s more of a perfect fit for me.”

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American Horror Story: 1984
Release Date: September 18, 2019
Network: FX

The Greatest Dancer
Release Date: 2020
Network: BBC One

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