A far cry from playing Lex Luthor on the WB/CW series “Smallville” — a character TV Guide included on its “60 Nastiest Villains of All Time” list in 2013 — Newburgh, Indiana, native Michael Rosenbaum has teamed up with Los Angeles, California-based film composer Rob Danson to form the rock band Sun Spin.
Sun Spin was born on digital platforms — specifically the online venue site StageIt — amid the COVID-19 lockdowns in spring 2020 and has continued to thrive there. The duo released a full-length album “Best Days” with Capital Records on Feb. 8, 2021, featuring Billy Moran on rhythm guitar, Joel Gottschalk on bass, and Rob Humphreys on drums.
Sun Spin is not Rosenbaum’s and Danson’s first foray into music. The duo met at a gathering almost 10 years ago and stayed in touch as friends and musical partners. Both were founding members of the band Left on Laurel, whose album “Saved by the Ground” hit streaming platforms in October 2019.
According to Sun Spin’s website, the band can be booked for 10-minute Zoom calls ($350 for up to four people), 50-minute Zoom concerts ($2,500 for up to 11 people), an hour-long picnic concert in a Los Angeles Park ($3,000 for lunch and up to 11 people), or an in-person show featuring one hour of music and one hour of “hanging after” in your hometown for up to 20 friends.
See Sun Spin for yourself on StageIt in two virtual shows at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jan. 29. Each show will last 30 minutes and has a pay-what-you-can option.
“I’d love for my Newburgh or Evansville natives to hop on there,” says Rosenbaum. “You can go to stageit.com or you could also go to sunspin.com and you can get tickets there. I would just urge (you) to hopefully take a little time, and it’s really easy. You just watch us online and give it a shot.”
In the meantime, Rosenbaum chatted with Evansville Living via phone from his home in Los Angeles to talk about Sun Spin, future projects, and his River City roots.
Evansville Living: How would you describe Sun Spin’s sound?
Michael Rosenbaum: I grew up on ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s music, and growing up in Southern Indiana, I also loved a little country. So, I think it sounds kind of like Americana, ‘70s, ‘90s, with a little country. It feels a little nostalgic really laid back, but there are some good country songs on our last album. We have a song called “The Letter,” which is a duet, which is really cool. And the song called “Something Special” is about a truck driver and a single mom. I write all the songs. There’s usually meaning behind these songs or something that I’ve experienced.
There are a couple songs on there that really came out well and being an actor and writer and producer and doing the podcast, I’ve always loved music and the only person that was in my way of doing music was me because I thought, “Oh, you’re not good enough. You’re not experienced enough.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. You love music, just play it.” You surround yourself with talented people. And next thing you know, you’re making a couple of albums and you’re really enjoying it.
EL: A lot of people in the entertainment industry cross over mediums. Was the transition to music easy for you?
MR: I think if anything, being an actor and having some visibility on social media, you’re able to hit an audience and get people to engage. So, I knew I had somewhat of an audience on social media and I thought, “Just make music and see if anybody listens, see if there’s anybody out there listening.” And it’s really become really a fun project. It’s not like it’s the be-all-end-all, like I depend on the music to make a living, but it’s something I do on the side that I really enjoy. It’s my real passion.
And I love it so much that the transitioning wasn’t that hard. It was really just surrounding myself with good musicians, continuing to write as a songwriter, and then going the next step, which is getting another producer on board to help record these songs and getting musicians in there to get the sound that you want. Because I have a vision. (For the song “Something Special”) I wanted violin, I wanted pedal steel, I wanted harmonies. There are all these things that you want for certain songs, and I have a vision.
But transitioning wasn’t that difficult. It’s just like giving yourself enough time to make good songs and not rushing into it, and just trying to push yourself to becoming a better musician.
EL: It sounds like you fully threw yourself into the songwriting process. How did the process differ from the writing you’ve done in the past, like movie scripts?
MR: I’ve always written songs that I never recorded, and I had a big binder full of those and some of them were on obviously a little cheesy and they were from the beginning when I started writing. The process really is like when you’re writing a script: You have to outline a script and then sort of dissect the script, and then you write the script so that you know what you’re writing. But with music, with songwriting, a lot of times I improvise. I’ll play chords, and then whatever comes out of my mouth a lot of times is a semblance of what I want to get out of it.
So, believe it or not, it comes pretty easy to me. And I work with my writing partner who’s an amazing league guitarist, Rob Danson. He studied music and all this stuff, so when I go out of bounds or when I’m not able to articulate something, he’s right there saying, “No, that’s not what that’s called.” It’s an education. It’s kind of a crash course in music. I learn a lot from him and other people that I surround myself with.
You’re always supposed to surround yourself with people who are better than you, and it makes you a better artist or athlete or whatever. And that’s what I do. It just pushes me a little harder, but writing music is just something that’s always come to me — the melodies and the stories. And they’re not always winners, but a good part of them have a story to tell, and I feel like I have a lot of stories. I have a pretty long history of ups and downs in my life, and I try to take some of the happy moments, take some of the sad moments, and just blend them into my music.
EL: This isn’t your first project with Rob; you were both in Left on Laurel.
MR: That band was a great starting point. I think that it was a lot of green. The drummer, Kent (Kearney Irwin), had never really played drums. Carl (McDowell) never played bass. Tom (Lally) never really played guitar. So, the only experienced one was Rob on lead guitar. And I would write the songs and play rhythm guitar.
It turned out that our first album was really good. We were really proud of it, but it got too hectic with schedules and conflicting personalities, and it just became a little too difficult. So when COVID happened, I kind of left that band and just started working with (Rob) on our songs. It was a lot easier to work with just one person as opposed to five people because trying to get a name for a band (or) trying to get anything done is impossible when you have five egos.
There was some great times, but ultimately, I felt like I was burnt out, and I left that. I love those guys. They always have a place in my heart, but I just felt like it was too much. So, I wanted to do something where I could have more control, where I could just do my own thing and not have four people judging it; just one professional guy, Rob, who knows what he’s doing. And when he says “I really like this,” I know that it’s probably a winner.
EL: Unlike Left on Laurel, Sun Spin’s experience has been completely digital. How has that been different, and do you think it’s been beneficial?
MR: It’s really tough to get your music out there. For someone to hear independent music — some (musicians) aren’t signed to a label; they’re just putting music out there — it’s hard for someone to listen to them, and get behind them, and become a fan. We don’t have records labels behind us. It’s difficult to get your music out there, so we rely on social media, obviously YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We have our own handle @sunspinband. And we just kind of do the best we can.
We have these stage performances the last Saturday of every month. If you go to stageit.com, we play covers, we play originals, we play stuff from old albums, some Left on Laurel stuff. We have a good time. We have good laughs. We communicate with our fans, and we can see their messages coming up and we read their names and their messages. There are prizes, there are Zooms. So, they get to interact with us. It’s a lot of fun for them. It’s a lot of fun for us. It’s the most interaction we can have right now with COVID. But we’d like to get out there and play some live shows and see how that goes.
EL: You’ve had a lot of success coming back to Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, to film your movie “Back in the Day” in 2013. Do you think you’ll be on the Evansville scene again with any new projects?
MR: I’m doing a podcast right now called “Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum.” I’m also going to be doing another show that I can’t talk about right now, but I’ll be working with Tom Welling (“Smallville”) again. He and I are working on a bunch of stuff right now. There’s been some news about it, but we’re working on potentially making a “Smallville” animated series with the creators of “Smallville.” We’re also working on trying to sell a TV show that I wrote with me and Tom starring.
There’s a lot going on. I’m always writing, I’m always creating. You’ve got to keep the plate spinning. You can’t rely on one thing in this industry. You really have to just keep going, keep doing what you love, follow your passion, and something’s going to hit. Most importantly, it’s just enjoying life, enjoying what you do.
I’d love to come back to Indiana and make another movie. I thought it was a blast. It was a little indie, fun movie. It’s just kind of a slice of life, very broad, a little dirty at times, but it’s got some heart. I really loved making it even though it was a low-budget movie (made for about $600,000). I’d love to go back to Indiana and shoot something else if they’ll have me back. People there still talk about it when I go home. So it’s nice to hear that people really enjoy it. So, if you know anybody out there who has some money and wants to make another movie in Indiana, send them my way.
EL: How does it feel to have that loyalty and legacy in your hometown even after all these years living away?
MR: It means a lot to me. As you grow as a person — and I think that in the last five years or so, I’ve had a growth spurt in terms of maturity and purpose — you’re really trying to find your purpose in life and who you are. The whole cliche of “life’s too short” — well, it is too short, and I think it’s a lot easier to be kind. It’s just a lot easier to be a good person. So I strive to be that person, and I try to help the community out.
I’m always happy to help any cause, especially back home in Indiana because that means a lot to me, and I did grow up there. I had a good upbringing there, and I still have a lot of friends there. So, when I’m asked to do something, it’s usually pretty easy to say yes because those are my roots.
EL: My last question — I have to ask — is, you were in an end-credit scene of the 2017 Marvel film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” as the Ravager Martinex T’Naga. Is there anything coming out of that project, perhaps future Marvel appearances, that you can tell us about?
MR: All I could say is I’m not supposed to talk about any. We were in the end credit for part two, so I’m hoping to be in part three, but even if I was, I’m not allowed to say anything. I’m hoping to be in three and I’m hoping to come back with (Sylvester) Stallone (who appeared in the scene as Starhawk), so let’s see what happens.
EL: We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for you. Any last shoutout to our readers?
MR: My podcast is “Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum.” You can get it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, watch it on YouTube. I urge people to write a review or listen to it; it’s free. I interview celebrities about facing adversity, about life, about anxiety, about the pressure, about just everything.