It takes a more than just talent to make it in the entertainment industry. The recipe for success calls for hard work, determination, unrelenting drive and a little sprinkle of luck. Top off the recipe a vivacious personality and a creative fire which burns brighter than ever and you have the unstoppable Missi Pyle. She established herself as one of the most prolific actors in the entertainment industry with projects ranging from the stage to television to the silver screen. Along the way, he has worked with some of the greatest directors in the industry, including Tim Burton, Robert Benton, Adam Rifkin and David Fincher, just to name a few. With each project, her talent grows exponentially, as she continues to turn the heads of critics and fans alike.
With that said, it is important to note, Missi is no one-trick pony. In fact, she has spent the past few years exploring her musical side. The songs she has brought to life are as diverse as the roles she has played onscreen. Her long-awaited second album, titled “Poo Poo Platter” is produced by the legendary Chris Goss and was recorded at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, CA. The release features songs written with Jenna Lee from their band The Nice Ladies and actress Brooke Dillman (“The Office,” “Super Bad,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “The Middle”) from their band The Tumbleweeds. Missi was raised Southern Baptist, and with “Poo Poo Platter” she brings fans five songs that share her awesome experiences and responses to heartbreaks with a little rebellion and a whole lot of humor.
The lead track from the release is “I Wanna F*%$ You Up,” a song written by Missi and Jenna Lee after each were reeling from a couple of bad breakups. After raising $10K on Seed and Spark, Missi made her video for the song, directed by Paul Leyden with fight choreography by Tara Macken, which was shot on location in Joshua Tree features cameos by Jaime Pressly, Tyler Hilton, Christina Moore, Andrea Parker, Tara Macken and Nora Kirkpatrick.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Missi Pyle to get a glimpse inside her career and learn more about her often overlooked (and criminally underrated) musical side. Missi offers a unique look at the making of her new album, “Poo Poo Platter,” her creative process and the challenges in bringing it all to life!
Let’s start at the beginning. What sparked your interested in entertaining?
I came from a really big family and I was the last of five children. I think I may have been looking for attention! [laughs] I was never really comfortable in my own skin. I remember in junior high, I auditioned for a play and I was pretending to be someone else. I thought, “Oh, this feels comfortable!” [laughs] I think I have just always felt comfortable playing a character.
While we are most familiar with you as an actress, you have a musical side as well. What sparked your interest there?
My dad was the musical director at our church. He directed the choir. I remember always singing from the time I was a little kid. We weren’t allowed to listen to rock music but music was everywhere. It was bred into me in a way. I remember being in the car with my parents and they would have the Christian station playing. When they would go into the bank or something, we would switch it over to 93Q, which is the local rock station, to see what was happening. [laughs] When I was in high school, I started doing musicals. I just always wanted to be in a rock band but I never really pursued it. I auditioned for musicals and all that kind of stuff in New York when I was there but, one day, I had a bad breakup and I wrote a song for a comedy show called “I Wish You Were Dead.” Then I worked with an actress by the name of Shawnee Smith. I said to her, “I always wanted to be in a band.” She said, “I will be in a band with you but it is not what you think though. It is a lot more work than you think and it’s not quite as rewarding!” [laughs] I said, “I just want to be a rockstar!” [laughs] She knew a guy by the name of Chris Goss, who is a very well known producer and has sold millions of records throughout his career. Shawnee and I started a band called Smith & Pyle and we worked together with him out in Joshua Tree and recorded an album called “It’s OK To Be Happy.” She had a bunch of songs she had already written and I had a few as well. That is what got us started. It is actually a really beautiful album. We played together for a while and then she had her third child and couldn’t do it anymore.
I just continued on with it. I had a friend named Brooke Dillman and we would put on these big wigs and play characters. We were trying to do something like “This Is Spinal Tap” but for country music! So, we created these characters who were sisters and separated by a set of septuplets and had these crazy lives. We wrote these songs for them. We had a band called The Tumbleweeds and would do those shows around town. I moved to Montana for a while and I ended up meeting a girl at this bonfire and her name is Jenna Lee. She had been a traveler and had ridden trains and hustled for money for like five years. I was like, “Who are you?!” She and I wrote the song “I Want To Fuck You Up” together. Brooke and I wrote “Armageddon Excited” and “Damn, I Love You Jesus” together. A lot of my songs are obviously a little juvenile and have a little rebellion in them from my growing up Southern Baptist. It all just kinda happened! I just started having fun with it. I had been working on this second album, “Poo Poo Platter Vol. 1” for about five years. I had about 25 songs but I just wasn’t sure how to release them. I have released a few of the songs that were more comedy and then I will release the more serious ones in the spring. That is why I call it “Poo Poo Platter” because it has a bunch of different, crazy things going on!
Did you have goals or expectations with the release of this album? Did you do anything different, in a creative sense, than you had done in the past?
To be honest, I just had so much fun making that first album that I really wanted to continue. I worked on the album for so long that the goal became just to start getting the music out there more than anything. Brooke and I had been playing around town and Jenna and I have played around LA as well. It can be really hard to do it all on your own, so I wanted to get it out there and have some fun. I work a lot as an actor, so it can be hard to manage everything all at once. I have been wanting to start a family for a long time too, so it is kinda funny that in one week I have adopted a baby, released a video, released an album and did a show! [laughs] Now, I think I need to take a little time off!
It’s well deserved I’m sure!
I want to focus on the video for the “I Want To Fuck You Up” video. You financed the video through crowdfunding. What can you tell us about your experience?
I had gone to dinner at a friend of mines house who is a music supervisor. I was with some friends who I had done a series with for Crackle. The series was called “The Cleaners” and was about female mercenaries. My director and producer were there and I mentioned I had been working on the music. They said, “Yeah? Bring it in and play it for us!” I played them a bunch of different songs and when I got to “I Want To Fuck You Up,” I said, “I really would like to make a video for it.” The guy who directed it said, “Yeah! Let’s do that!” Another friend of mine said they knew some people who had just started a crowdfunding site called Seed and Spark. They are more of a boutique crowdfunding thing, so we made this crazy promo video as a pitch. I think we raised about $9,000. We had some friends who got us an incredible package from Sony with amazing cameras and drones and all this stuff! We went up to Joshua Tree and shot it at this place called The Palm.
The song is one Jenna and I wrote and recorded in one night. We had both had some really shitty breakups. I said the line, “I want to fuck you up, I want to hit you with my truck.” We both started laughing! We thought, “Can you really write a song called ‘I Wanna F*%$ You Up?’” We were like, “Why not?!” That is how it started and then we had a bunch of our friends come out and be in the video. It was a really fun experience. I had been wanting to do that for a really long time. We did another video, my friend Brooke and I. We wrote and recorded the song and shot the video on the iPhone and put it up on Funny or Die, which was about five years ago. That was all done in one day too. I really enjoyed both those experiences and they were both really fun things to do.
The video for “I Wanna F*%$ You Up” ended up being so glamorous, glossy and glitzy! It is really beautiful and is almost like a tiny movie.
Absolutely! I think it is a lot of fun and the video really captures the spirit of the song.
Thank you! Then we were like, “How do we put this out there?” Social media is such a funny thing. I just worked with Shane Dawson yesterday, who has like 13 million YouTube followers. He is such a lovely guy! He said, “I will help you promote the video!” It is really interesting because trying to promote yourself, as opposed to hiring a publicist, is almost like calling your friends to say, “Hey, will you tweet about my video?” [laughs] It is such a different thing. It has definitely gotten mixed reviews. A lot of people really like it but some people are a little afraid of it or something. [laughs]
You mentioned writing the song in a night. What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process?
Everything is a little bit different. The first song I ever wrote was “I Wish You Were Dead” and I wrote it in about 10 minutes, the bones of the song. I will pull out my iPhone and record the basic idea and start playing around with it from there. That is how a lot of my songs come about, except for when I am collaborating. When I am writing with Jenna, Brooke, Chris or Dave Catching out at his studio Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, which is an incredible place, it can be a little more structured. We kind of go back and forth to develop the beats of the song or whatever. A lot of times, I will improvise something and bring it in. A lot of songs are my attempt at something a little less sunny but I wouldn’t say more real because “I Wanna F*%$ You Up” is very real! [laughs] It’s funny because some of my family is pretty religious and they just don’t quite get it. To me, it is funny. If you are hurting and you sing a funny song about it, it makes you feel a little bit better. If someone breaks your heart, there is really nothing you can do about it other than take time. That is why I think it is fun to write these songs. I have also written some songs that I feel are quite lovely. That is going to be the second EP.
You mentioned working with producer Chris Goss. It seems like we are seeing his name more every day. What was it like working alongside him and what did he bring to the table for a project like this one?
Chris is the most present person I have ever met in my life. I am from the world of theater, film and television. When I first recorded with Shawnee in Joshua Tree, when it’s 4 o’clock, you pull in at 3:55. You are sitting in your chair at 4 o’clock. We would all be like, “Let’s meet at Rancho at 4 to start recording.” I would get there at 4 with my guitar and be ready to go. People would start rolling in around 5 and Chris would get there around 6. They run on a different time. He would say, “Talk about this idea.” He really brought up the idea that this has to be done at a certain time and into the present. He is a genius. He really lives and breathes in the moment and has an ethereal quality about him. Everything about him is just a little beyond, so he has his own timeline but the experience is the most personal and alive I have ever felt creatively with anyone. You end up working all night and it feels really alive! He is able to bring you down and into the present, which is what you need to write a really good song. It is hard to bottle creativity and open it on command. What Chris does is create an environment for things to happen spontaneously.
When it comes to everything you do creatively, what continues to fuel the fire? What really inspires you these days?
I think the world is changing so much. I just started to explore Transcendental Meditation. I am kind of the last flowery or ethereal person on many levels! [laughs] However, I think it is really important not to get bombarded with all the social media and band news in the world and go inward a little bit to remind yourself of what is important. I think the older you get, the more you see fear everywhere. I think it is important to get as centered as possible. When I have a clear thought, I write it down and put it somewhere where I can see it, just to remind myself that a lot of what surrounds you is the fear stuff. I do that to stay present and try to live in that moment because it is where the inspiration can come from. That and drinking good wine! [laughs]
I like the way you think! [laughs]
It is hard to drink wine when you have an infant. “I really can’t have a glass of wine because I have to wake up in three hours!” [laughs]
Looking back at your career in music to date, what jumps out at you as milestones?
I think I spent a lot of time coming up thinking “I’m not as this or that as I want to be,” when looking and comparing myself to other people. I think meeting Shawnee and creating music and adding that to my life again was one of the biggest things that has ever happened to me. A couple of years ago, I had a pretty nasty divorce and had a little trouble having children. I wrote this show and bits of music and performed it at Joe’s Pub when I was doing a play in New York, Feinstein’s in San Francisco and The Rockwell here in L.A. That kind of stuff has been really huge for me creatively. I am still at the point where people ask me, “Oh, you sing?” Even though I have been trying to do it for eight years! [laughs]
You are definitely staying busy with a lot of cool projects on the way. One of our most anticipated films is Adam Rifkin’s “Director’s Cut.” What was that experience like for you?
Oh my god! It was insane! So, basically, that was a crowdfunded movie within a crowdfunded movie. It was written by Penn Jillette. He plays a crowdfunder who funded the movie and he kidnaps my character at some point and has me reenact scenes from the movie. Then he steals footage from the movie and puts it all together to make his own director’s cut. That is the basic idea of the movie. It was just crazy! It really was crowdfunded so a lot of people there were crowdfunders. It was the most meta experience! Harry Hamlin is in it and his wife is on “The Real Housewives” and they were there filming. At one point Harry is there being filmed for a series showing him in a film within a film! [laughs] Ron Jeremy is in it! It was all just so crazy! I am reenacting all these scenes from famous movies and it is like nothing I have ever seen. I am so curious because it will either be the best or the worst thing I have ever done! [laughs] They went through a bunch of different actresses before I came onboard. I was sort of everyone’s second or third choice, which I am so happy to be because I do work a lot! I very rarely carry a film and I do have a lot to do in this one so I am really curious to see the end result. I did see some of it and it is really incredible! Adam is such a brilliant director, so I can’t wait to see what he does with it.
In early 2016, you have a new animated series, “Bordertown,” firing up from Seth MacFarlane. What can you tell us about the project?
This series is a lot of fun. Being in an animated series, you can really go inside yourself and you aren’t limited by your physicality. I play a Honey Boo Boo type of character who is obsessed with food, her dad and beauty. I think she is 2,000 pounds or something crazy like that. Playing an animated character, you can go into a totally different world. Of course, it is done by Seth MacFarlane’s company, so there is all the excitement about what it might be. If it ends up being a hit, it could run for years and years and years. It is really like play! You go in for an hour and then you are done but you get to play a bunch of different characters. It’s great fun! It does take forever because each episode takes almost 10 months to make. It is really a fascinating world. I am hoping it will be a hit! We have been working on it for a really long time!
I have a few other projects coming out as well. I have a film called “Captain Fantastic” with Viggo Mortensen and another one called “Pandemic” which is a virus movie, along with quite a few other things in the new year. I am also doing this YouTube series called “Sing It.” I am going to be on the Fine Brothers channel, so I will be shooting that in the next couple of months, as well. It’ll be fun! Of course, I just shot this movie, “Internet Famous,” which will be on the way soon. My friend Brooke Tillman and I have also be wanting to do this ladies sketch show forever, so we are going to try to put up one new video every couple of weeks, starting at the end of October. Once the baby is a little bit older and I have adjusted! [laughs]
You have done it all really from music, acting, motherhood and everything else! What else is on your bucket list? Seems like you are knocking items off left and right!
Yeah! I have so many things I want to do. I recently started taking flying lessons. That has been really fun. I kind of stopped when I started the adoption process because flying can be a little scary. I will probably go back to it in a few years and I would love to get my license. I have run a bunch of marathons and I would love to do something like climb Mount Kilimanjaro! Something crazy! [laughs] I was working on a project about a bunch of YouTube personalities called “Internet Famous.” It was really mindblowing. There is a guy who does those wing suits and he was showing me some of his videos. It was crazy! I am a daredevil deep down but there is no way I could do all that stuff! There is a part of me that would love to leave all the entertaining behind and set out to be an explorer. I had always thought about becoming a nurse and volunteering for Doctors Without Borders. I am really happy with where my life is at but those are a few of the things that cross my mind from time to time!
You serve as a great inspiration to so many young creative people. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
Don’t be afraid. I think fear can feel like a giant, insurmountable wall in front of you. You look at it, become afraid and turn away from it. Sometimes you discover it is made of paper and you walk right through it. There is truly nothing to fear but fear itself. I read somewhere the other day that the most dangerous and wonderful thing in the world is your imagination. Your imagination can take you to places you have never gone and it can always keep you from places you have never gone. Recognizing that is a huge step. I have worked with some severally depressed people as a counselor and getting out of those spinning thoughts and becoming present is very important. Don’t be afraid. Go boldly and don’t worry what people have to say about you. I said to Chris when we put these five songs out, someone commented “What are these?” Chris said, “That’s great! When people don’t like your stuff, that is the best!” [laughs] So, don’t be afraid of what other people think or how you think you might fail. Just go have fun and go do it! I still feel like I have no idea or what is going to happen next. It is important to have faith. Any time I have ever really needed something, I have trusted and it is always there. I think you have to believe, have faith, not be too scared and drink some good wine! [laughs]
I know you are very busy outside the limelight. What can you tell us about your work with the charitable organizations you support?
Absolutely. I am a volunteer for The Trevor Project. The way I got involved was by doing a sketch for one of their charity events. I thought they were such an incredible organization, I immediately started working with them. It is such a bright, bright organization. Everyone who works there and volunteers has such light in them! It is really incredible! I also work with The Red Bucket Equine Rescue. We did a film based on the woman who started the organization. She is a woman who rescues horses that are about to go to slaughter, pregnant horses. She has a beautiful rescue up in Chino Hills. I recently went out there and got to play her. It is an amazing organization but very expensive to run, so anyone who has a few extra dimes in their pocket might want check it out. You can go online and sponsor a horse or volunteer your time if you live in the area. It is the most rewarding and beautiful place! Being around those horses will take your blood pressure down and it is incredible!
Thank you so much for your time today, Missi! It is so cool to see all these different sides of you!
Thank you for talking to me! I really appreciate it! I will talk to you soon!
If you aren’t already following the ongoing adventures of Missi Pyle, what are you waiting for, you silly goose? Be sure to add her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube today! Most importantly, download “Poo Poo Platter Vol. 1” – on iTunes now!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.