Photograph by Steven Higgs
Jeremy Gotwals says his experiences on MTV's reality show MADE was a growing experience, as well as being fun. He got to work with Ryan Key from Yellowcard and traveled to Los Angeles for a makeover. The band he formed for the show, Paradigm Shift, placed third in a Battle of the Bands at Rhinos.
There's no MTV crew following Jeremy Gotwals around these days. But other than the fauxhawk with a platinum blond streak he now sports, not much else has changed about the 17-year-old Bloomington High School North student.
He still talks rapidly, as if he's impatient to get the right words out, and he often combines this with dramatic gestures and sighs.
As someone who appears constantly at ease with himself, Gotwals is even more comfortable without the MTV crew in tow. On this particular evening, he's actually more subdued. But that could be because he has mono and is not feeling quite up to par.
It's no surprise that Gotwals is a little rundown after the busy schedule he's maintained these last few months.
On June 30, he and Bloomington High School South student Chelsey McKrill were featured in "Jeremy and Chelsey are MADE into Rockers" on the popular MTV reality show MADE.
Gotwals was selected for the show more than a year ago and spent the month of May filming (along with school and his overload of extracurricular activities).
During the show, both Gotwals and McKrill worked with the lead singer of the popular band Yellowcard, Ryan Key, as he tried to mold them into rock stars.
Playing up the idea of "Beauty vs. Buddha" - in other words, giving brunette McKrill credit mainly for her looks and emphasizing Gotwals's spirituality - the show featured the two teens as they prepared to perform in a battle of the bands at Rhino's on May 25.
This preparation included one-on-one time with their celebrity coach and a three-day trip to Los Angeles, where they got makeovers (Gotwals kept the fauxhawk, but lost the eyeliner) and voice lessons.
Although many people would be star-struck or intimidated working so closely with Key, whose music is particularly popular among the teenage crowd, Gotwals was not flustered.
"It wasn't like I was working with Ryan Key from Yellowcard," he said. "I was working with him as an individual. He's really talented and great to work with."
Gotwals was the more serious musician of the two (a talented actress and dancer, McKrill admittedly was not the best singer). But the producers emphasized his enthusiastic nature as a little over-the-top and unfocused.
While Gotwals was nervous waiting for the show to air - "I basically waited a month, biting my nails," he said - ultimately, he was pleased with the result.
"It was an important stage in my own personal journey," he said. "The point was, the experience happened, and I learned a lot from it."
He said that although a lot was left out in the story that aired, he understood that "what needed to be shown was shown."
And even though it had to be frustrating to be cast as an "outsider" compared to Chelsey, Gotwals has maintained a positive attitude since the show aired. He thinks of the experience mainly as a personal test of his ability to work under pressure, or as he puts it, to "see what I'm made of."
Gotwals withstood the pressure and took home third place at the battle of the bands with his band Paradigm Shift, which he formed during the show's filming.
Participating in the show also gave him the chance to form new relationships, both personal and professional.
"The MTV people I worked with took me very seriously," he said. "We were like a big family. It meant a lot to me."
On a personal level, he said, MADE's field producer Alejandro Smith was a profound mentor who helped keep him grounded.
"I tend to be a little out there," Gotwals said with a smile.
As for the "Beauty vs. Buddha" theme, Gotwals seems more concerned that McKrill was inaccurately typified as an airhead than the emphasis on his Buddhist beliefs.
"I'm glad they focused on my spirituality, but I'm more casual about it than they portrayed," he said.
Gotwals's goal is to inspire people through music, and he's been pleased to hear mostly positive feedback from friends and strangers alike. Many "fellow spiritualists and Buddhists" sought him out to share their reactions to the show.
Now that it's all over, Gotwals plans to continue his journey.
"It's the journey we're all on, toward our realization," he said.
For him, this means he will continue working on his music and developing his other creative outlets, such as writing. He hopes to produce some albums and start writing a book, one he describes as a memoir of sorts.
"The universe is pushing me," he said. "The creative juices are flowing."
Alison Hamm can be reached at .