Tania Chen and Cassie Emmet, two seniors at Victor High School, were swooning over a budding pop star on stage May 20 at the Lilac Festival in Rochester.
“He’s amazing, I think,” Tania said. “He has a good voice, and he can play multiple instruments.”
As for his songs? “I thought they were cute,” she added.
“They weren’t cute — they were adorable!” her friend, Cassie, said.
If Teddy Geiger, 16, a junior at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton, were to hear the compliments, he’d probably thank the girls quietly and smile.
“Whenever I’m on stage, I just kind of zone out,” Teddy said. He added, however, that he did enjoy playing for thousands at the Lilac Festival.
“It’s just a good feeling,” he said, sitting in a Pittsford coffee shop a few days later.
As he answered questions, Teddy appeared to be less the imposing pop star and more the typical suburban teenager, nervously tapping his sneakered feet. You wouldn’t know it just to look at him, but in a little more than a year, this shy, soft-spoken guitarist, pianist and singer has gone from playing in the basement of his parents’ Pittsford home to playing in front of thousands at festivals.
His mother, Lorilyn Geiger, attends St. Thomas More Church in Brighton with her husband, John, Teddy and their two other children, A.J., 10, and Rachel, 6. She noted how happy she was that her son is pursuing his musical dream.
“Sitting there at the Lilac Festival and seeing him on stage was one of the best moments a mom could have,” she said.
Teddy was to debut his EP “Step Ladder” at the Water Street Music Hall in Rochester the night of Saturday, June 4. He’s already received radio airplay in Rochester, and he recently signed a six-album recording deal with Columbia. He will also have a bit part in “Love Monkey,” a CBS TV show slated to debut this fall. At the Lilac Festival, he opened for ex-Foreigner singer Lou Gramm and, at various shows around the country this summer, he is slated to share the stage with such stars as Kelly Clarkson, Jesse McCartney, America and Saw Doctors.
It’s a rapid rise for Teddy, considering only a few months ago he was “extremely grounded” by his parents. His mother pointed out that Teddy had failed to keep up his grades at McQuaid late last year. His parents ordered him to have “no life” until his grades improved. Mom and son both freely admitted that Teddy does well on tests and lousy on homework. They both also pointed out that his informal approach to school mirrors his informal approach to music.
“I didn’t really like to practice or go to (piano) lessons,” Teddy added.
He said that he has no specific approach to songwriting other than plunking out chords until they work.
“It’s kind of like it’s already there, but you have to pull it together and make it a song,” he said.
Older readers wondering what Teddy’s all about might think of him as a bit like an updated, raspy James Taylor, and younger readers should note his musical heroes include Dave Matthews, Ben Folds Five and Weezer. During his Lilac Festival show, hints of the influence of such contemporary bands as Coldplay and artists such as John Mayer came through his music, although Teddy insists he’s not trying to sound like anyone.
“I just want to stay away from every other sound,” he said.
That sound would include that of the ’70s TV show, “The Partridge Family.” Teddy’s star began to rise after he auditioned last fall in Los Angeles for the role of the character Keith Partridge in a updated version of the series. Teddy noted that he thought the series’ idea was “cheezy” and was delighted he wasn’t chosen.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have to win!'” he said as he pumped his fists in the air.
What he did want to win was a contact in the music industry, which he found in Billy Mann, a songwriter and producer who has worked with such pop stars as Jessica Simpson and Pink. Mann had checked out Teddy during his “Partridge Family” auditions, liked what he saw and told the young man to give him a ring, Teddy said. Mann shopped Teddy to Columbia, which signed him in February. His parents made sure his record contract guaranteed that Teddy would not be compelled to create a less-than-wholesome image, and Teddy and his admittedly protective mother laughed when he recalled how she called him “every five minutes” when he first went to New York City to record.
“She’d say, ‘Are you OK? Are you eating? How many hours did you sleep last night?'” he said.
While he’s been recording, Teddy has been living in New York City with an older relative and currently has a tutor. When he isn’t on the road this summer, he plans to be at home in Pittsford, but he’s not sure if he’ll go back to McQuaid full time. If he does, friends such as John Ryan, a fellow junior, will be there to greet him. Last year, John played guitar with Teddy in a band called Faction, and said he is happy for his friend’s success.
“It’s so cool, it’s awesome,” John said, adding that he doesn’t think success will corrupt Teddy.
“He’s just the type of kid who will always remember his family and his friends,” John said. “He’s not going to go out and do something stupid just to help his career.”