Centre College alumnus Jeff Hortillosa ’09 and his band Whiskey Shivers had the opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of a multi-million-dollar production. The award-winning, nationally-touring bluegrass band, from Austin, Texas, was featured in the “riff-off” scene in Pitch Perfect 3, now in theaters.
In 2014, Hortillosa created a funny Craigslist ad called Eye Candy Lawn Service, which ended up going viral, including a week on the front page of the Austin Reddit.
“A director and choreographer by the name of Trish Sie, known for the OK Go! music videos, as well as the Step-Up films, reposted the article,” he said. “Our friend Nick Garza, who works in advertising in Austin, had worked on a project with her and tagged me in her Facebook post. We became friends, and I chatted her up about being in Whisky Shivers, and that even though we’re not big, we’d like to one day work with her.
“In 2016, she gets the job directing Pitch Perfect 3, so she messages me saying they need a country band and would we like to be in it,” he continued. “She sent the ad and our music videos over to Universal Studios producers, and they liked us. They asked us to record several demos of whatever pop covers we could. We recorded the demos, they picked one they liked, and that was it. Cast.”
Hortillosa described the experience as absolutely surreal.
“We filmed the whole thing in Atlanta,” he said. “They flew us up from Austin whenever they’d need us. We normally consider ourselves lucky if we get fed at a gig, and this place had a giant catering tent, round the clock snack trucks and hard-working production assistants who would bring us coffee.”
Being on a film set for the first time, the band members were able to see everything that happens behind the scenes and how many people it takes to make a multi-million-dollar production.
“Everyone was really great at their job, and there were so many jobs going on around us all the time,” he explained. “Hair and makeup, costumes, grips, cameras and behind the scenes people. And I can’t fail to mention the army of highly skilled technical people, lighting directors, continuity directors, the producers and sound engineers. Little did we know a movie production is a nonstop 1,000-person team doing their best for months on end to make the 95 minutes you see in theaters.
“The actors were all cool,” he continued. “People ask if Anna Kendrick is as hilarious and tiny in real life as she seems, and the answer is yes.”
Since filming, Whiskey Shivers has branched out musically and are collaborating with rapper Trinidad James, who was also in the movie.
On set, Hortillosa met vocalist and actress Kelley Jakle, and ever since, have been corresponding and co-writing music together.
“We’ve decided to start a band called Robin Alice, and I’m currently producing our first album together,” he said. “She’s been flying down to Austin to record and play live shows together.”
While at Centre, Hortillosa was heavily involved in music and theater and was a part of Centre Players, Centre Encore and the Kentucky Music Ensemble.
“I have to give a lot of love to Associate Professor of Music Nathan Link, who took my then nascent love of bluegrass guitar, gave it a community of like-minded musicians and set me up to go out into the world playing folk songs, or in many instances, folk-arranged pop songs (the very skill which, 10 years later, helped us land the role in Pitch Perfect 3),” he concluded.
Above: Whiskey Shivers poses on set with the cast of Pitch Perfect.
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 4, 2018