Hilton then spoke to the packed house about how writing at a young age helped him to achieve early success as a songwriter. But it was only with the loving support of his parents, Hilton added, that he was able to pursue an artistic career.
By all reports, Hilton’s performance was a smashing success at Carnegie Hall. We got a chance to speak with Hilton before the ceremony. Here’s what he had to say:
WRITE IT: So this is the first time you’re going to play Carnegie Hall?
TH: Yes. My mom called yesterday and said that she had just heard some statistic on the radio that it’s more rare for your kid to play at Carnegie Hall than it is for your kid to have a birth defect. She just called me yesterday with it. It was about 1 in 78,000 or something. It’s so funny. I think it’s a testament to the event. When I keep telling people that I’m playing in New York at a charity event they say, “Oh, where are you playing?” and I say, “Carnegie Hall,” and they’re like, “Whoa.” I keep forgetting that it’s Carnegie Hall.
Although I’m very impressed with however it ended up that I got to play at Carnegie Hall, what overshadows the venue, I think, is meeting the kids. That’s what I’m so nervous about and what I’m so excited about. I was telling my mom this too. I think these kids are people whose books I’m going to be reading when I go back to college one day or when I’m on beach one day, or I may be buying their paintings one day, or I might just run into them one day on the road and think, “Man I knew them when.” They’re not that much younger than me and I was reading the works of some of these kids and thinking, “I could never write like this.” It’s not that they’re kids and I’m not. They’re all artists. They just haven’t graduated high school yet. Next year, they’re going to be in the same boat as I am, out of high school and out in the world, and being great artists. So, it’s like I want to collect them and put them in my pocket so I’ve got them. I want to know them all because they all seem so good.
WRITE IT: When you were in high school what kind of student were you?
TH: I was a good student. My mom is a teacher and her side of the family is all teachers. She put a big emphasis on getting good grades. I did really well. I was mostly focusing on music and theater a lot. I think toward my senior year I was getting my priorities straighter. Luckily, the school was helping me out too, because since I had been performing since I was a freshman, by the time I was a senior I was trying to leave town to play gigs in Orange County and L.A. So they kind of helped me out with my schedule. They gave me some easy classes after lunch that I could easily make up so I could skip them if I needed to. They were really good about that.
WRITE IT: What kind of books do you like to read?
TH: I guess it’s just like music. I like to read really good books, anything that’s really great, whether it's fiction, non-fiction, how-to, or whatever. Right now I’ve finally gotten around to reading Jack Kerouac which I had never gotten into which seems odd because of the kind of lifestyle I’d love to lead. So right now I’m reading On the Road, and I’m just eating it up. I just love it. Also, typically I haven’t been a huge fan of poetry because I just think its so much better when it’s put to music, but I’ve been reading this poet named Rainer Maria Rilke. It’s something that an acting coach friend of mine recommended. Then there’s this new poet that’s out. I think he’s this famous contemporary poet, and his name is Saul Williams. He is always on MTV, and he’s starred in a couple of movies and has a couple of albums out. He’s just a very contemporary poet. I met him on a plane. He was sitting next to me on a plane and we became really good friends. I’m reading his poetry too right now which is cool.
WRITE IT: If you could invite three people to dinner, past or present, who would they be, where would they go and what would they eat?
TH: Wow. Well, Robert Johnson for sure. I think Elvis Presley too, as a young man. I would definitely want to meet him. And just because I’m so curious I would probably have to invite a 20-year-old James Dean to dinner, and also because he’s a music fan too. That would be a good group.