When Douglas Elliman established its new Montauk offices and Indy attended the opening, one thing stood out — the live music. It was a blend of R & B and good old-fashioned rock and roll that kept what could have been a de rigeur corporate event pulsing with a lively atmosphere. The band is called Hopefully Forgiven and is comprised of Douglas Elliman agent Telly Karoussos and Brad Penuel. We spoke with Karoussos about what it’s like to have your two worlds converge into a lifestyle that few are able to master.
Telly, tell us about your band, Hopefully Forgiven.
Hopefully Forgiven started out as a collaboration with another singer/songwriter, Brad Penuel (aka Alabama Brad), who saw the potential of having a successful career in music based right here in the Hamptons. Our current version of this ever-evolving plan builds on the seasonal nature of the place.
For example, during the high season, we are fortunate to have a hefty schedule of live performances at some of the best venues and private events in and out of the Hamptons. Then, in the off-season, we take advantage of the downtime and focus on recording the material we’ve written over the course of the year. Right now, we’re gearing up to hit the studio to record our third album.
Maybe a bit off topic, but even though the implosion of the music industry has been well documented, we feel pretty fortunate to be active in this time/era. It’s now possible for people to access our music at any time from just about anywhere. If an artist can develop a solid following in a few key areas, it starts to add up. Couple this with a bit of luck getting a song placed in movie or commercial, and it’s possible to make a decent living.
This idea of working with people in key locations works in the real estate business too. In addition to the East End, we are gaining traction in New York, Florida, Aspen, California, Central and South America, the Caribbean, even coastal Europe. We’re making headway, and maybe even scoring a few waves.
How many years of experience do you have in selling homes on the East End? How did you get started in the industry?
More than I’d like to admit. Believe it or not, I got started in the industry because I wanted to continue playing music. A colleague of mine, who came from a very musical family and whose brother was a famous folk singer, convinced me that that historically successful artists either had a benefactor or were independently wealthy.
Since I was neither of those, and I had been working many nights in the restaurant and film production industries, he told me to come work with him, so I could make more money and free up my nights to play music.
My mother warned me that I would never get out of real estate once I started, and frankly I think that’s fine. There are so many facets to this industry that require, and even fuel, creativity. It’s like every day is a new adventure.
Are you a local yourself?
Definitely not a local, but way more local than most out here who claim to be.
While the industry has slowed, you’ve become creative in attracting potential buyers and brokers to your open houses. What’s it like when your band is performing at them?
For a long time, I used to hide the fact that I was a musician. I once had a client fire me because he said I was “too busy trying to be a rock star.” Since then, I’ve stopped worrying about clients like that.
That which differentiates you makes you stronger. Do what you love. It’s still a little weird to play music at an open house, especially your own, but I’m not one of those agents who likes to follow people around and point out the obvious either, so why not add a little soundtrack?
You recently shot your new music video for your latest original song, “Breezy Love,” at your listing at 80 S Essex St in Montauk. Where can we see the video?
All our videos and concert listings are on our website at www.hopefullyforgiven.com. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook with the handles @hopefullyforgiven and @tellyshots, and our YouTube channel.
How would you describe your music style?
I guess it most easily fits into the Americana category — blues, rock, folk, funk, country — and whether Brad would like to admit it or not, even elements of jazz — though that’s usually accidental. I don’t think we have any allegiance to genre, and I think that’s what people respond to.
Ben Goodale (bass) and Fred Trumpy (drums) have such a deep knowledge of so many types of music, that I feel like we can kind of go anywhere with it depending on the mood. We’re just out there playing songs how we want to and having a good time, and hopefully counterbalancing some of the superficial distractions that occupy so much of our lives.
About your career in Hamptons real estate, why did you choose Douglas Elliman as your brokerage?
When I started, I don’t think I cared where I went. I was just looking for a change and I got a persuasive pitch from an old lifeguarding friend. I’ve seen and heard all sorts of stories over the years of the “next best thing,” but I’m a firm believer in the power of the network of this company locally, nationally, and internationally and I know Elliman keeps moving and shaking to always educate and empower our agents, customers, and clients and stay on top.
What channels are you using to market your exclusives and to attract buyers and sellers?
I’m still very “old school” in that I spend most of my time reaching out to people by phone and email. But I’m pretty stoked on the power and precision of social media, and reaching people in a more conversational way, through content-driven marketing and public relations. I’m going to keep pushing that angle.
Every day I work with our team to deliver relevant, informative, and entertaining content to help people make educated decisions on their own.
How do you see the market playing out in 2020?
I’m still seeing bidding wars, and a very active market, especially in the million-and-below price points. Properties that have been sitting for years are trading both South of the Highway and north, and high-quality new construction in all price points always seem to find a buyer.
Plenty of people talk about the next downturn and some say we are already in it, but there are buyers and sellers in every market. You can blame it on taxes, rental laws, town regulations etc., but it always comes down to supply and demand. Price it right and it will sell.
Where is Hopefully Forgiven playing this winter?
We’ve had a few gigs this month, with another gig on January 29 at 11th Street Bar in Manhattan. We’ll most likely add in a few more here and there, but we’ll definitely be back in full force this spring after we finish the next record.