Soul/Funk juggernaut Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings show strength and resilience in the face of adversity
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Much has changed for Sharon Jones and the
Dap-Kings since the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based retro Soul/Funk band played the
(old) Southgate House in Newport, Ky. in 2010.
by Amy Harris
Shinedown's Carnival of Madness tour hits PNC Pavilion Saturday night
Shinedown has been touring on its most recent album, Amaryllis,
for the last two years and has just started its Carnival of Madness
tour to complete touring on the record. It is the band's biggest,
brightest and loudest tour yet. With each album, Shinedown's rocking
sound shows bigger energy and different sides, as well as different
CityBeat was able to catch up with bass player Eric
Bass to discuss life on tour and the close bond the band members have,
even after all these years. Shinedown will be tearing up the PNC
Pavilion at Riverbend on Saturday night on its Carnival of Madness tour
stop with Papa Roach, In This Moment and Skillet. (The concert is sold out.)
CityBeat: You guys have really been successful with the last couple albums. You have been on the Billboard charts for over two consecutive years. Did you ever expect that would happen?
Eric Bass: Did I ever expect it? I always hoped it
would happen, I guess. You work really hard. We have this thing we say:
"Keep your head down, stay humble and move forward." We are blown away
by the success. To be honest with you, if you had told the 17-year-old
me this was what was going to be happening, he’d be ecstatic. I can’t
say that I expected it to happen. We wanted it to happen. We worked
really hard for it. We are not surprised, I guess you could say, because
of the hard work. It is a true blessing to be able to do what we do and
have the success we have had.
CB: The band has been touring constantly. How do you make time to write new songs on the road?
EB: We actually don’t write on the road. We like to
separate the two. We go home when we are done with this tour. We will
lock ourselves away for a year and write as many songs as we can. Then,
when we are done with that, we will go out and tour again and complete
the process. We wrote “Diamond Eyes” on tour because it was for a movie
soundtrack. That was the first experience we had with that. It worked
out and everything went well with it. We work really hard when we are on
tour. We are a go-go-go all day long band with interviews, meet and
greets and that sort of thing. So there is really not a lot of time to
get in and be creative like that. We prefer to separate the two and that
creates the situation where each record is pretty different from the
others because they are different times and you are not overlapping time
periods. You are separating into blocks. It makes the records really
CB: I have photographed you on your last
couple tours. Your shows have grown larger and larger with more pyro and
turned into huge Rock shows. How did you guys prepare for Carnival of
EB: Well we started talking about it two or three months
ago and we said, “It’s not going to be small.” That was the whole thing.
We were going to make it as big as we could possibly make it. We are
bringing our whole sound system with us. We are bringing our own lights.
We are bringing our own pyro. We basically have carnival performers
that are out with us. It is just a conscious, concerted effort to, every
time, step your game up. We have sort of become known for that when we
do these big headlining runs. We don’t want to disappoint anybody.
People paid good money and want to see a great Rock show and that’s what
they are going to get.
CB: You actually have carnival performers on stage with you?
EB: We actually do, yes. It’s going to be fun. I think everybody is going to really enjoy the show.
CB: The first show was this past weekend. How is it going so far?
EB: We are one down. We have the second one
tonight. The first one was great. Internally, we found a couple things
we could do differently, do a little bit better. We are definitely going
to do that. The first show was great. The crowd was very receptive. It
was awesome. I think tonight is going to be even better. Then the
Cincinnati show, by that time, we will be well-oiled machines and
CB: Shinedown has a huge social media presence. Why is it important for you guys to stay connected to your fans in that way?
EB: Because the fans are the reason we get to do
what we do. We never forget that. The fans are the boss, the most
important thing. The fans buy the tickets, they buy the records. I have
to say, and it’s going to sound cliché but it’s not meant to be, we have
the best fans. Our fans are ridiculously loyal. We like to keep up with
them. We actually know … you would be surprised how many fans we know.
I’ll see fans at meet and greets that I will know from Twitter. We keep
up with them and we know what’s going on. We like to hear what they have
to say. They are going to let us know if something is not right. They
will let us know if they don’t like something, if they like something.
It’s a great tool to utilize as well. You get instant feedback on what
you are doing.
CB: What are your hobbies outside of playing music all the time?
EB: It’s kind of funny. I say all my hobbies become my
jobs. I produce records. I do a lot of songwriting. I engineer, mix
records. A lot of my hobbies have become my job.
I am a golfer. I enjoy golf a lot. More recently, I have
started building model airplanes. I needed a quiet hobby I can sit in my
house and do. It is something I have found solace in. It may be a
little geeky, a little nerdy, but it is fun.
CB: You actually co-wrote “I’ll Follow You” correct?
CB: I love that song. I know it is the new single and it is out, but what is the story behind the song?
EB: The story of the song is pretty interesting.
The piano part I had for a couple years. I had been playing it in sound
checks. We don’t write on the road, but if it’s something someone in the
band hears, “Hey remember that. Record that.” We are pretty in tune
with that sort of stuff.
We were out on our acoustic tour that we did on the end of
our last record cycle with Will Hoge, a great singer-songwriter from
Nashville. Nobody had really said anything about the piano thing I had,
so I thought maybe it will be good for Will.
So I hit him up and said, 'On the next day off, I want to
show you this piano piece I have got and we can write a song.' He gave
me his number and said to give him a call. I gave him a call the day of,
I called him like three times, never went to voicemail, never picked
The next day, I was like, “I called you three times.” He
said, “It never came through. I don’t know what happened.” That day at
soundcheck, Brent was like, “What’s that thing you are playing?” I was
like, “Man, I have been playing it for three years.” He finally woke up
to it. We actually had the recording that day at sound check kind of
going through the song. Some of the lyrics are actually in there from
that first time we ever played it through, he and I.
If you fast forward six months when we finally wrote it,
finally sat down and wrote the song, it happened seamlessly. We wrote it
in like two hours, the whole thing was done. Lyrically, it is about the
person in your life who is your best friend, your spouse or your
girlfriend, your boyfriend or someone really close to you, that person
you will always be there for and they will always be there for you.
CB: The band took a different turn on the latest album, playing with the full orchestra. How did that concept come about?
EB: We talked about how Madness had a lot of
string-sections stuff. We just talked while we were writing the record
about how to make this record a little bigger and a little more grand.
That was the first thing that came up, we need to do something with
horns and full orchestra, rather than just string sections.
It was fun. It was a blast to be in there to watch that
stuff be recorded, watching your vision come to life was amazing. There
is very little that we do that is not a conscious decision. We kind of
see what we want to do next. We were talking about our next record the
other day on the bus. We will probably start working on that next year.
We already kind of got an idea for it of what we want it to be. It is
pretty phenomenal to have this type and level of instruments on
something you have worked on. You pinch yourself every once in a while
because it’s so cool.
CB: You guys have been together for some time. Are you all still friends? Do you still hang out?
EB: It’s pretty funny, we love each other so much.
We all still ride the same bus even though we don’t have to. We, all
four of us, camp out in the same place. We work out together every day.
We eat together every day. We really are brothers. We have our moments
of getting agitated with each other and angry with each other. There is
something different that I don’t see in a lot of bands we travel with.
There are some, but they are few and far between. You get a group of
people that genuinely like each other and genuinely get along.
I can count on one hand the times I have been up in
someone’s face in my band, that I have been that angry with someone. We
just don’t get like that. We talk things out. If there is a problem, we
sit down and we are very honest with each other. We don’t harbor any
animosity toward each other for anything.
“I’ll Follow You” is out right now and is a song Brent and
I wrote. Everybody in the band is happy as hell about that because it
is doing well. “Bully” is a song Brent and Zach wrote, and I was happy
as hell that was doing well. A lot of people get caught up in the
unimportant stuff, like who makes more money or what’s going on with
this or who’s more popular in the band. We don’t care about that stuff.
It’s about the band, the entire group. We all really care about each
other. We hang out when we aren’t on tour. It is really a blessing.
CB: It is amazing you guys spend so much
time together and it is still like that. There aren’t many people I
could spend 24 hours a day with?
EB: We see each other more than we see our wives
and girlfriends and our families. We are married. We have to get along.
There is no way around it. You can tell on stage. We smile at each other
on stage. We joke around. We throw picks at each other. It’s genuine.
It’s not an act. You can tell bands on stage that don’t like each other,
and you can definitely tell bands on stage that do, and we are one of
those bands that really like each other.
Click here for a full photo set by Amy Harris of the Carnival of Madness tour stop in Cleveland this past Tuesday.
by Amy Harris
Blues rocker plays PNC Pavilion Friday with the legendary Buddy Guy
Blues/Rock legend George Thorogood has done just about everything a musician can do over his 30 years on the road. Along with his vintage Gibson ES-125, the only guitar he has ever played, cared to play or even knows how to play, he has delighted audiences with a catalog of hits, like “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over,” which he can still play every night to provide a familiar, comfortable performance any audience can love. CityBeat spoke with Thorogood about his “wild” ride through Rock & Roll and his connection with his guitar. He plays at Riverbend PNC Pavilion on Friday night with Blues icon Buddy Guy.CityBeat: Do you ever get tired of playing your hits like “Bad to the Bone”?George Thorogood: I get tired, yes, but I don’t get tired of playing them. You see, we created those songs to play live. That was the whole purpose of them. I get asked that question a lot. I don’t understand it. Do artists make songs up and not want to play them a lot? CB: Most of the time they say they love to play them and most bands wish they had songs like that.GT: It has always made me feel strange because I thought if you worked really hard and made an automobile, like a BMW or something, would you get tired of selling BMWs? That is the whole purpose of making them, isn’t it?CB: Yeah, to share them.GT: I don’t get tired of playing them. What I would get freaked out about is if people didn’t want to hear the songs.CB: You have been touring a lot this year. What is the biggest difference in touring now versus the 1980s when you started? GT: Better cars, better seatbelts, better buses, better hotels, better accommodations, better food, better everything. That was 30 years ago. The world has changed.CB: It seemed more fun then, though.GT: Why would you think that?CB: I think artists now are so freaked out with social media and people seeing everything and having access to people and things can get out very quickly. I think people are less likely to have fun sometimes.GT: That part of it, yeah, but that part isn’t going away if you are famous. You can lose your money but you can’t lose your fame. That is going to be happening anyway. News just gets to people quicker now than it did 30 years ago. It’s the yin and the yang of the whole thing, when you become famous. You have to take what comes along with it. That part is not a lot of fun. But if you quit and you stop, it’s still going to exist whether you play or not. If Harrison Ford retires tomorrow, people are going to be talking about it in some form or shape. The other part of it is a lot easier. We have better hotels. There is air conditioning. We have buses. The venues are better — better for the fans, better for the bands. It’s a business now. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. They have put so much time and capital into the business to make it up on that level. In that way, I have survived that and I am part of it. That is something to be very proud of. Let’s face it, the club owners and promoters and everybody are not going to be interested in you unless you are going to make a profit. We are a consideration and not an afterthought when it comes to that. CB: Are you working on any new music while you are out on the road?GT: Not really. We are working on putting together a record that has a combination of all the originals we have done over the years and adding one or two new ones to it. It’s a project on the table at this time.CB: I know you are a big baseball fan. I am actually surprised you are touring during baseball season. The Reds aren’t going to be there on Friday. How are you feeling about baseball this summer?GT: That’s a fun question. I have never altered my work schedule. I don’t know how that started. I took one summer off to play in a softball league and it was about 20 games, but I was active the whole time. If I took off during baseball season, I’d be broke. I wouldn’t be able to put 15 years together. It’s summertime. I have to go out and perform. There is no getting around it. I don’t know any baseball players saying they are taking off the summer because Thorogood is touring. CB: What is your favorite guitar to play live?GT: I only play one guitar, a 125. It’s the only guitar I’ve ever played. It’s the only guitar I know how to play. Actually, I like to prance around on stage singing like Mick Jagger does, but I can’t sing as good as him. So the 125 is the only one I use. Please tell people not to steal it. They don’t make them anymore and that is the only kind I can play.CB: Have you ever lost any gear or had it stolen?GT: Yeah, it’s been stolen a couple times, but we got them back. We finally put up a sign saying, “Stop stealing George’s guitars. They don’t make them anymore and it’s the only kind he can play.”CB: I’ll make a note in the article. You mention Mick Jagger and I saw the Stones live for the first time last month and it was pretty amazing. I know you toured with them and you have had many great tours over the years, but what is your craziest tour story?GT: Craziest? Like mental and I need a prescription from a psychiatrist?CB: Sure.GT: None. What’s your idea of crazy?CB: Crazy fans, crazy parties, anything?GT: I’ve never been to any crazy parties. There have never been any crazy fans, ever. The Rolling Stones are 100% professional outfit ran by Bill Graham. There is no time for any craziness. There was too much money involved. The Three Stooges do crazy things. The Rolling Stones and Bill Graham do not. Everything is professional. Everything was in ship-shape … they wouldn’t still be in business now if they didn’t do that. If they did anything crazy or wild, they did it while I was not around. Sorry, but I do not know where all this comes from … but when I showed up, I am the only guy that can turn an orgy into a Boy Scout camp. When I show up, it is clean cut and above the board, all the way.CB: No more fun when you arrive.GT: It was total fun. It was all fun. It depends on what your idea of fun is. My idea of fun is playing on a stage and getting to see The Rolling Stones free every night. In that case, that was wild and crazy. That is as wild and crazy as I want to get. CB: They were amazing. I was blown away. I had waited so many years to see them. I am glad I finally got the chance.GT: Yeah. They are better now than ever.CB: I have nothing to compare it to other than films.GT: Well I do, and you have to go see them now.CB: If you could trade places with anybody for a month, who would it be?GT: Trade places with anybody? Probably Michelle Obama.CB: Why?GT: I’d like to know what it feels like to be the most powerful person in the world, even if it is only a couple of days.CB: What current music do you listen to? I know you have been inspired by many of the greats over the years. Do you listen to any current music?GT: I am a little busy with my own. I haven’t really had a chance to sit and relax and listen to any current music for the last 40 years because I have been busy with my own business. CB: What is your favorite guitar solo you have ever recorded?GT: Oh, please, come on, the favorite guitar solo I’ve ever recorded. I’ve recorded so many I can’t even remember some of them. CB: I know, but some people have an experience or something that stands out.GT: Every one of them. CB: What is the hardest part about being on the road?GT: Being away from my family.CB: What can the fans expect on Friday night?GT: I’m sure they aren’t going to walk out there and say, “I hope George is OK tonight.” You go see the Cincinnati Reds, you expect them to win, don’t you?CB: Of course.GT: Well, there you go.Thorogood's music video for "Willie and the Hand Jive," filmed in Corryville at the club now known as The Mad Frog:
The legendary Buddy Guy continues his efforts to keep the Blues alive
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Buddy Guy may be 77 now, but he doesn’t act
anywhere near his age. He’s energetic and passionate about Blues and is
doing more shows this year than many musicians half his age. Guy and
longtime friend B.B. King, though, are among the last of the major Blues
stars from the post-World War II wave of Blues artists still alive and
by Amy Harris
The 'Frampton's Guitar Circus' tour with B.B. King hits Riverbend's PNC Pavilion Wednesday evening
Peter Frampton is a true guitar legend, revered by every single one of his peers. As his Guitar Circus tour rolls into town this week, crowds will be amazed by the beautiful music from his catalog of 40 years of music, as well as performances by Blues legend B.B. King and special guests Sonny Landreth and Dave Hidalgo (Los Lobos). CityBeat caught up with Frampton in advance of Wednesday’s tour stop at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion and discussed how this tour concept came together and what it has been like working with one of his heroes on a nightly basis. CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Frampton’s Guitar Circus so far?Peter Frampton: It is hard to say because we have had so many incredible guitar players play with us already. The list is growing every day. From the other night, Vinnie Moore to Vince Gill to Don Felder to Roger McGuinn. It is like every night is so different. Every night is a highlight with all of these amazing players. Sometimes we only have someone for one night because of scheduling, like Vinnie Moore was only one night. John Jorgenson was only one night from Elton John’s band, who is also a wonderful Jazz artist (and) was with me on my Fingerprints CD. Some nights we get one, some nights we get three and sometimes we are lucky enough and we get Don Felder for six (shows) and Roger McGuinn for six (shows). They are all split up and don’t happen at the same time. I can’t really pick one.CB: When did you come up with the idea and how did you bring it all together for the tour this year?PF: It was last year after my little sabbatical, my year off after the Comes Alive (anniversary) tour. I was going, “What can I follow this with?” because it was a very successful tour and probably one of the most successful tours I have done in years. It was one of those things where I said I have got to do something with other artists. We had been doing shows for quite a few years now with just me, "An Evening with," as it were. It was something I wanted to do with as many guitarists as I could, to have an opening act with a great guitar player and then have some guests. The idea was there. I sat down with my manager Ken Levitan and I said what I wanted to do. He said, “Why don’t we call it something like a 'guitar circus'?" I said that was great. It was fantastic. I have to give him credit. He came up with the idea and then we have as many guests as we can along the way. At that point, we decided we would try to have a three-act show, which is what it is in Cincinnati, where it is Sonny Landreth opening it up. He is not an opening act, he just starts the evening because he is a headliner himself. He is a phenomenal player and has such a great history. We have him starting the evening off for us with his amazing band and himself. The person that when we first put our feelers out (for) who might be interested in coming along with us on the Guitar Circus and said yes was B.B. King, which blew me away. That set the whole tone for the whole Guitar Circus because everyone said, “If B.B. King is doing it, I’ve got to do it.” It gave us great credibility right from the start. So B.B. King will come on. We played for the first time with him the other night. I got to sit in and jam with him, which was a dream come true. After B.B. goes off we come on and do our hour and a half. During that period, David Hidalgo will come on, he is our guest in Cincy, from Los Lobos. He has played a couple dates with us already and it is incredible. We become Los Lobos and it is phenomenal. It is just great. It is very exciting every night. It is a challenge to be that person’s band when they come on. I’ve got an excellent band so we do a really good job.CB: You mentioned B.B. King, who is an all-time legend. What do you talk to B.B. King about backstage?PF: Well, I went back and saw him when he arrived in his own bus. I thanked him for being the reason why this whole tour is being successful, because he was the first person to say yes. I said, “Not only is it an honor that you are on one date, but you are on nearly four weeks of dates with me, every night.” I just couldn’t thank him enough. He said he was thrilled to be a part of it. I think there is a mutual respect as guitarists, definitely my way. To be able to sit and play with him the night before last was incredible. He is going to be 88 and he is still doing it. It is absolutely incredible that he is, and we are all thrilled that he is. He is just the sweetest guy. You wouldn’t think that someone as legendary as him is that nice but he is. He is a sweet, sweet man. You can’t believe it. It is how you wish everybody could be when you meet them. He takes the cake that is for sure.CB: I can hear you smiling through the phone just talking about playing with him. PF: It doesn’t get any better. It is one of those moments I won’t ever forget. I am not sure I will be doing it every night. I hope so. He said I can tell him what I want to do and walk out and play. He means what he says. I am just getting to know him. It is unbelievable that we had never met before until the other night. Now it feels like we have known each other for years.CB: I saw you recently perform this Spring on The Voice. You went on with Terry McDermott during the finals. A lot of artists are coming out and speaking negatively about shows like this that try to make people stars overnight because they don’t have to pay their dues over years. Do you have any feelings about that?PF: I am not a big fan of those shows in general. The part that I don’t like is that it is this nationwide talent show. These people come on, and it’s their fault, they put themselves in that position to have someone ream them on national TV. I sort of cringe every time I see that, (no matter how) rightly or wrongly how the judge is. I have been asked to be a judge on those things. You will never see me as a judge. I would be saying everybody stays. That’s not me. I know what I like and everything, and I will say it in private, but I am not going to say, “You suck and get out of here,” which is basically what happens. They asked me over a weekend, like two days before the show, if I would do The Voice. I asked them to fill me in and tell me what it was about. Then I listened to Terry and liked him a lot, all his clips and everything. I thought it was just excellent. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to go on there and do a duet. For me it was just a performance within one of those types of shows. I wasn’t part of voting anybody on or off. It was something I enjoyed doing and I think it came off really well. We got such a demand for the song, we mixed it and released it as a single. So it is on iTunes as well.CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?PF: I just got my Phoenix back, that is what it has been called. It is the guitar that was supposedly lost and burnt up in the plane crash in South America in Venezuela. After having that back for a year and a bit now, it is definitely my favorite. I have other favorites, but there is something about that one and the history, you know of me getting it in time to play on Humble Pie’s live record, Rockin’ the Fillmore, and everything I did in the 70s, all my solo records. It was one of only two electric guitars that I had. To have that back, it has become my favorite again overnight.CB: I own a few Jim Marshall photographs and one is of you at Oakland Stadium in 1975. Do you remember that day? Obviously that photograph is iconic itself, but is there anything special about that day in California? Did that photo change you in any way?PF: In San Francisco and Detroit and New York, we were already pulling huge crowds just from word of mouth and the solo albums I had out, and obviously my time with Humble Pie. I think that was the very first time we did it at a stadium. There is nothing quite like looking out to 65,000 people … I think the biggest place we had played was Madison Square Garden. There is a huge energy-level discrepancy between an arena and a stadium. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline it gives you to see 65,000 people with their hands in the air shouting at you. You never forget that first time. There were many after that in stadiums, but that first one was pretty incredible.CB: I speak to a lot of guitar players. I spoke to one the other day that said a guitar broke up his relationship. Have you ever had a guitar break up a relationship?PF: No, but it has come really close. The guitar, she is the other woman, always. The passion you have for music is very strong and it does come with jealousy sometimes when you prefer to play the guitar than be with the woman.
by Amy Harris
Legendar rocker to perform 'Thick as a Brick' and more at PNC Pavilion Saturday
Jethro Tull's unique sound — which eloquently combines
Rock, Blues, and Classical music — continues to outlast Father Time and
thrill legions of dedicated fans. Leader/singer/Rock flautist
extraordinaire Ian Anderson performs the classic Tull album Thick as a Brick (and more, including Thick as a Brick II) at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion Saturday night at 8 p.m., continuing the legacy of Tull’s self-proclaimed “music for grown-ups.”
CityBeat was able to speak with Anderson this week about protests, social issues and his thoughts on performance art.
CityBeat: Why did decide to bring the flute to Rock music?
Ian Anderson: When I was a young aspiring guitar
player in my late teens I became aware of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and
Richard Blackmore, who were the hot-shot guitar players down in London,
and I decided maybe I should switch from guitar and find something else
to play. The shiny precision of the flute, the ergonomics, the design,
the manufacture — it’s kind of like a Swiss watch. It appeals to my
sense of physics and engineering. For a particularly good reason, other
than the way it looks, I decided I would give that a go. I learned to
play it by trying to imitate the lines I played on guitar — solos and
rifts. So I became the flute player in a Blues band and I was the only flute player in a Blues band, which gave me the difference that helped Jethro Tull stand out from the crowd.
CB: One of my favorites on Thick as a Brick II is “Adrift and Dumbfounded.” Can you tell me a little bit of the story behind that song or how it came about?
IA: Having been picketed a couple nights ago in
Kansas City by the Westboro Church, the “Godhatesfags.com” people … I am
seen as a fag-hyphen-enabler according to that unworthy organization. I
don’t think I am a homosexual, but I am a supporter of gay rights and a
lot of my friends and people close to me are gay people and I find that
the prejudices and difficulties faced by young people, particularly in
post-puberty, where they are sometimes questioning their gender and
their physiology because some people are just born that way … so, it is a
difficult time for relationships with parents and for society around
It’s difficult now. Back in the ’60s, it was really scary.
So at the time when homosexuality wasn’t just a predilection but an
actual crime, punishable by the courts by incarceration, being gay was a
difficult position for any young person to be in, so I decided I would
write a parent’s perspective of what that may be like — to lose a child
through lack of communication and understanding with the parental, to
lose that child to drugs and to, essentially, male prostitution.
That is an extreme scenario but it happens out there in
the world. These are issues that face society today. These are issues
that have faced society throughout the history of mankind. These days I
suppose we are more able to talk about it and to examine the
possibilities themselves. I always have to think when I was 15 years old
and a little unsure of myself, maybe that could have happened to me. I
try to use some of my personal history with my parents, with the lack of
communication, particular on matters of sex. I try to extrapolate a
little on my own limited experiences in that world.
CB: The Westboro Baptist Church never ceases to amaze me. How did you handle it that day?
IA: I was rather hoping to see them in the flesh.
Unfortunately, I had my spies out. I had my spies out to try to keep an
eye out because I tried to get a photograph opportunity with these
people. Unfortunately, at the time, I guess they showed up when the
audience was coming in or going out. When the audience is coming in, I
am busy in my dressing room changing and tuning up my guitar.
Afterwards, I am busy changing again and packing up my instruments.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see them. That is very disappointing. I
was really hoping to have the opportunity to have a nice smiling
photograph with them and their evil representatives.
CB: Why did you choose this tour to play the Thick as a Brick albums in their entireties?
IA: When you are planning any kind of stage show,
your first obligation is to keep it on a level that will engage people
and keep it interesting for them and present them with a lengthy piece
of musical work with a 15-minute intermission. You have to put your
thinking cap on and try to construct everything to keep the audience
with you, especially if you are playing a lot of music (with) which the
audience is unfamiliar, you have got to make it work the first time
around. It is not the result of hearing it many times so you have to
make it a piece of working entertainment.
It seems to be successful because I have yet to see, when I
go onto the second half of the show, any empty seats as a result of
people leaving at halftime. Normally people stay until the end of the
show and they seem to follow the momentum of the whole show. You get a
personal sense of achievement when you present a large amount of
relatively unknown music and you keep people engaged and enjoying the
I don’t think many bands would attempt to do that. I can
afford to do it because, a) I am prepared to take more risks musically
and, b) I am really kind of doing it for me more than I am doing it for
the audience anyway. I have always been a musician who has gone out
there to make myself happy. You have to really have your own personal
goals you achieve every night in performance. Primarily, I will say, it
is nice you folks are here as well, but if you weren’t here, I would be
doing this anyway. I am just doing this for fun.
CB: You have seen music change in the way it is recorded over many decades. Do you think it sounds better or worse today?
IA: Music has evolved in the terms of recording
techniques over a period of about 60 years, hugely. It goes back to the
early stages of monophonic and stereophonic tape recorders, which is
what it was when I was a teenager.
When it got to the mid-’60s, it was becoming possible to
create the simplest multi-track recordings, usually using two-track
recorders, but bouncing back between the two to get a four-track sound.
The very first Beatles recordings were made that way. By the time they
got to Sgt. Pepper, they were recording with four-track and shortly on the heels of that came eight-track.
The first album I recorded was done on eight-track in
1968. That quickly evolved into 16-track and then to the most often used
standard of 24-track, which continued through the late ’80s and even in
some cases into the ’90s.
Frankly, the digital age really came about not in the ’80s
or the ’90s but in the last 10 years, because that technology began to
support 24-bit audio recording, which effectively mimics the human
hearing to detect the difference between that and the original audio
signal. We have 24-bit 96k recording, which is essentially all we need.
We don’t need to advance upon that standard. We’d have to grow new ears
before we could benefit any further resolution of earlier technology.
It is the same thing as when cameras hit the 10 mega-pixel
mark … essentially equal (to) the very best film quality of film
cameras in the last 50 or 60 or 70 years. We have now fairly commonly
cameras that will deliver resolutions of 24 megapixels, which will be
essentially much better quality you or my eye could fully appreciate.
We are there with audio and visual. We have now reached,
during these last four or five years, human physiology would have to
change for us to benefit from any increase of the resolution of the
technology we are working with now. It is as good as it needs to be. We
are there. We are done. We have reached the limit in terms of audio
recording and digital recording.
CB: Was there a single incident that changed how you approached music?
IA: Well, I suppose a single incident was the first
moment I played notes on a musical instrument, because I was aware as a
small child of music as church music and music of Big Band Wartime
Jazz, which my Father played on 78-rpm records.
It wasn’t until I was 9 years old and I acquired for a
couple of dollars a plastic Elvis Presley ukulele and I strummed my
first simple chord on the ukulele. At that point, even though the
instrument was a rubbish piece, I could actually strum some little
chords and sing along with it, and that was the magic moment of making
music the first time.
I suppose that was the single most important moment of
discovering music. There are a lot of people who never learn to play
anything on a musical instrument and I feel like they are missing out on
something. But some of them might be bungee jumpers and they feel like I
am missing out on something, because I haven’t thrown myself off a
bridge attached to a long piece of elastic.
CB: What is your ideal day look like these days?
IA: It depends if I’m on tour. My ideal day is to
wake up around 7 a.m. and be driving rather than flying and getting to
another city, another hotel by lunchtime, finding a Red Lobster or
McCormack & Schmidt and (eating) some seafood or that sort for lunch
and then having a rest and getting my e-mails in the afternoon before
going to sound check.
That’s kind of normal practice. If I am at home, I wake up
a little earlier, usually around 6:30 a.m. and I usually, again because
of working in different time zones, it’s a good time to check e-mails
from last night, generally prepare, shower, play with the cats, let the
dogs out. If it’s the weekends, I have to go and feed the chickens.
In my ideal world, it would be a mixture of sitting at my
office desk, playing a little bit of music and having a little bit of
time to walk around the garden and sit and talk to my cats.
CB: What is the biggest difference in touring in 2013 versus 1970?
IA: The biggest difference is you can take a little
stress (out) as you are touring easily because of more organization.
Twenty years ago and 40 years ago, travel was a lot more disorganized
that it is today. We can now be planning the next tour while we are
doing this one.
Later today and tomorrow morning when I have a little time
off, I shall be booking some internal U.S. flights for the next tour,
looking at the various cities and suggesting to my U.S. travel agent
some hotels I would like to get quotes on. Generally speaking, doing
that planning exercise, when it comes to doing the tour itself,
hopefully everything is in place. Everybody knows where everybody will
be on most hours on most days.
You can take the stress out of things these days, where it
was not so easy many years ago. We had to employ tour managers and
people to carry our bags and people to herd us like sheep through
airports. These days, people have their virtual boarding pass, which
they can collect online from the booking reference code, which was on
the tour itinerary, and they can print out their own boarding pass and
head straight to the gate. I think things are easier these days, not
because of the level of security we face now that we didn’t face 40
years ago, even 20 years ago. That makes lines a little more stressful
and perhaps a little longer in the course of the day. We allow for two
hours at airports from flight times to be safe these days, not knowing
how long security queues may be or what indignities we may have to
suffer to keep ourselves safe from the bad guys.
CB: Do you have any fond or crazy Cincinnati tour memories from the past?
IA: Probably with a Holiday Inn, Hilton or a
Marriott or two. My bonds tend to be with what my particular life throws
at me. The airport, even after all these years, is strangely familiar. I
have been tracking the evolution of the airport from the late ’70s —
when we were accosted by the children of God, doing their evangelical
work, trying to hand out bibles and stuff — all the way to today.
Airports quite often have that sense of déjà vu, even that nostalgic
memory for me — certain hotels, certain venues of course, iconic venues
we still play today.
CB: What was your favorite live performance ever?
IA: It is probably the show in an American venue
near Washington D.C. called Wolf Trap. It is my favorite because it is
the one I am going to be doing tomorrow and the one I have to focus on
and prepare for.
Past shows are in the past. I don’t dwell on those. I
don’t have favorites. I don’t have preferences, except for a couple
iconic venues, as I suggested. My favorite show is the one I am about to
go out and attempt to do because I always have to think it could be my
last. Walking on stage is not a God-given right; it is a privilege to be
able to step out there into the spotlight another time. I just take
each show as they come. My next show is always the best show of my life.
CB: What can the fans expect here in Cincinnati this weekend?
IA: They can expect all they like, but it won’t
vary one iota in delivery to them. Their expectation may be many and may
be varied, but we try to make a point of emphasis to play Brick 1 and then Brick 2, then a long call of classic repertoire.
We have a very tightly organized show. If anybody starts
shouting out during the quiet moments of the show, they will be
studiously ignored. I don’t even have time to admonish them. It happened
to me last night when I came on stage, I was astonished to hear two
female voices shouting at me in one of the spoken words sections with a
delivery of theatrical passion. You wouldn’t be considered cultured to
be shouting and whistling during a Shakespeare play — please don’t shout
and whistle during the performance of mine because I am here to do the
work. You are here to listen and if you don’t like it get up and leave.
Don’t start interrupting me.
Once in a while you get a drunkard out there that gets to
shout at your band, but it happens so rarely these days and it strikes
me as so being incredibly curious. I think our audiences do understand
this is not a regular Rock show but a theatrical presentation (for
which) they have to sit and let me do the work. That’s what I am there
for. I may be 66 years old but I am there to do a man’s work for two and
a half hours, where you can sit back and, if necessary, bring yourself a
comfy cushion and maybe a sandwich because it is a long show.
by Amy Harris
Young Opera trio comes to PNC Pavilion Friday night
Il Volo — the popular Italian Opera trio from Sicily — features three teens with tenor voices so strong, they got America’s attention after one of the best guest performances in the history of American Idol, singing "O Sole Mio" last year. They formed in 2009 and were received very well in their native country, performing with some of the biggest international superstars in their short history. The group consists of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble. They are now set for their second U.S. tour which comes through Cincinnati tomorrow (Friday) night.Il Volo is produced by long time industry veteran Tony Renis, who discovered the boys two years ago along with Grammy-winning producer Humberto Gatica (Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Celine Dion). CityBeat caught up with Gianluca Ginoble this week by phone to discuss his love of touring and how much he enjoys getting to do what he loves every day. He is just learning English but was able to provide a little insight into to the band’s grueling tour schedule. Check out Il Volo at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion on Friday.CityBeat: I know you were introduced to opera from family members growing up in Italy. How important is family tradition to you?Gianluca Ginoble: My family is the most important thing because my Grandpa is my inspiration. It was him that introduced me to this kind of music. But I love others as well, like Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I love Opera, but I also I love other kinds of music too. To me family is the most important thing.CB: You guys are going to start a long tour being away from home. Is it hard being on the road being away from friends and family or what is the hardest part for you?GG: When I am home, I can’t wait to do another tour because this is now my life. For me, it is like funny work because this is my passion. I am doing what I love to do, but when I am on tour I can’t wait to come back to my house and my home because I miss the family, my Grandpa. My Grandma died six months ago and for me it was an amazing pain. He was very important for me.CB: I am sorry to hear that. Are there any places on the tour in the United States that you are specifically looking forward to playing, the location or the venue?GG: Yes, yes, yes. My favorite city is Los Angeles. New York as well, but Los Angeles is the city of the dreams and the star, the Walk of Fame, the Oscars. For me it is the best city.CB: What has been your rehearsal process for the tour? What has that been like for you?GG: We have prepared with eight or nine hour rehearsals daily.CB: Every day?GG: Yes, because this is our first concert and we are preparing. When we have the soundcheck before the concert it is just 20 minutes or 30 minute,s so we have major rehearsals to get ready.CB: How do you take care of your voices?GG: Yes always, our voices are the most important thing.CB: Do you ever see the band crossing over to pop music or do you think you will stay with Opera?GG: I don’t know. We are open to many things. We did an American tour and it was wonderful, amazing because there were teenagers everywhere and in the U.S., in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and this is beautiful because it was our goal and this is a dream come true.CB: Where do you see yourself or the band in 10 more years?GG: I don’t know. I hope all this can continue in this way but life is unpredictable.CB: What is your favorite song to sing and perform?GG: "Smile," a Charlie Chaplin song.CB: What can the fans look forward to in Cincinnati at the show?GG: It is going to be a very beautiful show with more surprises. We have changed some things and I think it is going to be amazing. We have three new songs, which are a surprise.CB: How do stay connected to your fans with Facebook or Twitter?GG: Always, always. I update my fans, our fans. I am always doing “Greetings from …" I upload the pictures.CB: What are you looking forward to the most on the tour?GG: The most beautiful thing is to meet the fans. When I look at the people and they are happy and when they listen to our singing and we can make them happy, it is just beautiful.
by Amy Harris
Posted In: Interview
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
The Doobie Brothers have been entertaining audiences across the world for more than 40 years. In 2010 the band released World Gone Crazy, their first album in a decade. They continue to be an inspiration with their recordings and their rigorous tour schedule.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist and vocalist Tom
Johnston by phone this week. Johnston discussed the changes the band has
seen through 40 years of Rock n Roll and what guides the creative
process of the band. They will be performing at Riverbend at the PNC
Pavilion this Sunday alongside Chicago.
CityBeat: You guys have been touring on the road for over 30 years. Do you ever get tired of just being on the road?
Tom Johnston: You get tired of travelling. You
don’t ever get tired of playing. The playing part is what makes you come
out here in the first place. I think Keith put it the best, Keith
Knudsen, “You get paid for all the time it takes to get to the town and
then you play for nothing.”
CB: You have seen music change over the
years in recordings from albums to 8-Tracks to tapes to CDs to MP3s and
iPods. Do you think it sounds better or worse today, the classic analog
vs. digital question?
TJ: If you have hearing like mine, it really
doesn’t make any difference. There is basically the school of thought
that digital recordings aren’t as warm as analog. I can’t really tell
you the difference when I am listening to it. Maybe if I did a mix there
would maybe be a difference in analog that I could tell the difference.
They have really come a long way with digital recording. They have ways
of mixing digital recordings now so it sounds more like analog. Some
people still buy albums if you can get them. People are still putting
albums out. In fact, this last album we put out, World Gone Crazy,
there was over 14,000 actual albums put out with the CDs, and by that I
mean actual vinyl records for the people that want to hear it in
CB: How many guitars do you have and what is your favorite to play?
TJ: Oh boy. I’ve got a lot of guitars. Basically,
everything I use on the road is PRS and that is what I play live. I use
two basic guitars live that I trade off and I have a Martin acoustic
that I play as well live. It is pretty much all about Paul Reed Smith
right now. At home I have a Stratocaster and I have some older guitars I
have had for a long time, an old Les Paul, an old 335, a couple Strats
and a Telecaster. But live and when I am out on the road, it is strictly
Paul Reed Smith.
CB: When you began and wrote the early
hits and songs for the band like “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, what were
your early inspirations?
TJ: My inspirations at the time of writing a song
like that had pretty much been put in place from playing since I was 12
on the guitar and picking up singing when I was 15. Most of my early
stuff came from Blues and R&B and Rock & Roll by the guy I
consider the King of Rock & Roll, that was Little Richard and people
like Jerry Lee Lewis. Later on, that changed, I
got into Hendrix and Cream and quite a few other people I am not going
to be able to think of right now. David Mason albums, old Fleetwood Mac
albums, you know from the ’70s, just a lot of stuff going on then. As
far as players, Albert, Freddie and B.B. King were huge in my guitar
playing. I call them the Three Kings, that’s basically how a lot of
people refer to them. There are a lot of singers that influenced me.
James Brown was definitely one of them.
CB: Have you had a single issue or incident that has ever changed the way you approach music?
TJ: If I ever did, I am not really sure when it
was. I know the first time I ever watched, one of the few times I
actually got to watch, James Brown live was 1962 in Fresno and that was
pretty much a life altering event, musically. I
had never seen anything like that. It just blew me out of the water. I
couldn’t believe someone could work that hard that consistently and put
on just an incredible show. That was a big event in my life.
CB: Over the years, you have had some health ailments with your voice and other things. How do you stay healthy on the road now?
TJ: I take care of myself. Back in the old days it
was the Rock & Roll lifestyle, that wasn’t really healthy. But the
biggest sideline I ever had was stomach ulcers which I developed in high
school but it fully bloomed when I was out on the road in 1975 when I
actually had to leave the tour. That is really the only health issue I
ever had, but it was a bad one.
CB: Do you consider yourself or does the
band consider themselves spiritual in any way and did it ever play a
factor in your music or writing?
TJ: To be honest with you, no — at least not in the
secular way of any specific religion. It’s not that we are not a
religious band, it is just everybody has their beliefs about the world
and mankind and how we got here I suppose but it is certainly nothing we
would talk about.
CB: After all these years, I assumed you guys would talk about everything.
TJ: We talk about a lot of stuff but that isn’t one
that pops up. Actually it popped up this morning. I was just giving my
views on Buddhism and thinking it was a little more realistic since it
is based on mankind’s shallow man as opposed to strictly about a
specific deity and things having to be done a certain way. But those are
just opinions and I don’t really follow it that closely; I don’t think
anybody in the band does, to be honest with you.
CB: Do you guys take on different leadership roles within the band?
TJ: Yeah, to a point. It is basically when we are
recording. When we are playing, it kind of happens naturally. Recording
it is pretty much whoever writes the tune will be leading if you will,
but other people come up with ideas for the tune so it is pretty much
always a group effort.
CB: Are there any current Rock bands or new Rock bands on the scene right now you would like to collaborate with or work with?
TJ: I think John Mayer is an incredible guitar
player. I really enjoy his work. Another one is Bruno Mars — I think he
is extremely prolific as a song writer and pretty amazing. There is a
band called Mannish Boy, which is a Blues
group. I really like those guys. They are new. Most people aren’t going
to know them. They aren’t Pop or anything like that. They are simply a
Blues band but they are really, really good. There are more, I just
can’t think of them right now. There are more people I think are really
good out there that would be fun to get in the studio with. It would be
fun to work with Christina Aguilera or Cee Lo Green. It would be fun to work
with anyone from Maroon 5. We recently worked with Luke Bryan for that
TV show on CMT called Crossroads and we had a ball doing that.
CB: I love Luke Bryan and his music. He has kind of blown up recently.
TJ: He is a good guy. He is a really good guy. We had a lot of fun doing that show. Everybody was just having a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have any creative outlets or hobbies outside of playing music?
TJ: It’s outside of the band in a sense but I write
music for a hobby. I love writing. I do it all the time. I have a
little studio at home. A lot of the stuff I write would never be used by
this band. I am starting to branch out and write with other people now
too, which is something I haven’t done as much. I have always kind of
just written my own songs. I have started taking the steps to go out and
write with some other writers who are very prolific and very much
involved with the Pop scene or the Country scene or whatever else. I
just really started doing that before we came out on this tour. When we
finish this tour this year, I will go back to doing that some more. It
was fun. It was a new place to go. It is exciting to get in and work
with someone else because they help you find a lot of stuff you don’t
know you have and I think you do the same for that person. You come up
with songs that you would never come up with if you were just sitting
there by yourself.
CB: Do you use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to your fans?
TJ: There is Facebook and Twitter and all that
stuff on our website. I don’t do any of that stuff. For whatever reason
it hasn’t called me. I don’t have any need to be in touch with people or
stay in the limelight or find out what is going on. I am kind of a
private guy and I would like to keep it that way rather than blast it
all over the universe. I don’t belong to Facebook. I know tons of people
who do it and that’s great. From a business point of view, it is a
really smart way to go. From a website point of view, it is a really
good tool for getting your music out there, events out there, where you
are going to be, maybe even staying in touch with other musicians,
things like that but mostly I do that on the phone. Twitter, I have
never even used Twitter. I know people do it all the time but I have
never gotten involved with it.
CB: I still use a telephone because I prefer to talk to people.
TJ: It is alive and well in the younger generation. That’s how they communicate.
CB: My last question is do you have any fond Cincinnati memories over the years?
TJ: Yeah, playing at Riverfront Stadium, playing at
where we are going to be playing this Sunday which is right on the
river, Riverbend. We have
played there lots of times. I was just talking to a gentleman a little
bit ago about playing in Blue Ash the last time and a tornado came
through and shut the show down and we never got a chance to go out and
finish it. We have been playing Cincinnati since we started so we are
talking 40 years of playing Cincinnati.
CB: We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
TJ: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to
being there and it will be a gas as always. This show with Chicago has
pretty much been sold out everywhere we have gone. The crowds have been
great and it is a good combination. The two bands, we get together at
the end and do an encore of everybody in both bands playing at the same
time and it is pretty powerful.
by Amy Harris
Band plays Trespass America Festival with Trivium and Pop Evil at Riverbend
Five Finger Death Punch is one of the most popular Metal bands in the world. The band has a catchy, melodic sound that resonates with its crowds and the band's songs have become arena anthems across the country. Five Finger continues to tour on its third studio album American Capitalist. Currently, the group is out headlining the Trespass America Festival with the bands Trivium, Pop Evil and Killswitch Engage.
CityBeat was able to spend some time with the band’s lead guitarist Jason Hook to discuss, among other things, the band’s feverish tour schedule and the effect it has on the band members' relationships, as well as what makes the music so addictive. The Trespass America Festival comes to the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Trespass Festival so far?
Jason Hook: Well, the first show was awesome. We opened the show on Friday the 13th just outside of Denver. The place was almost sold out, packed. We had all of our friends, family, record label, managers and agents with us. It was a massive party (and) it was day one. It was awesome, really awesome.
CB: Who leaves the biggest mess backstage at Trespass?
JH: The biggest mess? As far as what, a hot mess or just messy?
CB: It could be either.
JH: I’ll give both to Ivan (Moody, Five Finger's frontman).
CB: OK, I wouldn’t picture that.
JH: Well you don’t know him as well as I do.
CB: Is it true that he still throws up before he performs?
JH: I haven’t seen that lately but it might be because I tend to steer clear of him a little bit more than usual because of that. But he does do that. That is not an urban legend.
CB: You consistently are having these hits with huge sports and military following. What is really the formula for creating a modern day Rock anthem?
JH: I think that you have to keep things simple. People like a really consistent beat, something that has a good thump to it. Obviously, an easy to follow storyline or a relatable storyline and as many hooks as you can get into each section of the song for example the intro, the verse, the pre-chorus, the chorus, the bridge, the solo — all those are sections — and if they get too long or drawn out or too complicated or the resolution set too high for the listener, they just miss out and it will go over their head. A big part of having an anthem is having something that is simple enough that many people can grab it easily like “Rock & Roll all night and party every day.”
CB: Does the band ever write songs for a specific audience?
JH: Not really. Most of us in the band have a background where we grew up listening to heavy bands but bands that were also on the radio. That reflects in the music we make. None of it is really contrived. We just do what we like. Fortunate for us, it catches with a lot more people. Once you try to do something that is not honest, it is really hard to repeat it. You are always chasing or guessing what to do. It is better to know what you like to do and just do it.
You always have the crazy crowd surfing at the shows, the biggest Rock on the Range crowd surfing in history. Do you ever worry about fan safety?
JH: All the time. All the time. It freaks us out. I see people getting beat up pretty good out there, especially the people in the very front row because people crowd surf up from behind them, they can’t see that these 220 pound guys are being launched forward and the people in the front row are the last people that these heavy people land on their heads on the way into the pit. You get a lot of people getting smashed, and they have no idea it is happening until it happens.
I keep saying, “Is there something we should do to discourage this? Should we say that we want people to be careful and keep your eyes open?” I do see a lot of people getting hammered, and it freaks me out. We are always thinking about it.
CB: How do you stay friends living in such close quarters and being on the road almost all year?
JH: How do we stay friends? We stay away from each other. The only way to control how we all get along is to make sure there is a good amount of separation. You need a little bit of on and a little off.
For example, we get hotel rooms. The band gets hotel rooms. We get them every other day. The hotel rooms are essential and it doesn’t matter what it costs to have everybody be able go and have their own private space to go make phone calls, answer e-mails, relax, watch the TV program they want to watch, whatever. The off is just as important as the on because if you get too much together time all the time, then you are likely to have the engine run a little hot, you know what I am saying?
CB: Who in the band is more likely to get into a fight backstage and who is more likely to get laid?
JH: I don’t really want to focus on the fighting, but as far as the sex part of it, I would say, all the girls like Ivan. The rest of us are just sort of swinging the bat. They all seem to want to get to Ivan. So I would say answer "A"—my final answer — Ivan.
The thing is, to chase girls around, which is also to chase the party or stay up, all these people show up and they want to hang out with the band. This is their big night out. The problem is, if we participated in everybody’s big night out, then we end up having 42 or 55 nights in a row, and it is physically too hard. Imagine having 45 New Years Eves in a row. What kind of shape would you be in after that?
CB: Yeah, bands now are a lot more, I don’t want to say mellow, but you can’t sustain (that type of partying) for long periods of time if this is what you are going to do.
JH: God knows we have tried it. We don’t want to hurt the band. We don’t want to hurt the tour. We have a responsibility to not only talk to people during the day but to play in front of these large audiences, and I don’t want to go up there hung over and feel like crap and be fuzzy and making mistakes. It’s very hard. It’s OK when you are a club band — nobody cares; “Get me another beer.” Everyone is drunk anyway, but now we are talking about playing in front of 15,000 people at 9 o’clock at night and it is a business now. It is for real.
by Amy Harris
Popular standards vocal group performs Sunday at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion
Under the Streetlamp is a new act storming the nation that presents audiences with a vocal performance spotlighting what they call the "American Radio Songbook." The ensemble took its classic approach and turned it into a full production that has been drawing packed houses all over. Under the Streetlamp is currently barnstorming across the country on the heels of its PBS special and debut self-titled album, which showcases UtS's strong Doo-Wop/Pop/Motown/Rock & Roll-oldies sound.CityBeat recently spoke with one of the vocalists, Michael Ingersoll, of Jersey Boys fame, and discussed the rise and evolution of the group as well as where the sights are set for the future. Under the Streetlamp performs at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Sunday night.CityBeat: You guys have been around for a couple years but you are a fairly new group. Can you tell me the story of how Under the Streetlamp formed?Michael Ingersoll: Absolutely. The four of us met when we were doing a play called Jersey Boys. Chris Jones and I did the first national tour of Jersey Boys and then he went off on his way and I met the other two fellows in Chicago and we did the production there. While we were in Jersey Boys, on our nights off we were putting together these concerts for clubs and local theaters to sing other music besides musicals, like things from The Beach Boys, The Drifters, The Beatles and songs like that. After the show closed in Chicago, the momentum for us was actually following this band; this "side-gig" took off so we decided to pursue it rather than pursuing our individual career as actors. So we took advantage of that momentum and submitted a five-minute demo of what we were doing to (PBS outlet) WTTW in Chicago and they said they were interested in helping us develop this project. That is the really short version. Once PBS was on board, we were able to book a 27-city tour, which is pretty ambitious for a new group.CB: What is the biggest difference between performing in Jersey Boys on stage and the Under the Streetlamp group?MI: Well, Jersey Boys, first and foremost, is a musical with a story and a book. We are a band; we are a concert. There is nothing Broadway about us at all. We have full artistic control over everything we do. This is a project that we guide. This is a project that we own. That was really one of the big motivations for doing this because our acting careers where we were doing pretty well in the acting business. It is a concert and we have a lot of fun with each other. We have a lot of the fun with the audience. We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all and the audience seems to enjoy that.CB: I have been listening to the album this weekend. How did you pick these particular songs to perform or put on the album?MI: The four of us — each of us is a lead singer. It is actually pretty rare for a band to have four lead singers. We wanted to lead with our strengths, our individual personality. Michael Cunio, for example, has a crazy high singing voice so he did Etta James “At Last” in Etta’s original key and it is always a big surprise to the audience when it is coming. Chris (Jones) has got a very powerful, kind of balladeer voice so we sing “I Come For You” for him. I am kind of a Folk Rock/Rockabilly guy. Shonn (Wiley) is an incredible tap dancer and Broadway showman so we do “When You’re Smiling” for him. So basically we just chose the songs as it suited our strengths and flowed for the evening. We also chose artists that are in that same genre that we learned when we were in Jersey Boys. So that’s where we get The Beach Boys and The Drifters and The Beatles. Our music is fun, it is life-affirming, it is joyful, it makes people feel good. That is probably the biggest criteria for how we choose.CB: I know your family was an influence musically to you growing up. I also know that you are from Dayton, so you are a local to us. Did you have a good music program in Dayton growing up or did your family give you private lessons? How did you develop musically?MI: Well, there are two major factors. My grandfather was a professional Jazz pianist and so there was always music around in that environment. He taught me to play piano by ear and really get into Jazz primarily. There is also an amazing arts program called Muse Machine in Dayton, Ohio. It is a program where kids come from all over — high schools from probably a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius and every year they put on a musical and they bring in Broadway caliber directors and choreographers and producers. I was lucky enough to be cast into one of those shows and that is really where my interest exploded in performing and what led me to go to college and study acting. Check out the Muse Machine website, you can learn all about it, it is an amazing organization. I would credit them with the biggest influence, the biggest push.CB: You are on the road now. You said you were doing 27 cities, which is a lot to take on. Is there anything about home or here you miss when you are on the road?MI: Obviously my family is there, but who doesn’t miss Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili and the Cincinnati Reds. I love those things. Those are the things I do as soon as I come back. I usually go to Skyline Chili and Graeter’s and try to catch a Reds game. I am a huge Reds fan and Bengals fan. I live in Los Angeles now so I miss the change of seasons in Ohio, but (there are) good, friendly folks there and it was a wonderful place to grow up. Cincinnati has a vibrant and rich arts community so we just can’t wait to play. I also did a year at the Cincinnati Shakespeare (Company). That was my first actual professional acting job to work there for a year, so I got my start in Cincinnati.CB: Where do you see yourself in five years?MI: I think that we are on track to be a top tier act in the Adult Contemporary market, with Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Diana Krall and artists like that. I think we have a product that makes people happy. I think we have a got a very powerful team with PBS and our management. We are determined to take this to as many people as will possibly let us do it. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure we are here to stay. As long as we make people happy, we are optimistic that will happen in big ways. CB: You said you play piano, but do you guys play any instruments during the show or is it just singing?MI: No, we are four singers and we have a seven-piece band of incredible world-class musicians. These are folks that have played with Sinatra and Frankie Valli and huge, huge names. We have a rhythm section and then three horns. That horn section helps kind of give it that "streetlamp" character. It helps with that distinctive sound.CB: Tell us, in summary, what can the fans expect to see in the show?MI: There is a lot more music we perform live than on the DVD for the folks that are familiar with us from PBS. There is a lot more music and people come away from it often saying, “I can’t believe I laughed that much” or “I didn’t expect the show to touch me emotionally like it did.” I think people are going to laugh a lot. Hopefully they get up and dance a lot. When they leave, hopefully they feel better than when they came in from listening to this great, joyful music performed by people who really care about them having a good time. And also, if you have got time, just check out the Under the Streetlamp Facebook page because our fans comment on there after every single show, and really their comments, and there are tons and tons of them, say it all.CB: That was one of my next questions — are you guys using social media to promote the band?MI: Absolutely. We have a great website and great designer. We use Facebook, we use Twitter. Any way that we can possibly interact with our fans, we do so. We answer our own e-mail. We maintain our own Facebook page. We spend a lot of time talking to our fans. Anybody that writes in and asks us a question or comments on Facebook, we interact with. Without them, we are nobody. We make sure they not only feel welcome at the shows but feel welcome in the cyber universe 24/7. CB: What music are you currently listening to or what is inspiring you right now?MI: It is funny, a lot of the music that I listen to outside of the band is not music that has anything to do with what we do.CB: That is pretty common though. I talk to Metal people all the time and they never listen to Metal music. It is really an interesting dynamic. I always find it interesting to see what people really listen to when they are not playing.MI: Right now I am listening to Foo Fighters latest album, Wasted Life, (and) Ben Folds latest album.