Styx’s Lawrence Gowan talks about the band’s “Soundtrack of Summer” 2014 tour with Foreigner & Don Felder

Lawrence Gowan is the lead vocalist/keyboardist for the legendary rock band. Earlier this year, they announced their 2014 summer tour titled “Soundtrack of Summer”, which will feature a co-headline with Foreigner and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Lawrence Gowan about their upcoming tour, creating new music and his thought’s on being a member of Styx for 15 years.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the bands upcoming tour?
Lawrence Gowan: We will be out this summer with Foreigner and Don Felder. We have toured the states with Foreigner in some time. We did some shows with them over in England and we realized that the pairing of the two bands was just really great. We wanted to add a little more to the bill like we had done last summer bringing Ted Nugent out with this. This year were brining Don Felder formerly of the Eagles. It’s a great night of entertainment when you can add a third element that takes things over the top. We had done a show last year with Don and it was fantastic. The fact that he has written so many of those Eagles classics that people know is great but he also has an amazing band as well. We added him to the mix and now fans will get 3 hours of music that they know all the words to. The tour is being call the “Soundtrack to Summer” tour and I think that is very fitting. It definitely describes our experiences from playing in the U.S. and Canada. I think people will probably be tired from singing after it’s all over.

AL: The last tour featured Styx performing the “Pieces of Eight” and “Grand Illusion” albums in their entirety. Will the band be picking different albums to perform for this tour?
LG: I don’t think it will be this time. The evening is very much hit driven so I think people will be hearing all the songs they know. Having performed albums in their entirety I have found this to be a curious thing. The big thing is that audiences seem to keep getting younger and younger. So many people seem to have discovered classic rock in the last 10 years. At our shows we see younger people enjoying the experience of hearing some of our albums in their entirety. They seem to share their enthusiasm for both our hits and other tracks from the various albums that don’t get as much play. One of those tracks is “Man in the Wilderness”. That song was never released as a single and it has become a huge favorite. Of course we will be playing “Come Sail Away”, Blue Collar Man” and Renegade” as they are some of our corner stone’s but we can change our set a little to hit some of those more obscure songs which have become peoples favorites over the years. There’s going to be diversity in the night with an element of cohesiveness among the three bands.

AL: Being this is not the bands first time out in a multi-band tour format how do you go about keeping the shows fresh and new from year to year?
LG: That’s our task. It just so happens that we are band who is up to that challenge. We love hearing from fans that the show was even better than the last time they saw us. We are always trying to figure out ways to elevate the show and play the songs better than we have before. A song is a living thing. It’s not stagnant piece of music that stays the same. Every time we play one of our songs it’s going to be a little different. Each night songs take on new meaning for us when we play them. Each day is new and it’s another opportunity to try and get the song right. There is a lot more going on with the music than just being a collection of notes. There are feelings and emotions that need to be navigated every time you play a song. That’s our challenge. In addition to that Styx is a band of 5 front men. Everyone on stage is a great entertainer and musician. I think that’s why the audience is so engaged in what we do. We have a tremendous connection with the audience and we are certainly aware of that. The combination of the band, the song and the audience is infectious. We love what we do and constantly want to do it better.

AL: As an artist I am sure you always want to be creating new material however, does the fans wanting to hear the bands previous catalog make it tough to introduce new material?
LG: There is definitely a balance. We did a full album about 10 years ago that we are still trying to play as much as we can. It hard to squeeze a song in to the set but when we have the chance we will do that. We also had a cover album come out where we did a cover of “I am the Walrus” and that ended up being a big hit with classic radio stations. We try and get that one in there whenever we can. We have been trying to put out some new pieces when we can. We also have re-recorded some of the classic Styx songs and added new pieces to those. We always look for the opportunities to add something new. We also have to try and grapple with the reality of the music industry right now. The one thing that can’t be downloaded or replicated in any way is the live experience. That’s what people are drawn to.  Every show is different
and its own separate experience.

AL: This May will mark your 15th year as a member of Styx. When you first joined the band did you ever envision being where you are today?
LG: I have had a really fortunate career. I had a successful solo career in Canada prior to joining Styx and was able to garner a big enough audience to where I could one day perform with Styx in 1997 when they came to Montreal. That led to the second half of my career where I get to be a part of this legendary band. Not many people can make a claim like that. My career has gone backwards in that I had the long solo career and then a lengthy band career. I really have enjoyed the whole thing. There is always something more you want to accomplish but when I am beating myself up about that I look at where I am and see how fortunate I am. It’s a very unique situation and I am so grateful to be part of this.

Foreigner’s Kelly Hansen talks about “The Soundtrack of Summer” Tour with Styx and Don Felder

Photo Credit: S. Schweiger

Kelly Hansen is best known as the current lead singer of the rock band Foreigner. He joined the band in 2005 after Lou Gramm left in 2003 to pursue a solo career. Foreigner just announced their 2014 tour, called The Soundtrack of Summer along with Styx and Don Felder of The Eagles. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kelly about tour, music and other future plans.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about what we can expect from your upcoming The Soundtrack of Summer tour?
Kelly Hansen: It is a tour of the U.S. and starts May 16th. Tickets are on sale now. It will consist of Foreigner, Styx and Don Felder (The Eagles). We are real excited about it. We all have been able to hang out recently and working on a re-recording of the track “Hotel California”. So that is pretty cool. We were also on “Fox and Friends” this past week in NYC, where we did a medley of “Juke Box Hero”, “Hotel California” and “Blue Collar Man”. We are rehearsing and getting ready and it has been great. I think it is going to be an awesome summer tour. It will certainly be a fun night of music with a lot of great hits.

MG: Foreigner and Styx have toured together before but tell us about the addition of former Eagles guitarist Don Felder?
KH: You are always trying to find a good package. It was a good time for us to try and all get together. Styx has been doing very well. Things are blowing up for Foreigner recently. We had had a lot of things come up and it has really given me the feeling that this is going to be a good year for us. I have a good feeling about this tour and that the vibe is going to be really good.

MG: Can you tell why you choose to record a new version of the Eagles’ “Hotel California”?
KH: I am not sure if it was a management idea or a band idea. I know that Tommy Shaw had written and played with Don on his latest record. So there was that partnership going on. We thought that it would be a good song for everyone to get on board with and be a part of and to redo for the show. Jeff and Don really came up with the arrangement, the plan and put it together. We all did different parts on it. I sing a verse…Tommy sings a verse…Don sings a verse. Tommy, Johnny and Don all play solos on it, so it is really cool.

MG: I read that Styx and Foreigner will interchange closing slots for the tour; tell us about this dynamic?
KH: Yeah, we call it flip-flopping. You come up with the cities for the tour and then you talk about which show would be good for each band to finish. Some fans want particular bands to close and that is cool. You just sort it and make sure it is pretty even. I like it because it makes it feel like a co-headlining gig.

MG: What can fans expect from the compilation album as well to go along with the tour?
KH: It is going to have songs from each band on there and maybe a couple of extras things. It will be available for sale during the tour. I am not sure of the complete details yet.

MG: Tell us about your appearance at a New Jersey Buffalo Wild Wings to get customers psyched for the Super Bowl halftime show this year?
KH: It was very last minute, we went in on our day off, and I had just gotten back from Germany. I went into the studio and re-sang the lyrics since the words changed for the spot. Then we flew into Secaucus, NJ and it was very on the fly. There were like twelve hidden cameras in the restaurant. It is a sports bar, so there were a lot of TV screens throughout. We had these cheerleaders come out with tons of confetti and we just started playing the tune. We totally surprised people and we did it a few times. We would wait for the restaurant to clear out and do it again. It was wild. Everyone had a great time.

MG: Lastly tell us about plans for a new Foreigner album and plans for yet another tour later this year to play the “4” album in its entirety?
KH: We were talking about doing that, yeah. We are also going to Germany to do an acoustic tour, which is something we have never done before. We will be playing all these cool opera houses in Germany. We were talking about doing the whole “4” album in its entirety, which will be cool. Concerning the album, there is already some writing that has started. I do not know if it will be a whole new album, it will mostly likely be a mix package with new material and hits. So we are looking forward to that as well.

MG: How do you get the energy to constantly tour non-stop?
KH: It is pretty heavy duty. I really have to try and take care of myself. I got a green juice sitting next to me right now. I have to make sure I get plenty of rest. The management and everybody is real good to make sure about asking me if I can do a particular schedule and they take real good care of me.

MG: I am a juicer myself, so I am sure the fans are going to want to know what your green juice recipe is?
KH: Mine is spinach, kale, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemon and apple. I like to do it heavy on the green, just a little bit of fruit. I do not like sweet juice. I like it to be pretty gnarly. I like that [laughs]. If you are juicing andf you have all that pulp left over, what you should do is put all that in a pot fill it up with water and you can make this great vegetable stock that you can use for all kinds of recipes. That way you can use the vegetables twice, especially if you are buying organic and they are more expensive. You juice the vegetable first and take that out and use that to make the stock. Then you go and put in your fruit, so you are not making a vegetable stock with fruit in it. I really enjoy that.

Don Felder talks about working with The Eagles and his new solo album

Don Felder is probably best known for his lead guitar work with The Eagles. Felder was inducted with the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 however left the group shortly their after. He has recently released a new solo album titled “Road to Forever” which is his first solo release in 30 years. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Don recently about the album, his autobiography and his plans for 2013.

Adam Lawton: With your last solo album being released 30 years ago what prompted you to now release an album of new material?
Don Felder: When you are in The Eagles you eat, breath and sleep Eagles business. You are either on the road, writing songs, doing interviews or performing. It is something that is all consuming and a monster of a machine. When I left the band in 2001 I really went through a period of self reflection. I started meditating between 30 and 40 minutes a day where I would look back at my life. I was trying to get a handle on what had happened to me and how I had changed. I would come out of these sessions and write down my recollections. My fiancé had read them and told me she thought it would make a great book. I told her that I was the world’s worst English student in high school and I actually had to go to summer school because I failed English. The next thing I know I am on a plane to New York with a literary agent. We ended up coming back with 5 offers from publishing companies to publish this book. I then had to look at the daunting task of having to take all these recollections  of my life story and write it in to a book. That took some time. During that first year of separation from the Eagles I also was separating/divorcing from my wife. Everything that I knew was stripped away from me. I had to find a place where I could resolve all of that. As I was going through the book writing process there would be painful parts that I needed to work through. To help myself through those tuff times I would go in to my home studio and write a song about it. I wrote 26 song ideas at about the same time I was writing my book. This was an effort to emotionally and intellectually flush myself of these feelings. I didn’t want to carry this excess baggage with me through the remaining years of my life. After the book was published I went out on the road to promote it as well as doing shows with my solo band which I have had for about the last 8 and a half years. In between all of that I worked on this album. I took the best 16 songs from the original 26 and recorded them for this CD. At that point I really shifted myself away from book writing and promotion. There were a lot of reasons that caused this album to take so long. I definitely wasn’t at home just twiddling my thumbs. (Laughs) I had a really full plate on all levels.

AL: Did you find any similarities between writing a book and writing music?
DF: Absolutely! It was a dual cathartic experience. On one hand I was writing the text of my life while on the other I was writing the music to my life. I turned those stories and experiences in to songs. To me real art weather its film, literature, painting or music contains stuff that have a human common denominator. People can experience those things and relate to them. I felt it was important for me to take my experiences and put them in these songs.  For me that is one of the most personal things an artist can do is to expose themselves in these ways. I felt the process to be very personal on both levels.

AL: The album features an impressive lineup of guest appearances. How did you go about picking people to appear on the album?
DF: One of my top criteria was having people that I know and who are good people and friends that wanted to have fun. When I finished the song “Fall From the Grace of Love” I wanted it to have these really great harmonies in the chorus. I called my friend Steven Stills who I was in a band with when I was 15. He actually lives down the road from me and we hang out and play golf together. When I got to California the first band I was in was Crosby, Nash. I called those guys up and asked them if they would sing on the record. They came over immediately and we had a really great time. There was no drama like I was so used to with my old band. Steve Lukather is probably one of the funniest guys to be in a room with. Not only is he a great guitar player but he is a ton of laughs. He played on the song “Road to Forever”. Tommy Shaw of Styx came in and helped with a couple tracks. Randy Jackson also came in and did some bass work on a song. Everyone knows him as the “Dawg dude” on “American Idol” but, he is a monster bass player! Randy is probably one of the top players in the Los Angeles area. He just destroyed this thing. They are all just friends of mine who happened to be in or around town. We had a lot of fun and made some great music. Those sessions really wiped away the old stigma of being in the studio and having arguments and contentious feelings. There was none of that and everything was just all good. In fact I had such a good time that I will promise the next album will not take another 30 years. (Laughs)

AL: How did your song “Fall From the Grace of Love” end up being chosen to appear in an episode of Showtime’s “Homeland”?
DF: I love the show and was just as shocked as everyone else when I heard they wanted to use one of my songs. I watch that show religiously as I think it is one of the most exciting shows on television right now. I got a call a few weeks back by the people who handle my publishing company that they had received a request from the people at “Homeland” to use the song. I said absolutely and felt quite honored.

AL: Can you tell us about your tour plans for the rest of this year and in to 2013?
DF: I think my last date for 2012 is December 15th. We have had such a great response to not only the new record but also the live shows that I plan on working from early February through fall of 2013. I will probably stay out on the road until it gets too cold to be slopping around out there. I could certainly use a vacation right now. It seems the closest I get to a vacation these days is doing interviews with people like yourself.

AL: What do you think has been the biggest change in your audiences over the years?
DF: Personally I am not a fan of going to really large venues like football stadiums or hockey arenas to hear music. I think that is the wrong place to go. The sound is usually bad and most instances you are so far away from the stage that you get a better show watching the video monitor than you do from your seat. It is just not comfortable. I prefer to play the 3-5,000 seat arenas. In the summer I do like playing larger venues like State Fairs and such with bands like Reo Speedwagon and the Doobie Brothers. Those big festivals that happen during the day are really great and people love that. I think the smaller venues are much more comfortable and intimate. It also is better sounding for the artist and listener at a smaller venue. We are also able to make the ticket prices much more affordable than that of say the Eagles. About 60 percent of my shows consist of Eagles songs while the rest is covers and solo material. It’s a great evening where by the end everyone is up on their feet dancing and having a great time. There is no drama as it’s just a great group of guys playing great music and having fun.

AL: Is there anything else we can be watching for from you in the coming year?
DF: There are a lot of things in the planning stages for 2013. Those things will start to show up on the website once they become public. Right now there are a couple tours being planned. One includes going to Japan, Europe and Australia. That is going to be contingent on the routing of where we will be and when during next year. I can’t really say exactly what will happen until those are contracted. I love to be out playing music and have a very child like enthusiasm for it. When you are doing something you love to do it is a playful experience. I have been fortunate enough and been given the gift to be able to do what I love. I enjoy it for that.