Lisa’s resume includes writing the song, ‘Through the Eyes of a Child‘ for the movie, ‘The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ (with Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo). She was also the singing voice of the princess in the movie, ‘Rug Rats in Paris’.
Now Lisa gets to flex her vocal muscles in a truly unique and fascinating way. Together with songwriter/producer Jim Peterik (Eye of The Tiger, The Search is Over), the duo has joined forces with the guitar inspired sounds of Acoustic Alchemy’s Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale to bring us, “Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy”.
Peterik’s lyrics to ten existing Acoustic Alchemy smooth jazz instrumentals have given the songs a new life and a fresh sound. (Lisa herself joins Peterik in songwriting duties for the track, Visions Of Marrakesh). It’s the combination of lyric, melody and most of all, Lisa’s sensual voice that makes the partnership with Acoustic Alchemy so musically satisfying!
I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Lisa and get her thoughts on the Acoustic Alchemy album. We also discuss her new Christmas release and her Christmas show at The Montrose Room in Rosemont, IL on December 14th.
LM: I had opened up for Acoustic Alchemy about a year prior to the album coming out. That’s when I first met them. Jim Peterik also came to the show and we were all behind stage when Jim told the manager that he’d always wanted to try to put a lyric to one of the Acoustic Alchemy songs. So the manager said to him, “Well, have a go at it, mate!” [laughs]
So, Jim wrote lyrics to one of the songs and we all liked it so much that we decided to do an entire albums’ worth of songs! Jim picked out his favorites and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks except for ‘Visions of Marrakesh'; which was a song that he and I sat at a Starbucks and wrote together.
LM: The first time I wrote with Jim was actually nine years ago. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. For Jim to sit at the piano and play ‘The Search is Over’ and then pull out his guitar and play ‘Eye of The Tiger’ was unbelievable; almost like an explosion.
I remember driving to his house and I was very nervous, as you can imagine. Here was a man I grew up with listening to on the radio and now I was going to be writing with him in his house. What happened was, I’d say something and then he’d have something to react to (and vice-versa). I don’t even know how the song was written. It was almost as if there was a third-party in the room that took over. The song was ‘These Open Arms’ which later was released on an album of mine.
From there, it then grew in to Jim becoming my producer and we’ve been dear friends ever since.
gJg: What was the recording process like for the Acoustic Alchemy record?
We actually never met with them during the process of recording. They were in London, and we were in Chicago. We’d have our band in Chicago lay down some tracks and then send them to Greg and Miles, who would lay down some guitar parts over what we did. It was a unique, wonderful experience recording back and forth. We definitely wanted to make sure we kept the original wonderful quality of Acoustic Alchemy.
gJg: How has the reaction been to the album?
LM: Fantastic! It’s a real treat to perform these songs live. As a singer, you really get to sink your teeth into them. The melodies allow you to show many colors in the voice. Our guitarist, Mike Aquino also enjoys the songs as well, because he can really let loose.
gJg: You also have a new Christmas EP that was recently released. Tell me about the beautiful song from that album, “Before The Tree Comes Down”.
LM: ‘Before The Tree Comes Down’ was originally written by Christa Wells and about three years ago, I released her version of the song. For this re-recorded version, Jim added a new chorus and produced it. So it went from a good song to a really, really good song with Jim’s touches.
gJg: The message of the song is so powerful.
LM: The military is a big part of me. I’m not from a military family, but am very empathic because I have friends who are in the military and live through them what it’s like to not being home for the holidays. It’s a song close to my heart because I think we can all understand family. I’m donating part of the proceeds from the song to Stars For Stripes so that we can help entertain the troops.
LM: When I was 2 my mom said that’s when it really began. I would go up to the radio and just start singing and dancing. At 7, I started playing piano by ear. I never had a lesson at the time, but was just eager to play melodies.
By the time I was 15, I was in a rock band called ‘Mischief’ as one of the keyboard players. Somehow, I found my way to the front and became the lead singer of the band and we eventually started playing in the clubs.
Because I wasn’t trained vocally (and because rock music was hard on the voice) I started taking classical lessons. I remember fighting with it at first but my teacher (who I’ve been with now for over 20 years) told me that this type of training was going to get me through five nights of singing. Through her teaching, I was able to apply a lot of those classical techniques and keep my voice healthy.
gJg: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
LM: I remember listening to Olivia Newton John’s records. I loved the innocence of her voice. I listened to Pat Benatar, Heart and Journey as well, but I also loved my Dads’ collection of music: Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Doris Day.
gJg: What are you working on now?
LM: This past year, I was involved as the emcee for a special needs talent show called “Special Talents America”. It’s very much like American Idol but for special needs kids. It’s one of the biggest highlights of my career; being involved with these wonderful, gifted children.
I’m also gearing up for a December 14th Christmas show at the Montrose Room in Rosemont, Illinois. It’s a 300 seat intimate room and I love the location. One of the winners from the talent show will be performing with me that night as well. Her name is Mia Strayer, and she plays harp. She has such a wonderful spirit and I want everyone to hear her!
When I did the show last year, it was one of the first of my shows mixing the Acoustic Alchemy album along with traditional Christmas music. That went over extremely well. This year, I’ll be doing a lot of the same songs but with a string section. It will be a little twist to the music that people are familiar with. I’m excited about it.
Article first published as Women Who Rock: Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy on Technorati.
Guitarist Jim Peterik still has the Eye of The Tiger. Whether it’s performing, songwriting, mentoring and developing new talent or holding his annual World Stage events, the man who penned the #1 anthem from Rocky III continues to deliver the goods.
Peterik’s resume and collaboration reads like a veritable who’s who of the music industry. His bands have included The Ides Of March, Survivor, Pride of Lions and Lifeforce. He’s written and/or produced songs for artists like 38 Special, Sammy Hagar, Jimi Jamison, Lisa McClowry, Mindi Abair, and his son, Sijay among others. His musical journey knows no boundaries; having ventured into melodic rock, jazz, pop, inspirational and country genres.
Peterik’s latest endeavor is a reunion with vocalist Toby Hitchcock for the new Pride of Lions album, Immortal. Containing the best elements of 80’s melodic rock combined with Peterik’s signature songs and modern-day production, Immortal is an album sure to satisfy.
I spoke with Peterik and got his thoughts not only on Immortal, but also the iconic song he co-wrote thirty years ago. One that continues to inspire generations of fans all over the world.
What made you decide to do another Pride of Lions album?
I wanted one and Frontiers Records are such great boosters of the whole 80’s crowd. They actually wanted me to make a new record a few years ago, but I wasn’t ready at the time. I had just completed the “Crossroads Moment” album with Jimi Jamison and my juices were just gone for that direction. I got into doing Lifeforce (my smooth jazz project) just as sort of a respite from melodic rock. Their (Frontiers) initial plan was to have me release a record and then they were going to do a Toby (Hitchcock) album. I asked them to do it the other way around and by that time I’d be ready. That’s what happened.
Where do you come up with ideas for your songs?
Everywhere. “Delusional” is a song from the new album that comes from my personal life. I see too many kids these days being over medicated with Ritalin just to calm them down. It does that but it also makes them walk around almost in a zombie like state. I had that hook in my mind: “Let the boy dream. Let him be different. Let him be delusional.” Even Einstein probably would have been diagnosed ADD if he were alive today. Things like that get me going.
Toby Hitchcock’s voice is so pure on Immortal. At times he sounds like Jimi Jamison and at other times, Dennis DeYoung.
It’s a great voice. One of the best out there right now. I think the vocals on Immortal are his best yet. There’s more depth and dimension to his voice.
A lot of people know you from primarily being the keyboardist in Survivor. But the truth is, you’re main love is guitar.
JP: Guitar is my passion. Survivor originally started as a twin lead band. You hear a lot of double leads on the demos for the first album. I love keyboards but my heart’s really in guitar. At last count, I think I own 178 and every one of them has a story. I use them all.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of “Eye of The Tiger”. What’s the origin of that song?
I came home from shopping one day and heard a message on the answering machine from Sylvester Stallone. At first, I thought it was a joke, but I called the number and sure enough, Stallone answered. He told me that he loved the band and had heard “Poor Man’s Son” and “Take You On A Saturday” from our “Premonition” album and wanted that same kind of “street” sound for his new movie, Rocky III.
He sent us a video montage of the movie and Frankie (Sullivan) and I watched it together. There were scenes of Rocky getting a little “soft” (doing the Visa card commercials) and Mr. T “rising up” with his Mohawk. It was electric. The temp music they used to accompany the montage was “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen. I remember asking Stallone why he just didn’t use that song for the movie and he said it was because they couldn’t get the publishing rights for it.
At that point I just said, “Thank You, Queen!” [laughs]
I had my Les Paul and a small amp that we had set up in the kitchen. I turned down the sound and just started playing the little intro [mimics the intro], just feeling that pulse. Then I added to it when I saw the punches being thrown, trying to score the chords in time with the punches. We couldn’t get any farther because we didn’t have the whole movie. Fortunately, we were able to get a copy of the finished movie with the promise that we’d send it right back the next day. At that point, we had become totally enamored in the movie and when I heard that phrase: “Hey Rocky, you’re losing the eye of the tiger” I remember turning to Frankie and saying, “Well, there’s the name of our song!” Once we had the title, the challenge became telling the story.
Four days later we gathered the troops, went into the Chicago Recording Company and recorded it. Frankie and I both wanted that big “John Bonham” type of drum sound and I’ll never forget the feeling and the way our drummer, Marc Droubay captured it. As soon as he hit that beat I said, “Oh SHIT – this is going to be HUGE!” And there was the sound of Survivor. It was just magic!
What’s your greatest memory of your days with Survivor?
Some of the more subtle moments are my favorites. When “Eye of the Tiger” was first starting to zoom up the charts, we were out on the road with REO Speedwagon. I remember it was late in the afternoon and I went into a restaurant to get something to eat. While I was there, somebody played Eye Of The Tiger on the jukebox. There was a little girl there with her family. She must have been around four years old or so. When the song started playing, she immediately got up from her family, started spinning around and said, “Mommy! Daddy! That’s MY song! They’re playing MY song! Out of the mouth of babes. You can’t fool them and you can’t hide from them. They either love it or they don’t, and they loved it.
Have you ever thought about writing a biography?
JP: It’s almost done and should be out by April. It’s called, “Through The Eye of The Tiger: A Survivor’s Tale”. I’ve been working on it for the better part of a year. I’m really excited about it.
With artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, RUSH and some up and coming band called U2 all vying for attention, it definitely was a time of great consideration as to where to put your money.
But not for me. For me there was no doubt.
The first album I ever purchased was Vital Signs, the fifth studio album from the band Survivor. Nine killer songs written by guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik. Nine songs sung by Jimi Jamison, one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time.
I spent many months in guitar lessons eagerly dissecting this record with my teacher learning all the nuances and theory behind the music contained on it. In the end, I wound up learning most of the album note for note.
Frequent readers of my blog no doubt already know about my love for this record but might not know why. So, to fill in the gaps I’ve decided to again dissect the record track by track to show you why this was such an influential record for me. An album that today is now framed and holds a coveted spot on my wall. Right alongside the very first Beatles record.
Track 1: I Can’t Hold Back: This was first song I heard Jimi Jamison’s voice on. Actually, it was the video for it if you really want to know. Back when MTV was in its infancy and actually played videos.
I remember watching the guys standing around in the library as the intro played and thinking, “Oh that’s cool”. But once Jimi started singing “There’s a story in my eyes” that was all it took.
This one song is the single reason I wanted the album. And that was without even hearing anything else. It just goes to show you how big a deal the first single released from an album is.
I especially love it when Jimi sings “This Love Affair Can’t Wait” for the final time. You really feel the emotion of what the song is trying to convey. It’s the final powerful exclamation: You know what girl?…I Can’t Hold Back.
From a technical perspective one of the things that really hooked me in on this song was guitarist Frankie Sullivan’s use of feedback. Right when the song starts picking up in the first verse you hear it.
Most of the time feedback is annoying but in this case its controlled and it actually brings the whole song together.
Oh, and looking cool in the video helps too.
Track 2: High on You: Ah, the black and white video with the blue light bulbs. And another love interest for Jimi to sing to. This song hooked me with the cool keyboard sound and the little guitar lick in between verses. Of course, the powerful chord change to minor in the pre-chorus also was killer:
“Now I’m higher than a kite, I know I’m getting hooked on your love”.
Track 3: First Night: This beautiful song begins with nothing more than piano and Jimi singing: “We will remember this first night forever, after all the songs fade away and the stage fades to gray”. Then just as you think the song is heading one way it kicks into high gear.
After still being on a high from the last song (no pun intended) this track was a refreshing change of pace. It settled things down for what was to come.
“Emotions run wild, are we on the verge?
We’ve got a hotline to satisfaction.
I’ve got the answer if you’ve got the urge”.
Track 4: The Search is Over: Taking on the world was just his style. Hey, wasn’t this the third different girl Jimi Jamison had in as many videos? That guy gets around.
After Eye of The Tiger, this song was the one that really put Survivor back on the map. And fortunately for me, it’s a song that was just reaching its peak when I saw them on tour with REO Speedwagon back in 1985.
“Now at last I hold you, now all is said and done
The search has come full circle
Our destinies are one.”
As a hormone raging teenager, this song and I Can’t Hold Back were my refuge when the days of school and girls were tough.
Track 5: Broken Promises: Again, the lyrics in this song. The imagery. Magic. “Summer and smoke, diamonds and dust.”
I still remember all the weekend nights I’d spend up in my room in silence just listening. This song made me think: “Is it really written in stone that we wind up alone?”…
Or how about these lyrics:
I remember those songs on the radio
The jasmine, the wind in your hair
And how it hurts to remember those
Track 6: Popular Girl: Another great track and the opening one to Side B of the album. I swear, every time I listen to this song I hear something new.
Just the other day I gave a listen to it again and really caught for the first time the moving guitar part in the chorus. A whole lot is going on there and yet out of the hundreds of times I’ve heard the song I somehow over looked it.
There’s so much more to music than just three chords.
She walks down the street, knocks ‘em dead on their feet
With a casual nonchalance
When she’s breaking your heart, she’s the state of the art
With license to take what she wants
Here’s another thing I love about the Peterik/Sullivan songwriting combination: They always take obscure words you’d probably never use and some how find a way to make them work. Like “nonchalance” from this song, “Spire” from Burning Heart, “Reverie” from Desperate Dreams…. the list goes on.
Track 7: Everlasting: The message in the song says it all. Something I was really looking for in 1984 even if I didn’t fully understand what love was at the time.
“I’m looking for a love that’s everlasting, I wonder if the feeling’s strong enough?”.
This is the one song from the record that in my opinion best showcases the vocal combination of Jimi and Frankie. When you hear the chorus it’s hard not to sing along with it.
Track 8: It’s The Singer Not The Song: Take a message from me and I promise not to come on strong: this song kicks. It’s raw and in your face as soon as it begins.
This is the one song on the record where I think producer Ron Nevison just told Frankie to shred on guitar. And shred he does. I can just imagine Ron sitting back in the studio, pushing record on the console and listening to this tasty outro solo that goes on for at least 45 seconds.
Yet another example of a Survivor song containing positive messages about looking inside yourself and never giving up. Sure, sometimes it’s all about love but on a track like this it’s more about self-contemplation. It poses the question: Am I good enough?
And the answer of course is YES.
Secondly, it had a guitar solo at the end that I needed to learn…and immediately.
This was the first song from the album I learned at guitar lesson. I had no problem learning the chord changes, it was that damn two-part guitar solo that gave me fits.
Thankfully, there’s a keyboard solo before the final chorus so I had a enough time to get my bearings together before tackling it.
It took this young guitarist weeks to learn how to play the final song from Vital Signs correctly but it was well worth it.
Because I’ll never forget the first time I placed the needle down on vinyl for this song and played the whole solo along with Frankie. It was one of the first real accomplishments I had as a new guitarist.
The day I mastered See You In Everyone.
It was a hot summer night almost thirty years ago when my neighbors drug my brother and I to the movies to see the third installment of the Rocky Balboa franchise. Not that we went kicking and screaming mind you. Any opportunity for teenage boys to get out of the house was most welcome. No, it’s just that we would have much preferred to see “Poltergeist” or better still, sneak into see the R-rated “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”. Looking back now though I’m glad we chose to consume large quantities of popcorn and Coke with Sly Stallone instead of Jeff Spicoli.
Rocky III was the film that first introduced me to Mr. T, the mo-hawked muscle man who would go on to pity fools for the remainder of the 1980’s and beyond. But Rocky III also introduced me to something else: something even more powerful than Mr. T’s gold chains or feathered earrings. It was also the film where I first heard the now infamous guitar riff for a song from a band that would change my life: Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor.
Written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik and sung by Dave Bickler (who would later achieve great fame as the singer on the Real Men Of Genius Bud Lite commercials), the theme from Rocky III is still as popular as ever three decades later. Along with winning a Grammy the song was also nominated for an Academy Award, became the #1 song of 1982, has to date over 2.5 million downloads on iTunes and ranks as the #3 best song to workout to according to Men’s Health magazine.
The band would strike Rocky gold again a few years later when the song “Burning Heart” was released as part of the Rocky IV soundtrack. Although this song didn’t fare quite as well as Tiger, the music from Survivor continues to be both inspirational and motivating to me. As you’ll soon discover, the seed planted with Eye of the Tiger would not only begin my admiration for the band but would ultimately become the spark that would fuel my life and music for years to come.
When I first started playing guitar in 1984 a new Survivor album was already making its way up the charts. Vital Signs was the first album to feature new singer Jimi Jamison on vocals and was the very first record I ever purchased. (Jamison would later go on to sing the infamous theme from the television show Baywatch). Songs like “I Can’t Hold Back“, “High on You” and “The Search is Over” were getting tremendous airplay on both radio and the early days of MTV(back when they used to play music videos). These were songs with melodies and lyrics that really spoke to me. Words of encouragement in my love less adolescent youth. Songs I wanted to learn how to play.
So while most other aspiring guitarists were locked away in lesson rooms with their guitar teachers learning Van-Halen and Def Leppard solos I was dragging my butt in with a menacing jet black Gibson Explorer asking my teacher to show me how to play “I See You In Everyone“, the final song on the Vital Signs album, note for note.
Now that I think about it I can still recall the puzzled look on my teacher’s face when I brought the album to lesson for the first time. And I can still picture him saying: “What, no RUSH?….No AC/DC?…No Bon Jovi?” and I’d just smile and think to myself, “Nope, even better!” For how could I possibly tell a man who grew up watching artists like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin that the absolute best concert I ever saw in my life was Survivor and REO Speedwagon in 1985? But it was, and quite frankly still is, true.
By 1986 my longing for a new Survivor record was finally appeased. When Seconds Count was released and immediately consumed me. Songs like “How Much Love” and “Rebel Son” inspired a then seventeen year old boy to reach higher and the ballad “Man Against The World” made me want to track down keyboardist Jim Peterik himself and make him show me how to play its beautiful melody. By this point I think most of my friends knew that my whole Eye of The Tiger/Survivor phase wasn’t just a passing fad. In fact, one of my best memories of graduating high school was the post grad party my parents held where me and a bunch of other musician friends all set up our gear and played half of the Vital Signs record.
It wasn’t long before college came calling and once again Survivor was there with me. This time with 1988’s Too Hot To Sleep. I can’t begin to tell you how many trips across the miles of campus I made with “Didn’t Know it Was Love” and “Desperate Dreams” blaring on my Sony Walkman. Although the band themselves consider this to be their best album the fact that it didn’t achieve big commercial success didn’t bother me one bit. For me, much like them, it’s always been about the music and this one delivered the goods.
Once college life was over the job of real “work” began. While playing my part in the 9-5 crowd over the years I’d keep myself busy in the musical groove by writing and performing in various bands. All the while I’d find myself writing songs that were influenced by the amazing songs from those Survivor records. Unfortunately it would be quite a while before I would hear any new music from the band other than from compilation albums. Unless of course you count that hilarious Starbucks commercial.
Finally in 2006 a brand new album, Reach was released and listening to the first song and title track was a much welcomed slap in the face. The blaring guitars and drums told me that at long last the Tiger was back. I immediately proclaimed, to myself anyway, that this song should be the one they start every show with. This record not only featured guitarist Frankie Sullivan singing lead on few tracks but also contains the song “Fire Makes Steel”, yet another inspirational anthem which, go figure, was almost and should have been included in the film “Rocky Balboa”.
As you can see, I’m a huge fan of this band. I also know that the band has gone through several line-up changes over the years. Different singers, bass players and drummers have come and gone. There’s no need for me to know all the reasons why. I can personally attest to there being drama in every band so line-up changes are not at all that surprising. But it was unfortunate that Jimi Jamison, the voice that became synonymous with Survivor for me had left the group shortly after this record was released. Robin McAuley, most known for his work with McAuley Schenker Group would take over on lead vocals for subsequent tours over the next few years.
Flash forward to 2012: A surprise announcement was made that Jimi Jamison, who had released several well received solo albums since his departure five years ago, would once again be rejoining Survivor for a new album and tour. Having suffered for years listening to robotic voices and synthesized loops in what’s being peddled as “music” these days my prayers for real new music and songwriting from my favorite band is about to come true once again! To say that I’m excited is an understatement.
Ironically enough, it all seems to have come full circle for me. This “new” Survivor is going to happen nearly thirty years to the day since I first heard that guitar riff in the darkened movie theater. The summer night that changed everything for me. And the message of the song couldn’t be more true today:
Just a band and it’s will…to survive.