The title of former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung’s new album, “26 East: Volume 1,” is an homage to the Chicago address where he, along with Panozzo twins, John and Chuck, formed the nucleus of what would become one of classic rock’s most revered and enduring bands back in 1962. The music contained on the compilation, much like the locomotive imagery blazed on the cover, takes the listener on a journey of self-reflection and timeless gratitude.
A project that began with the nudging and encouragement of fellow Chicagoan and neighbor, Jim Peterik, DeYoung gives fans what they yearn for in 26 East by delivering songs that hearken back to the mid-70s sound that made his former band staples of classic rock radio. Case in point is the infectious “East of Midnight,” a song which immediately conjures up imagery from Styx’s Grand Illusion period.
Although DeYoung successfully captures the essence of his early years with Styx there’s also more current messages contained on the new album. On “With All Due Respect,” DeYoung rails against the danger of sensationalism in our media-driven society. While “Run For The Roses,” offers a voice of hope in an uncertain world.
One of the special and personal moments on 26 East has got to be DeYoung’s tribute to his musical idols, The Beatles, with “To The Good Old Days,” a duet with John Lennon’s son, Julian. On it, DeYoung comes full circle; from his youthful days in his Rockland, Illinois basement to the biggest stages in the world.
In many ways, 26 East is DeYoung’s personal journal. A time capsule and tip of the hat to a career defined by his songwriting and keyboard prowess. More importantly, it shows that in these troubled times DeYoung is more relevant than ever.
26 East Volume 1 will be released on Friday, May 22. I recently spoke with Dennis DeYoung about the new album and more in this exclusive new interview.
What was the inspiration behind the new album, 26 East?
Dennis DeYoung: The president of Frontiers Records had been emailing me every few months about a deal and, quite frankly, I really didn’t want to do it. The whole music business is upside down and I just felt like it was a needless exercise at this point in my life. It wasn’t about money or proving myself as a songwriter. I think I’ve already accomplished that. It was actually my buddy, Jim Peterik, who talked me into doing it. Jim sent me a demo of a song he was working on called “Run For the Roses.” I knew it was a terrific song so the two of us got together to finish it and to see where it would take us. I discovered that we were both on the same page and the creative process couldn’t have been better. When we finally came up for air we had eight songs. Then I wrote a bunch of other songs by myself to get to the end zone.
What’s your songwriting process like?
DDY: The obvious answer would be to say that it starts with a phrase, or maybe just sitting at the piano banging out chords. But here’s the process I’ve done my whole life: I come up with some notes that fit on two chords. Then I take words and stick them on the notes. I try to give the audience a perspective of what I see in the world around me, hoping that they”ll find themselves in my story. I can always write a song that’s true about myself. The trick is that you, the listener, will think that it’s about you. You find yourself in my story thinking that it’s yours.
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Interview with Dennis DeYoung by Clicking Here.