‘Play On’: Jim Peterik Discusses New Ides of March Album, Career Highlights

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than fifty-five years since Jim Peterik and The Ides of March first started rehearsing in the basement of guitarist Larry Millas’ home in Berwyn, Illinois. The band, which today still features original members Peterik (vocals, guitar) and Millas, along with Bob Bergland (bass, saxophone, and vocals) and Mike Borch (drums and vocals), now boasts as the longest-existing Top-10 charting band. The Ides of March, which are as timeless as their music, also includes Scott May (Hammond organ and vocals), Steve Eisen (woodwinds and percussion), Tim Bales (trumpet and Flugelhorn), and Henry Salgado (trombone).

Although the band’s sound has matured and evolved over the last half-century one thing remains constant. The friendship and family of this band of brothers is equal only to the joy their music continues to bring.

In celebration of their huge milestone, The Ides of March recently released a new album, Play On. A compilation of fourteen brand new songs as well as a re-release of their monster hit, “Vehicle.” To make things even more exciting, The Ides are joined on the album by other notable music heavyweights, including David Pack (formerly of Ambrosia) on “Song About Mary,” saxophone queen Mindi Abair on “Friends Like You,” Mark Farner (a founding member of Grand Funk Railroad) on “Swagger,” guitar icon Joe Bonamassa on “The Cover Up,” and legendary band leader, producer Paul Shaffer on the track, “Rule of Three.”

I recently spoke with Jim Peterik about Play On and more in this exclusive new interview.

When you look back at these last 55 years of The Ides of March, what goes through your mind?

Jim Peterik: Sometimes it seems impossible that it’s been fifty-five years and other times it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. I still remember our very first show in 1964. It was at a VFW a block away from Larry’s house, where we used to rehearse. We were doing covers like “I’ve Had It” by The Bell Notes and “Money” by Barrett Strong. We got paid $20 and immediately drove over to an ice cream place and blew it all on hot fudge sundaes. Fast forward fifty-five years and I can still remember how that sundae tasted. It was the best in the world. When I look back I think about all the ups and downs, the jobs, trying to make it, and everything that came in between.

After that first gig did you have any idea of what was to come for the group?

JP: It wasn’t like a destiny moment because we were just trying to remember the chords to the songs [laughs]. At that time, we weren’t thinking about anything except whether the girls in the front row were digging us and whether the greasers in the audience liked it.

How would you describe the new album, Play On, and how it relates to some of The Ides’ previous work?

JP: The Ides went through so many musical phases and, for this album, what we tried to do is combine the best elements of everything we’ve ever done. Brass is really featured strongly but there’s also a few songs like “Too Far To Turn Around” and “Song About Mary” where we hearken back to the “L.A. Goodbye” sound.

Can you tell me more about how the band’s sound has evolved over the years?

JP: Before changing our name to The Ides of March, we started out as a British invasion-wannabe band called The Shondells. Back then, we wanted to be something that was like The Kinks meet the Beatles meet The Zombies. We were all kids at the time; playing on the road in Florida with the Allman Brothers (then called The Allman Joys). At that time, Duane and Gregg were already super musicians and we learned a lot from them. Their influence is what helped us get a little more bluesy and soulful. That’s when we decided to get some brass into the group. Then after we heard the first album by Blood Sweat & Tears we decided to add a whole section. Later, we became more Crosby, Stills and Nash influenced and even more countrified.

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Interview with Jim Peterik by Clicking Here!

Interview: Michael Lington Discusses His Beautiful Holiday-Themed Album, ‘A Foreign Affair Christmas’

In his more than two-decade career as saxophonist, songwriter and producer, Michael Lington has released more than ten solo albums, toured extensively and even manages his own wine and cigar companies. But the one thing the multi-talented, Copenhagen-born artist had never done is record a Christmas-themed album. That is until now.

On A Foreign Affair Christmas, Lington serves up a plethora of holiday favorites and is joined by an arsenal of contemporary music heavyweights, including Vince Gill, Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Russ Freeman.

Christmas classics like “Silent Night,” “Silver Bells,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” take on new life with fresh and unique arrangements. Other treasures include a tasty medley of “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow,” with Koz, a silky and sultry take on George Michael’s “Last Christmas,” with Phillipe Saisse on vibraphone, and an inspired version of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” featuring the legendary Vince Gill.

There is much to love about A Foreign Affair Christmas, making it the perfect soundtrack for a festive holiday season.

I recently spoke with Michael Lington about A Foreign Affair Christmas, his upcoming tour with Dave Koz and more in this exclusive new interview.

What made you decide to do a Christmas album at this point in your career?

Michael Lington: I’ve been thinking about doing one for a very long time. At first, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take, but then one year I was invited to Barbados to perform a show with a band that had worked up some really interesting, island-flavored, jazz Christmas songs. That got me to thinking: what if I based an album on the same concept. Taking familiar Christmas songs and flipping them around to do something unique with interesting arrangements. Then I took it a step further and incorporated musical friends from around the world and decided to call it A Foreign Affair Christmas. Once I had the vision, it all came together.

What was your criteria for choosing songs for A Foreign Affair Christmas?

ML: I knew I wanted to have a variety as well as do some of the classic ballads. I started out by writing down all the songs I could think of and then going down the list, narrowing it down to what was the cream of the crop for the arrangements I wanted to achieve. It quickly became clear which ones rose to the top.

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Interview with Michael Lington by Clicking Here!

Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty Talks Penn’s Peak Performance, Music and Career Highlights

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly thirty years since hard rock giants Firehouse released their monstrous debut album. A self-titled opus, fueled by hits like “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” “All She Wrote,” and the ubiquitous “Love Of A Lifetime” (a song that’s still a wedding staple), which ushered in legions of fans worldwide and gave Firehouse the coveted Favorite Hard Rock New Artist award at the 1992 American Music Awards.

These days, the band continues to tour and celebrate its legacy. Often joining forces with fellow rock legends like Warrant, Winger and Bret Michaels for sold out shows where they not only perform their arsenal of hits, but also salute our military and first responders.

On Saturday, November 23, Firehouse will once again return to Northeast Pennsylvania for a show with Warrant at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA. Longtime fans of both bands will be able to enjoy an evening of hard rock as well as reminiscence about both bands early days and the glory of 1991’s “Blood, Sweat and Beers” tour.

Firehouse is: C.J. Snare (lead vocals/keyboards), Bill Leverty (guitars), Michael Foster (drums) and Allen McKenzie (bass).

I recently spoke with Leverty about the band’s upcoming performance at Penn’s Peak and more in this exclusive new interview.

What do you enjoy most about Penn’s Peak?

Bill Leverty: Penn’s Peak is such a great venue. It sounds amazing in there because of the acoustics, big stage, killer light show and the world-class PA system. The vibe is so full of energy, which comes straight from the fans. There’s something about Jim Thorpe, PA that makes people want to rock!

What can fans expect from the band’s upcoming performance?

BL: We’ve changed the set up a little bit this year and are playing songs we haven’t played in a while. It’s made everything fresh. We’ll also throw in a few surprises as well. Getting to play with Warrant again is always a great time. For anyone who saw us on the “Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour” with them back in 1991, this is your chance to come relieve those great, youthful days.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Bill Leverty by Clicking Here!

Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber: “Inspiration comes at weird times and you always have to be ready for it”

Photo: Raj Naik

Jeff Lorber first heard guitarist Mike Stern in the early 1980s when his Jeff Lorber Fusion project toured the same festival circuit as Stern, who at the time was performing with Miles Davis. But it wasn’t until bassist Jimmy Haslip, who’d worked with both Stern and Lorber over the years, suggested these two seemingly disparate musical forces come together that their new collaboration, Eleven, was born.

The resulting album is an extremely copacetic compilation filled with harmonic meat and aggressive soloing. From the melodic and catchy opener, Righteous, to Stern’s lyrical, African-flavored Nu Som and blues-drenched jams like Jones Street and Slow Change, Eleven is an inspired collection combining tasty elements from many different styles of music.

We recently spoke with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber about Eleven and more.

How did this collaboration come about?

Jeff Lorber: It’s a small music community, especially when you get into guys who play fusion and jazz. And although we’d never met I’ve known about Mike for a long time. An early version of my Jeff Lorber Fusion Band had even opened up for Miles Davis back in the Eighties when Mike was in the group. I’ve been working with Jimmy Haslip for more than ten years, and when Jimmy was with the Yellowjackets he did a collaboration with Mike. Jimmy was the one who suggested it’d be something interesting for us to do.

Mike Stern: It was fresh because me and Jeff were in different orbits and had never played together. So when Jimmy presented the idea to me I thought it would just be to play a few gigs, but then he suggested that Jeff and I record together. One thing led to another and now here we are.

Jeff, what was it about working with Mike that appealed to you?

Lorber: The Jeff Lorber Fusion has always been saxophone-focused, so working with a guitarist as the main sound was really appealing to me. Of course, Mike is a virtuoso player who has terrific command of bebop vocabulary as well as rock and blues. He also has a free and fluid approach in the way he improvises and plays melodies. I thought it would be a great challenge because he’s such a high-level musician and I was excited to see what would come out of it.

What was the writing process like for Eleven?

Lorber: Each of us basically wrote half the album. Mike had a chance to re-cut a few songs he wanted to take a new look at and I wrote a bunch of new music as well. We got together and cut all of Mike’s stuff live with Jimmy on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. For me, I’ll usually start with a chord sequence or groove and try to get melodies involved early on. The song Righteous is a good example. It’s a four-chord pattern with a Motown groove. After I write something I usually let it marinate for a while to see where it needs to go. The element of time is something that really helps.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber By Clicking Here!

Interview: Music Director/Drummer Todd Waetzig Discusses His Role In Blue Man Group Las Vegas

Photo: Lindsey Best

Since its inception in 1987, more than thirty-five million people have witnessed the imaginary, multi-sensory world of Blue Man Group, and it’s no surprise. The worldwide phenomenon combines an explosive arsenal of music, comedy and color that captivates audiences of all ages, languages and cultures.

Perhaps no venue offers more intimacy and spectacle than the specially designed Blue Man Theater at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, which features exclusive performance content that can’t be seen in any other Blue Man show.

Although the sight and sound is spectacular the heart of the show is the Blue Man character, which creates an immediate connection with the audience and a unique experience at each performance. The Blue Men do not speak but their band is considered their “tribe.” Contributing to the energetic and immersive sounds that BMG creates.

The Luxor band includes music director and drummer Todd Waetzig, who’s been with BMG for more than twenty years. I recently spoke with him about his role in Blue Man Group and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in Blue Man Group?

Todd Waetzig: I was in Boston going to school at The Berklee College of Music and was in a rock band that played around town and wrote music. The guitarist in the band was also friends with one of the drummers from the Blue Man show in Boston and one night, he came to see us play at a local bar. He really liked the way I played. At the time, they were looking for a substitute drummer to fill in some shows and he invited me down for an audition. I went down and met some of the guys from the band and they asked me to do some crazy things on the drums to see if I could do it. Shortly after that they invited me to play drums with Blue Man.

Had you heard about Blue Man Group prior to being invited to audition?

TW: I knew a little about Blue Man but never knew exactly what it was. When I saw the show for the first time, I remember sitting there in the middle of the theater watching what was going on. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was overwhelming in a really cool way and I was completely blown away.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Todd Waetzig by Clicking Here.

Interview: Actress Katie Callaway Discusses Her Versatile Career

It’s not often you meet a woman with the trifecta success of musical theater, film and television, but such is the case for Katie Callaway.

The beautiful actress began her journey studying classical ballet before attending Belmont University and graduating with a BFA in Musical Theatre. During her time there, Callaway appeared in no less than six different musical productions, including the first ever collegiate production of “Les Misérables.” She also wrote, directed, and starred in her senior thesis production of a one-act comedic musical parody of “The Hunger Games.”

With a powerful vocal equaled only by her acting prowess and charm, Callaway served as a key participant in several master classes and workshops by such notable Broadway influences as Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years,” “Songs for a New World”), Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (“Edges,” “Dogfight,” and “A Christmas Story”) and Jen Waldman (Artistic Director at the Hangar Theatre and a part of the Original Broadway Cast of “Wicked”).

As a film and television actress, Callaway’s impressive list of credits includes a recurring role on ABC / Lionsgate’s “Nashville,” as well as being featured in films like “The Clapper” and “Prize Fighter.” She’s also branched out into commercial work and music videos as well. Her latest film, “Inheritance,” is slated for release in 2020.

I recently spoke with Katie Callaway about her career and life in this exclusive new interview.

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in the arts and entertainment?

Katie Callaway: Absolutely. I’ve always loved performing and the theater and stage. I started really young in life studying classical ballet, and didn’t think being an actress could be a viable career until I was in my pre-teens. That’s when I asked my mom and dad to get me an agent and some head shots. I remember they were a little hesitant at first, but it’s always been on my radar and something that I loved to do. Following your passion and dreams isn’t selfish. It’s a responsibility.

What was it that attracted you to theater?

KC: I’m a big fan of stories and being able to have that one on one, call and response connection with an audience when something beautiful or dramatic happens on stage. There’s something magical about live theater and having an intimate relationship with the people you’re performing for.

You’ve done live theater, movies, commercials and television. As an actress, what are some of the similarities and differences?

KC: They’re all different but it’s all the art of performance. The beauty about live theater is the adrenaline rush you get knowing you only have one shot to get it right. Every night is completely different. In film or TV commercials you might do the take a few times, but once it’s locked in you can put it to bed. You can do a live show twenty to thirty times and still find new ways of falling in love with the character.

Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

KC: I recently filmed an episode of “General Hospital” that aired this past July, which was very exciting. I also have a supporting role in a thriller starring Lily Collins and Simon Pegg called “Inheritance” that’s slated to be released in 2020. There are a few other exciting things coming up that I can’t really discuss except to say stay tuned!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself as an artist so far?

KC: It’s hard to pick just one thing but I find out more about myself as an artist by the characters I portray. The arts are about questioning the status quo, relying on things that have happened in the past, thinking about what lies ahead and then using the art of storytelling to share it.

What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

KC: One thing I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to travel for different roles. It’s nice that the hub doesn’t always have to be L.A. anymore. I’m excited to get more stamps on my passport and seeing different parts of the world.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to someone who may just be starting out?

KC: Keep your foot on the gas. If it’s something you feel called to do then don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. It’s a viable career for anyone as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work. There’s a lot to be said for talent and networking but at the end of the day it’s all about perseverance. Always work to better your skillset and self as a human being. We need to follow the things we’re called to do.

Birthday Reflections at 50

October 5th, 2019 – My 50th Birthday.

I’m sitting here in a daze, trying to comprehend what I’ve just written. It can’t be true, can it? A whole f#cking half century? WOW!

I liken it to the same feeling I had twenty years ago, when the calendar was getting ready to change over to the year 2000 and the eventual dawning of a new millenium. I vividly remember, when I was growing up, that year seemed like it was a lifetime away. I’m talking futuristic, meet George Jetson style distance. And yet, not only have we reached that year, but we’ve now gone almost twenty years beyond it.

The past 365 days have been some of the best and absolute worst days of my entire life. It started in January when my very first interview, with Dan Donegan from Disturbed, was posted in the pages of Guitar World magazine. I will NEVER forget the day I walked into the shopping center on a misty gray afternoon and saw the new issue sitting on the shelves. It was like when Indiana Jones first saw the golden idol in “Raiders of The Lost Ark.” Or the feeling I had when I opened it up and fumbled through its crisp white pages and saw that my name had been printed under “Contributing Writers.”  Knowing that this magazine would be in stores all over the world was surreal. Thinking about it now still gives me chills. I went on to do three more interviews this year – one with Jim Heath (Reverand Horton Heat), one with Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, Dio) and another with Alan Parsons.

Another monumental event that took place this year was my daughter’s high school graduation this past June. One that, when I think about it now, really puts the big FIVE-OH into perspective. I still remember putting her on the school bus for her very first day back in 2006. Back then, I was on the cusp of turning 37 and thought to myself, “Wow! She will graduate the same year I turn 50. That’s so far away.”

And now here we are.

Still makes me think about my own tenure in the hallowed halls of education and the day I received my first student ID card. This was wayyyy back in 1980. I looked at the reverse side of that card and saw “Year Grad – 1987” printed and thought THAT was a lifetime away. Realizing that by this time next year the card will be 40 years old is simply unbelievable to me.

This past year was also the one where I had to say goodbye to the best dog I’ve ever had — just three days before this monumental birthday. To say that I was devastated is an understatement, but a wonderful tribe of family and friends have made the burden a little bit easier.

So, what’s in store for this next journey around the sun? Well, I’m hard at work on two new books. The first is a prequel to “Neapolitan Sky,” which takes place thirty years before the events of that story. The other is another thriller based on the whole ancestry concept. There is a lot of life left to live, art to create, books to write, interviews to be done and most importantly, love to give freely.

This song always makes me stop in my tracks whenever I hear it. Does it do the same for you?

There’s an odd sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still, and that you’ll never be as old as your parents (my father died at the age of 51)… but then you take a nap and wake up to find yourself in that role.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few days of my 40’s is that it’s no longer about the years left in your life. It’s about the life left in your years.