Tag: Music

Steve Lukather Discusses His New Autobiography, ‘The Gospel According to Luke’

In his new autobiography, The Gospel According to Luke, guitarist Steve Lukather tells the story of how he and his high school friends became the most in-demand session players in L.A., and then went on to form Toto, a band that continues to defy the odds and has sold more than 40 million albums.

Co-written with Paul Rees, Lukather’s biography is an engaging, hilarious and at times tender look into the life of one of music’s most accomplished guitarists and session players. His list of musical achievements alone are enough to fill an entire book. The five-time Grammy winner (and eight-time nominee) has worked with everyone from Boz Scaggs and Paul McCartney to Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. He was once asked to join Elton John’s touring band and played guitar on Michael Jackson’s Thriller – the biggest selling album of all time. Then there’s his personal, brotherly relationship with the Porcaro brothers and Toto, and all of the highs and lows in between.

The Gospel According to Luke is more than a time capsule of life, love and redemption. It’s a treasure trove of information for anyone wondering what it was like being in the studio and working alongside some of the greatest artists, producers and engineers in music history.

Guitar World recently spoke with Lukather about his new book, session work, gear and more.

What made you decide to write a book about your life and career? Was it something you always thought about doing?

I originally wasn’t looking to do a book at all. A few years ago I got invited to the Grammy Museum to do a Q&A with Scott Goldman. It was one of those interviews where he asked me questions about my whole career, and I didn’t know what was coming. I remember the room was packed and as I was talking, people were howling in the aisles, laughing at all of my stories. When I came offstage, my agents came up to me and said, “You have got to write a book.” From there, I started getting calls from publishers and it morphed out of that. We spent a few years doing it, editing and rewriting. It was hard because there’s a lot of life I remember clearly, and a lot where they told me I had a good time! [laughs]

What was the writing process like?

It was very cathartic and brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad. The session years, in particular, brought back a lot great memories. Those were wonderful times for me.

How did you become involved in session work?

My father saw being a pro musician as something more attainable than a rock star. I played by ear from the ages of seven to 14 and then took proper lessons. From that point, I met the Porcaro brothers. Both they and their father were session players. I started reading liner notes and following all of the great studio guitar players I looked up to, like, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon and Ray Parker Jr. I also happened to be geographically placed where I could actually meet these guys. Jeff [Porcaro] knew them all because Jeff was in Steely Dan when we were in high school.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Steve Lukather by Clicking Here!

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Interview: Smithfield’s Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder talk music, touring

Photo: Jason Myers

With hook-laden melodies, clever songwriting and rich harmonies, the partnership of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder (Smithfield) are fast becoming one of Nashville’s most in-demand acts. The duo, whose family connection spans three generations, defines their music as an infectious blend of rock and pop mixed with traditional country.

Smithfield spent the year as part of the Granger Smith tour before hitting the festival circuit this past summer. Now the pair has embarked on their first nationwide radio tour promoting their latest single, “Our World.”  But don’t expect Smith and Fielder to slow down and hibernate over the long winter months. The duo plans to hit the studio again to record more new music to be released early in the New Year.

AXS recently spoke with Smith and Fielder about Smithfield and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did the two of you come together to form Smithfield?

Jennifer Fielder: Trey and I have known each other since we were about ten years old. Our families go back three generations, so our grandparents and parents all knew each other. Growing up, our families did parties together and Trey and I met at one of our New Year’s Eve parties. As far as how we formed Smithfield, even though Trey and I knew each other, we grew up singing separately. I was doing country music in college when Trey’s rock band had broken up. He reached out to me and the two of us got together. That’s when we discovered our voices blended perfectly together. It was fate that we were meant to sing together, and our journey began from there.

AXS: How would you describe your sound?

Trey Smith: I come from a rock background and Jen comes from a more traditional, country background. But our sound is really focused on our harmonies. I like to say that it’s a rock and pop mix that’s rooted in country music.

AXS: How does your songwriting process work?

JF: Sometimes it starts with an idea, title, or a melody that Trey has on his guitar. Other times, our co-writer will have a great idea and we can latch on and tell the story. Sometimes we may just be chatting in the room about life and an idea will come out of that. You can never plan to write a great song. It just happens.

AXS: What can you tell me about your recent single, “Our World?”

TS: One of the great things about Nashville is that there are so many great songs being written every day. “Our World” was a song that was pitched to us by a friend. When a song connects with you and can bring out an emotion, it’s something you want to cut. This was one of those situations where we knew it was a Smithfield song the moment we heard it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Smithfield by Clicking Here!

Interview: John Schneider discusses ‘Dancing With The Stars’, new music and downloadable App

For the multi-talented singer-songwriter, actor (and dancer), John Schneider, telling stories is in his DNA. The same can also be said for his amazingly talented and beautiful “Dancing With The Stars” partner, Emma Slater. The couple’s innate ability to weave deep layers of emotion into their routine is a big reason why they’ve done so well on the popular ABC series this season.

As Schneider continues his whirlwind run in the competition, he’s also busy promoting his new music single, “Devil In The Mirror,” as well as his John Schneider App. A portal which gives fans access to all of his events and social media as well as a one-stop shop for his music and merchandise.

AXS recently spoke with Schneider about what it’s like being on “Dancing With The Stars”, his new single and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: What’s it been like working with Emma Slater this season on “Dancing With The Stars?”

John Schneider: It’s been great. Emma’s a storyteller, just like me. Once we started to gel, she started thinking about songs where we could tell great stories. She really went out of her way to find the right song, the right movement and mood for “Smile” (our recent dance) so that we could tell the story about me missing my mother but finding my smile at the same time. It’s not always about the dancing. It’s about what you’re saying, and telling stories is in her soul.

AXS: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about dancing?

JS: All of them are different, so it’s about technique and frame. You’ve got to keep your frame rigid and that boils down to keeping your elbows up, especially in the Waltz. You have to look like you have a broom handle stretching elbow to elbow straight across your back. It always feels like I’m doing it but when I look back at the video my elbows are not up. For me, it’s a lot like golf. If you get too comfortable with your swing, chances are it’s wrong.

AXS: How does dancing in front of so many people compare to performing music or acting?

JS: The assumption everyone has is that the nerves kick in when you get to Monday night and all of the people, but that’s actually when I feel most comfortable. In this case, comfort is really not my friend because comfort equals “elbows down”. But what we did this past Monday night was beautiful. I know this because they have about a hundred stagehands constantly moving stuff around and working their butts off. After our dance, I noticed several of them were crying. That to me is more important than technique. I’m not designed to be a perfect, technical dancer. I’m designed to connect to an audience. So, when I see a 52-year-old man in a black t-shirt crying underneath a light after I did a dance, I know I did something important and touched someone. Our job is to entertain and make you feel something for a certain amount of time, and for that I’m grateful.

Read the rest of my
Interview with John Schneider by Clicking Here!

Interview: Gin Blossoms’ Robin Wilson discusses the band’s new album, ‘Mixed Reality’

Photo: Shervin Lainez

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than twenty-five years since Gin Blossoms’ monstrous breakthrough album, New Miserable Experience. A record which was a much-needed alternative to the flavor of the week pablum and grunge scene and featured the hits “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Found Out About You,” and “Allison Road.” Perhaps nothing captures that same spirited sentiment better in 2018 than the band’s brand new album, Mixed Reality.

Produced by the legendary Don Dixon, Mixed Reality features the jangle influence Dixon made famous on early albums by REM and The Smithereens. At the same time, vocalist Robin Wilson’s lyrics and delivery on tracks like “Break,” and “Face The Dark” are infectiously reminiscent of the band’s early days but also show a deeper level of musical maturity. A testament to a band who, even after a quarter of a century, still has a lot left to say.

AXS recently spoke with Robin Wilson about the new Gin Blossoms album, Mixed Reality, memorable moments, touring and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: It’s been eight years since the band’s last album, No Chocolate Cake. What inspired Mixed Reality?

Robin Wilson: Motivation. It had been too long and we were anxious to record again and do something to propel our career. Mixed Reality is a companion to New Miserable Experience and an album I feel we would’ve wanted to make in 1990.

AXS What was it like having Don Dixon produce Mixed Reality?

RW: It was very exciting. Don Dixon [and Mitch Easter] recorded the first two REM records. Those were at the core of our influences as a band. I remember when we went into the songwriting, I felt very connected to my twenty-year-old self when I was listening to REM, The Smithereens and those records that inspired us.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like? 

RW: Generally, I keep a notebook of lyric ideas and when I come up with a melody, I’ll look through my list to see what leans into it. For a few of the songs on this album, I sat down with the guitar and wrote the melody and lyrics at the same time. A good example of that is the song, “Break.” I had that verse and chorus of that song within about ten minutes. It took a few weeks to add the bridge and refine it a little, but once I felt like I was onto something I became confident in the material.

AXS: What can you tell me about the track, “Face The Dark?”

RW: I had originally written that song thinking it was going to be about the end of my marriage. But once I had it pretty well wrapped up, it felt more like it was either about, to, or from Doug Hopkins, our original guitar player. Having already been thinking of REM and the records Don and Mitch had made, it was really easy to think about Doug too and some of my memories of him.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Robin Wilson by Clicking Here!

Interview: Bassist Trevor Horn Discusses His Role in Dire Straits Legacy tour, career milestones

DSL (Dire Straits Legacy) is an experience and celebration of the Grammy-Award winning British rockers’ music. It’s an evolving contingent that features former members of Dire Straits – Alan Clark (piano/keyboards), Danny Cummings (percussion), Mel Collins (saxophone) and Phil Palmer (guitar/musical director). Other renowned musicians, including drummer Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty), bassist Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Yes), Marco Caviglia (vocals/guitar) and Primiano DiBiase (keyboards) have also joined in various stages to tour and record.

The contingent, which has already toured Europe and South America and released their first original album, 3 Chord Trick, late last year, is now embarked on a U.S. tour that will run through mid-October. The tour gives longtime fans the opportunity of hearing hits like “Sultans of Swing,” “Walk of Life,” “Romeo & Juliet,” and the quintessential MTV classic, “Money For Nothing,” performed live for the first time in decades.

AXS recently spoke with bassist Trevor Horn about the tour, his career and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How did you become involved in the DSL project?

Trevor Horn: I became involved last year because one of the guitar players was someone I use a lot on my records. He told me the band was doing some gigs in Brazil and needed someone on the bass. It’s been an interesting experience and has made me have a lot more respect for Mark Knopfler as a writer.

AXS: What do you think makes the music of Dire Straits so special?

TH: I can tell you straight off. The lyrics are real and the playing is terrific. Just the way Mark Knopfler writes; he takes things a lot of people use and turns them on their head in a really good way. Obviously, his guitar playing is great too.

AXS: What’s next for the group after this run of U.S. shows?

TH: We’ll be off to do some shows in Bucharest and Italy. I’ll also be doing a show with my own band in November at the Royal Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Trevor Horn by Clicking Here!

Interview: REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato talks touring, signature Les Paul guitar

It’s been another amazing year of touring for classic rock titans REO Speedwagon. The band, which includes Kevin Cronin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Amato (guitars), Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards) and Bryan Hitt (drums) has recently completed a thirty-four city tour with Chicago that went along with nearly two dozen more shows with fellow legends Styx and Don Felder.

With a tireless work ethic and a career that’s spanned more than four decades with songs like “Roll With The Changes,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” and “Back On The Road Again,” REO is the quintessential rock act.

The band is currently out on a run of sold-out, headlining shows across the U.S. to finish off the year. AXS recently caught up with guitarist Dave Amato to talk about REO’s tour, the second generation of his Signature Les Paul guitar and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: REO Speedwagon continues to sell out shows across the country. Do you have an opinion on why fans can’t seem to get enough of the band after all this time?

Dave Amato: It’s the songs. The songs are what continue to live on. The parents who grew up with the music now have kids in their twenties who come to the shows and know all the words. People always come up to me and say, “It’s so fun to come to see you guys because you always look so happy when you’re up there”  [laughs]. The truth is that even after all of this time we still genuinely like each other. This year, we played twenty shows with Styx and Don Felder and then we did about thirty-four shows with Chicago. Even now that we’re back out on our own we’ve managed to keep up the intensity. It’s like family and we’re happy to be out there.

AXS: As a guitarist, is there a particular REO song that’s your favorite to perform?

DA: They’re all fun to play. I get to do all the signature solos but I also have the opportunity to stretch out a little bit on a song like “Back On The Road Again” where it’s a little more free form. But really, what’s not to like? I get to solo on every song [laughs].

AXS: Can you give me an update on your upcoming Signature Les Paul guitar?

DA: My original HD-TV model with a single coil pickup and Floyd Rose has been doing great. So I asked Gibson about making a few in other colors and they built me one in Sunburst  It was so beautiful that they asked about designing a second, two-pickup model guitar. We’re doing a few experiments now and the guitar should be ready to unveil at the NAMM show in January. Just like my original, it will be based on the Axcess model but with two pickups, a Floyd Rose, and a ’58 neck. It feels like a historic guitar but it’s a different kind of animal!

Read the rest of my
Interview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

Concert Review: REO Speedwagon Brings Memories, Hits to Sold Out Penn’s Peak Performance

(l to r): Bryan HItt, Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato

Friday, February 22nd, 1985. Musically speaking, it’s a day that’s cemented in my head, much like my wedding anniversary and the day my daughter was born. It’s one of those days where something magical happens, and for some reason known only to the musical gods, one that you remember forever. I’d recently turned fifteen, and my buddy Mike and I were eager to cash in our concert tickets at the local college gymnasium, Stabler Arena.

Acoustically, I’m sure a basketball court with a makeshift stage wasn’t the greatest of places to play, but for pimple-faced teens with little cash resources, it was a prime spot to catch a band in your hometown without having to fork over all of the lawn mowing money you made last summer just to get bus fare to the bigger cities like Philadelphia and New York.

February 22nd, 1985 was special because it was first time I ever saw REO Speedwagon, who were out in support of their recently released album, Wheels Are Turnin’. An album I had already worn out on my turntable. The first video from the album, “I Do’ Wanna Know” was already a hit on MTV, and a tasty ballad called “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was steadily making its way up the charts toward #1.

(l to r): Neal Doughty Bryan Hitt, Kevin Cronin

Since that fateful evening thirty-three years ago, I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than thirty times. I’ve seen them perform at music festivals, in intimate theaters and as part of a two or three-band package at large arenas. I even traveled to Los Angeles last summer to catch them perform with Styx and Don Felder as part of their United We Rock tour. Yes, I’m one of those fans.

Although seeing them in a distant city is fun, it’s an even bigger treat whenever they come to my town, and last night it was at the beautiful Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.

On the calendar it was the final night of summer, and as I approached the box office I noticed a large sign prominently displayed in the window — “REO Speedwagon –  SOLD OUT”. That sign and what was to follow was a friendly reminder that just like fine wine the band, which consists of Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt, has only gotten better with age.

Walking on stage to the drum intro of the classic “Don’t Let Him Go”, a song that’s been the band’s staple concert opener for decades, REO launched into a blistering set of songs spanning the group’s 45-year career. Songs like “Music Man,” and “Keep Pushin’” were driving and powerful reminders of the band’s early club days, while the aforementioned “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” was both symbolic and sentimental.

Songs from the band’s monster album Hi Infidelity were also featured prominently during their hour and twenty-minute set. In addition to “Don’t Let Him Go,” REO performed “Tough Guys,” “In Your Letter,” and “Take it On The Run.”

At one point, Cronin took time out to pay homage to the band’s original guitarist, Gary Richrath, who passed away in 2015. Richrath left the band in 1989 but his memory lives on in the song “Son Of A Poor Man.” It was a song Richrath wrote about his life growing up and one which Cronin said summed it up perfectly.

“Time For Me To Fly”, another fan favorite and a song that I remember closed out the show in 1985, was featured midway into the set. It’s a classic rock staple that Cronin performs on an acoustic guitar with a unique tuning, and these days segues into Bruce Hall’s blistering bassline before the infectious “Back On The Road Again”. REO finished their main set with another round of classic rock heavy artillery – the thundering “Ridin’ The Storm Out”, complete with blaring sirens.

Bruce Hall and Dave Amato

After a short hiatus, the band returned for an encore, with Cronin sitting at the piano telling the sold out audience about how quickly lives can change if you choose a different path at the last minute. He then told the story of waking up one night back in 1980 with a song idea in his head. Instead of ignoring it and going back to sleep, Cronin got up and recorded the idea on his Walkman. The result would become the band’s first #1 song, “Keep On Loving You.”

The band then launched into one of their most recognizable songs, “Roll With The Changes,” which features Doughty’s iconic Hammond organ and guitarist Dave Amato’s fiery guitar prowess.

The one thing I’ve noticed during every REO Speedwagon show is that there’s always some sort of surprise, and this time was no different. Before leaving the stage for the final time the band performed an inspiring cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart”. Petty, another hero of mine and who, like Richrath, had recently passed away, reminded me of how far I’ve come in thirty-three years and just how fragile we all are.

As I strolled out of the venue and into the final hours of summer, the fog was as thick as pea soup. Time was still moving. Tomorrow, mother nature would officially begin her process of ushering in cool temperatures, crisp morning air and changing the leaves from green to bright red, orange and yellow.

It was then that something else occurred to me, and I found myself once again drifting back to that cold February night in 1985. It was something Cronin had said during tonight’s set to the die-hard fans who’ve been with the band from their earliest of days to tonight’s sold-out show at Penn’s Peak.

Rock and roll will keep us young forever.

REO Speedwagon Set List (Penn’s Peak – Jim Thorpe, PA)

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
In Your Letter
Keep Pushin’
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Tough Guys
Son of A Poor Man
Take It On the Run
Time For Me to Fly
Back On the Road Again
Ridin’ The Storm Out

Encore:

Keep On Loving You
Roll With The Changes
Listen To Her Heart (Tom Petty Cover)