Interviews

Interview: Ed Kowalczyk of +LIVE+

The original line-up of the multi-platinum selling +LIVE+ are returning to the UK for the first time in over 13 years with an intimate live show at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on Sunday 30 June 2019.

Tickets are available now from http://bit.ly/2P2OUtf

Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums, percussion) – the original +LIVE+ line-up – returned triumphantly in 2017. Playing 26 shows throughout the US, including major festivals such as Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Arroyo Seco, they also played a run of arena dates with Guns N’ Roses and solo headlining shows in five different countries. Their return is summed up perfectly in this short video.


ANTIHERO: You’re in London, I believe, very soon, 30th of June, to play your first show in quite some time.

Ed Kowalczyk: Yes. Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I believe the date is toward the end of June here. I have it right here, the date

ANTIHERO: That’s your first UK date in quite a few years.

Ed Kowalczyk: Absolutely. I believe the last one was 2006. So, it’s been awhile.

ANTIHERO: Just wondering, obviously the band,  remain eternally popular. Was that the only date that you had planned, or further down the road did you have any plans to maybe do some more dates in the UK?

Ed Kowalczyk: We definitely want to do more dates in the UK, and in Europe, in general. The demand for the band on tour has been so high, that we are only able to find this two-week, three-week window in June, to make a tour happen. So, we could only get the one show this time.

But we definitely have plans to come back next year, and do more dates in Europe. And do a longer tour.

We’re touring this summer, all summer with Bush, which starts in a couple of weeks and goes all the way through October. So we get through that, and then get some new music together and come back and play some more UK dates next year for sure.

ANTIHERO: Of course, the band, since your reunion in 2016, you’ve toured all over.the world. Your popularity has not diminished-, there’s still a definite global interest in Live. You’re obviously still in huge demand from the fan base. I just wonder, would it be possible, just to talk about that difficult period, prior to the reunion, when the band actually split up.

Ed Kowalczyk: Sure. It started as the band wanted to take a break in 2009. And we all agreed on that. And then the break turned into a breakup, two years into it. And went right until about 2016.

It was tumultuous. There were some painful moments there. But I think around 2015 or so, things started to chill out between us. And I remember texting back and forth with Chad Taylor, like, “Hey, man. How are the kids? How’re things going?” We just missed each other. We had finally got to a place where we weren’t fighting with each other, and we were just taking that break that we needed.

And before I knew it, we were like, “Hey, let’s get a beer.” And I went back to my hometown in Pennsylvania, and we met up at a bar there. And Chad and I had a couple of beers. And literally, within about 24 hours, the four of us were back in a room playing songs. And it was really magical. We were all just really happy to see each other.

And now you fast forward to now, and I think the band is performing at such a high level of power and confidence. And I know that we wouldn’t be playing this well had we not had the break. Because there’s just new energy to it. It’s really amazing.

ANTIHERO: You indicate there, that it seemed to be quite easy to get back together. But it was, as you said, also, a particularly difficult period. I do recall reading that time about court cases, and a lot of, I want to say name-calling. Different things on both sides. It couldn’t really have been that easy.

Ed Kowalczyk: Yeah. There’s definitely a process of forgiveness to it. When we look at it now, it’s like, we’ve been in this band, we’ve had this band since we were 13 years old. And I think if you were to put it on a scale, there are so many good years, versus the not so good years. That once we really got that break, that we needed from each other, the good years won.

We realized we have a lot more in common for the joy that we’ve shared than any kind of negativity. So I think we just allowed that to take the front seat. Just the good. Let’s celebrate the good years and good feelings. And what we really love about each other. Let’s celebrate that, and not worry about the bullshit anymore.

And when we got our heads around that, it was very, very natural. Because at the end of the day, we’ve known each other for so long, we’re like family.

ANTIHERO: People are going to ask you now that the band have been  reunited for several years. The last Live release was an EP released back in September 2018. I expect that this will be much asked  but when can the world expect some new Live music?

Ed Kowalczyk: We have this tour that we’re doing, of course, we’ll be in Europe in June, and then we have a US tour that takes through the end of October now. Then we’re going to be heading back into the studio right after that. We have our own studio in our hometown in Pennsylvania that is really great.

So, we’re excited to get through this tour. Maybe write some songs on tour. And jam a little bit at soundcheck. Get some demos going. And then get back in the studio in the fall.

ANTIHERO: Of course, you weren’t totally away from music- you didn’t take a complete break. Once the band split, you didn’t take a complete break from music. You had three, I think, solo albums out.

Ed Kowalczyk: Yeah.

ANTIHERO: I just wondered, in terms of creating music, whether it’s with Live or, indeed, your solo albums, how do you approach the songwriting process? Do you have to adopt a different mindset for something for a solo record, as opposed to a Live album?

Ed Kowalczyk: Not really. I’m the main songwriter on Live as well. Most of the music starts just me and acoustic guitar. And so, I just kept that going as a solo artist. Of course, playing with different musicians and producers, made it different than Live, of course. But the songwriting process, no, didn’t change that much for me.

Besides the guys in the original band, I didn’t really collaborate on the solo stuff at all. I was just writing everything myself like I always do. So, no, it wasn’t that big of a shift.

Of course, touring was a lot different, because I did a lot of acoustic shows. I did a lot of different lineups and approaches. So that was quite different.

But the songwriting, no, it didn’t change too much.

ANTIHERO: What about your sources of inspiration for songwriting? They would obviously have changed over the years, as you’ve become more educated. And become more aware of what’s going on politically, environmentally in the world, etc.

Ed Kowalczyk: Yeah. I would definitely say my influences now are much different than they were when I was in high school when we were starting out. I’ve gone backward, in the sense that I think I blew through Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones, all these bands that I knew about, of course, everybody knows about them, but I didn’t really count them as big influences in the early days of our band. And now I don’t think I listen to much music that’s been made past 1960 in the last year or two.

Because I’m just getting my education a little bit late on a lot of the blues, and early rock and roll, early country music. I’ve been really listening to a lot of that. And so I’m excited to see how Live sounds with those types of influences, as opposed to what was influencing us in the early 90s or late 80s.

ANTIHERO: With Live, you’ve had several number one albums. And for many musicians that would be the pinnacle of success. But I just wondered, having had achieved that level of success, what still motivates and drives you today as a musician?

Antihero Store 728x90

Ed Kowalczyk: Songwriting for me is such a challenging, exciting, gratifying process, that … It’s such a mysterious process, too, because your best songs come when you’re not even thinking about them at all. Everybody says that. So there’s a mystery to it that’s really attractive to me. I love the songwriting process, so much. And I know that I still have so much to do. So much I want to try. That I just …

That keeps me focused on what’s coming next so much, that I don’t really think about the big achievements that the records have made. I’m appreciative of that, but it’s not really what motivates me. I’m still, like I said, so intrigued by the songwriting process, that I just dig into it.

And that’s just in my bedroom. That’s not even about getting out there and playing the songs for people or anything. That’s just my craft, and my passion, for it. It’s still really strong.

ANTIHERO: So, essentially, you’re more focused on looking forward rather than looking back?

Ed Kowalczyk: Yeah. For sure. What are we doing next? That’s what motivates me. Yeah.

ANTIHERO: I mentioned several number one albums and the success that the band has already achieved. How did you personally deal with fame, and the lack of personal privacy that goes with it, when that came along? That must have been very difficult. It would be difficult for most people.

Ed Kowalczyk: Yeah. It was challenging at first, because of the nature of my lyrics. They were very spiritual, and not run of the mill lyrics. They’re alternative in that sense, in a way that they’re personal, they’re spiritual, they have that vibe. And so it was challenging, in the beginning, to say, “Okay, now these really personal, spiritual songs that I wrote in my bedroom are going to be heard by millions of people potentially, or thousands.”

And I had to get used to that. But the fans, from the beginning, were so supportive. I think a lot of it was, we took a lot of risks, being that kind of band, singing about those kinds of things, about these big issues in life. And I think for as many people as said, “That’s not my cup of tea.” The fans, on the other hand, fell in love with that.

They fell in love with what made us unique. And so I always felt like on stage, especially into today, very comfortable with my fans. It’s like a big family. I feel connected to them in a way that only music can do that.

So, I never get nervous on stage. I never feel out of place. I always feel like I’m at home. Which is an incredible thing.

ANTIHERO: Of course, there have many changes in the music industry, in the music business, since you first started out. I just wonder, is it a better place these days, to be a professional musician, or not?

Ed Kowalczyk: I have to say, from our personal perspective, as Live, we are very grateful for the fact that we started our career when we did, and achieved the kind of success that we did early on when there was still a semblance of the classic recording industry, and promotions. Because it enabled us to solidify a fan base all over the world. Before the technological revolution.

We look at the technology now, and social media, and we’re excited about it. Because we can be. We have the luxury really as an established band to embrace it at a different level.

But for a new band, and I talk to new artists all the time, I feel how challenging it is. Because there are so many ways that people consume music now, that it’s hard to find the focus on streaming services and that kind of thing.

In our day, in the early days of making records, of course, there was a very specific way that you did things. You had the record company, and then you picked the song, and you would go to this radio format. It was all very specialized. Now it’s just all over the place.

So, I think it’s a mixed bag in that sense. I think for new artists there are challenges there, for sure. That we didn’t deal with as a new band. But, at the same time, it’s super exciting to be able to put out a song and have it instantaneously available internationally. That’s really fun for us. Because we really get excited about that.

So, I guess it’s really a matter of your perspective, and where you’re at in your career, as to how you appreciate it, or you don’t.

ANTIHERO: Of course, you’ve worked in the music industry, both solo and with Live, for a long period of time. What would you say would be the most valuable lesson that you’ve personally learned through working in the music industry for so long?

Ed Kowalczyk: I think overall, what I’ve always focused on, which I think has served me and Live really well, as a band, is the fans, and the concerts. And making sure that concerts are a special event for people in their lives. Not just getting up there to rehash the old songs, and get a paycheck. It should be a peak experience for the fans. It should be something that they take with them home and it inspires them.

And we’ve always been really focused on that. And I think all these years later, the fact that we’re still playing a lot of the big venues that we did, as you said, when we had number one albums, back in the 90s, we’re still in a lot of those same venues now, I think is a testament to the fact that we’ve always taken that set seriously.

Every show has to be like it’s the last one. And I did that solo as well. Even when I was just playing with an acoustic guitar, I put it all out there. I never phoned it in. And I think that that serves us really well these days.

ANTIHERO: Just returning to the forthcoming London show on the 30th of June, I just wonder, in terms of setlists will you be sticking to what you’ve played in America, or because it’s your first UK show in quite some time, will you be maybe pulling out some tracks that the band maybe hasn’t even played in quite some time?

Ed Kowalczyk: Yes, yes. We just did two days of rehearsal in Nashville Tennessee last week. And we were talking just about the European tour, and that we want to make it slightly different, some different songs than what we’re going to play in North America. But it’ll be a show that gets to every album. Of course, all the hits that we have will be in there. A couple of new cover songs, that are really exciting.

So, we’re going to curate a European set that I think fans are going to be really happy with.

ANTIHERO: Ed, just a final one. I’m sure you’ve done many, many interviews over the years. But if the roles were reversed, who would you personally like to sit down and interview?

Ed Kowalczyk: Oh wow. I would say, Bob Dylan.

ANTIHERO: Right. Yeah.

Ed Kowalczyk: He just seems like a cool interview. Every interview I’ve ever seen with him, he’s so mysterious and cool. I think it would be a trip.

ANTIHERO: That’s brilliant. Thank you very much. And hopefully, I’ll get to see you when you come back to the UK. Can’t actually make this London show this time, but as I said, hopefully when you return, I’ll get along to see you.

Ed Kowalczyk: Absolutely.

ANTIHERO: Thanks.

Ed Kowalczyk: Thank you so much. All right take care.

Antihero Store 728x90
Tags

Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close