April 9th, 2015 by Cassie Morien
In the 70s, the most popular city in Massachusetts raised a rock band that stole the city’s name and the hearts of listeners around the world. Now, almost 40 years later, the band refuses to surrender stadiums, airwaves, and their loyal fans.
BOSTON is known for their contagious, ageless singles, like “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” “Rock and Roll Band,” and “Amanda.” Their 1976 self-titled album remains one of the best-selling debut albums in U.S. history. BOSTON went on to release five more studio albums. The band traveled the world with a dreamy spaceship. With them, the world mourned the loss of their original lead singer.
The greatest American rock band continues to conquer the scene.
Founder, guitarist, keyboardist, chief-songwriter, and producer Tom Scholz has performed with many talented musicians who have helped contribute to Boston’s incredible legacy, but no one more than the band’s lead guitarist Gary Pihl.
The endlessly talented and wise Pihl took time out of his busy schedule (preparing for another fantastic tour) to speak with us before Boston’s SunFest debut. In the interview below, Pihl shares with us his path to BOSTON, his philanthropic side projects, and the “glue” that has kept BOSTON in our ears and hearts all these years.
In your upcoming tour, you have a good chunk of Florida dates. I believe five, including West Palm Beach. Do you look forward to anything in particular when coming to Florida?
The audience. Whatever it is, Florida has something special in the water. Everybody is just so friendly and ready to rock whenever we get there. We always enjoy going to Florida.
What can SunFest fans expect to see and hear on Sunday, May 3?
Certainly we will be playing some of the hits that everybody likes, but we will also be playing some songs that we haven’t played for quite awhile. Of course we have a Facebook page and we had asked for recommendations, so people wrote in with a whole bunch of songs that we hadn’t played in a long time. We have a bunch that we are going to throw in there that will be audience favorites.
For this tour, will you have seven members on stage?
Not quite on stage at the same time.
Our drummer, Jeff Neal, is a high school teacher up in Maine, and he is such a dedicated guy. We said, ‘Gee, we got some dates for the band starting in April and into May,’ and he said, ‘Oh gosh, I’m still in school at that time! Can you find an alternate drummer?’
So that’s exactly what we did.
There are normally six of us in the band, but our seventh person is an alternate drummer and his name is Nick D’Virgilio. He is an excellent musician and he’ll be with us in Florida, for the first month of shows. Then Jeff will take over and do the rest of the tour.
I know many talented musicians have shared the stage with BOSTON over the years. Do you still need rehearse as a band? Do you have any fun induction rituals?
Is there a hazing process, is that what you’re asking? [Laughs.] Not quite.
But you’re exactly right, we’ve had some wonderful musicians over the years. Everybody is very professional when they come in, prepared, and they know the songs.
They all say, ‘Yeah, I know these songs backwards and forwards, I hear them on the radio so much!’ We’ve been blessed to have some terrific musicians with us on all our tours.
The other side of the question is yes, we definitely rehearse, and we’ve started already. Even though we’ve played the songs all these years and everybody knows them, there’s a special chemistry that happens when you get everybody all in the same room, and play, and get that groove going. That’s something you can’t replace through iChat or Skype. You have to be there in the same room and do it.
What is challenging now that wasn’t, say, 20 years ago? What has become easier?
Oh boy. In my mind, everything keeps getting easier. At least we are really able to enjoy ourselves and the fans.
I guess that’s what the difference is. When you’re a band just starting out people don’t know your songs. The first time you play a song in front of people, you don’t always get that wild enthusiasm, because it’s the first time they’ve ever heard that song. But now people obviously know all the songs we’re playing. Even our newest album [Life, Love and Hope], which came out now two years ago, people know that because it’s been two years. But I guess that would be the challenge, that whenever you have a new album people don’t know [the songs] and you have to pull it off, make sure it sounds as good as the record.
But to play all the old songs that everybody is really familiar with, and to look out in the audience and people are smiling and singing along, there’s no better feeling than that in the world.
You just brought up “Life, Love, and Hope,” which leads me to my next question. What are you most proud of on that release?
Well, certainly the title track. And we do that one live. I think [fans] are going to enjoy that.
I’ve read about your two side projects, December People and Color Three. Can you tell me a little about those bands?
Yes, I’ll start with Color Three first.
One of the terrific musicians we’ve had over the years is Kimberley Dahme. She’s a wonderful singer-songwriter, lives in Nashville. She has toured with us [BOSTON] many times, but she has had her own musical career.
One day a promoter was putting together a big benefit show in Chicago for the veterans and they called her up and said, “Would you come and perform at this [benefit]?” Of course she said, “Yeah, sure!”
And the promoter said, “But you know, it’s a big show. There’s going to be 100,000 people or something. ebony porn Could you put together a band, to make it a little bigger event for yourself?” And she said, “Uh yeah, okay? Sure?”
So she called me and Jeff, our drummer from BOSTON, and we said, ‘Absolutely, lets do that!…Should we have a name for the band or should it just be Kimberley Dahme?
Kimberly said, ‘Actually, my son came up with a name! He wants to call us Color Three.’ And we said, ‘Okay, that’s fine!’
Of course, we are all songwriters, so we put together an album’s worth of stuff and recorded it. Our thought was that maybe every show we do, we do as a benefit, for some cause, which ties me into December People.
Every show we do as December People, we do as a benefit for a local food bank. My buddy, Robert Berry, who’s played with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer –right now he’s in the Greg Kihn Band–, but he wanted to put together something for the holidays where we would play traditional holiday songs but in the styles of classic rock bands.
We start a song that sounds like The Who doing “Pinball Wizard” with the acoustic guitar but instead we go into “Joy to the world!” And of course the audience gets it right away. They laugh and clap. We do “The Night Before Christmas” that sounds like “Stairway to Heaven,” and we do “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” that sounds like ZZ Top. Instead of “Uha, ha, ha,” we say, “A-ho, ho, ho! You better watch out, you better not cry!” with that bluesy ZZ Top feel.
The audience loves it because they get the joke, and every show we do is a benefit for a local food bank. We just do [December People in] November and December. It’s a lot of fun!
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