Published on April 29th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
+LIVE+ Singer Ed Kowalczyk On National Concert Week, R.E.M.’s Influence & The Future Of +LIVE+
A multi-platinum band hailing from York, Pennsylvania, +LIVE+ is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Ed Kowalczyk, guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer/percussionist Chad Gracey. With over 22 million albums sold worldwide, +LIVE+ has earned two number one albums (Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi), thanks in large part to hits like “Lightning Crashes,” “Selling The Drama,” “Pain Lies On The Riverside,” “The Dolphin’s Cry,” “I Alone,” “All Over You,” and “Lakini’s Juice.”
The original lineup of +LIVE+ regrouped in late 2016, and released a new EP titled Local 717 last year. Meanwhile, +LIVE+ is booked for yet another arena tour this summer, co-headlining big venues alongside Bush with Our Lady Peace also on the bill. This tour — known as the The Altimate Tour — kicks off on June 6th in Connecticut. For a limited time, discounted $20 tickets will be available via Live Nation, thanks to National Concert Week; the event runs from May 1st to 7th.
While interviewing +LIVE+ frontman Ed Kowalczyk by phone, we discussed National Concert Week, the future of +LIVE+ and plenty more. The full interview will be broadcast in the near-future via the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitzpodcast, while more information on Kowalczyk, +LIVE+ and National Concert Week can be found online at www.freaks4live.com.
Ed Kowalczyk: Well thank you very much. You know, I do what I love. I think that’s a huge part of that and just being able to make music as much as I get to do it, it’s a beautiful life. I’m really grateful for it… I just feel so happy, so grateful. We’ve had of course our ups and downs, but overall, it’s been a hell of a ride and we’re having more fun than ever, so I guess that might be it.
You’ve sold millions upon millions of albums with Throwing Copper, the album after that sold well, the album before that sold well, but of course there’s that awkward period of where you go from being one of the biggest bands to getting a little smaller to now being an arena level band again. I’m curious when you figured out, “Hey this is a career, this is not just based on hits.”
Ed Kowalczyk: Well I have to say that from the very beginning, we all in the band just wanted to emulate our heroes who were all about making sure that the art and the creativity came first… Bands like R.E.M. were huge influences on us because we just saw them and bands like that doing it for real and really coming from an artistic place. Of course they’ve been very successful commercially too, and that happened for us pretty quickly. The anchor was always this the inspiration that we got from our early influences like R.E.M. and that you could have a career, you could be successful commercially, but there was this center of gravity of artistry that bands like that always seemed to stay super-focused on. So that that inspired us and I think it served us well.
We never wanted to repeat ourselves from record to record, regardless of what the record company said. “Hey kid, do Throwing Copper part two, three and four for us, please.” But we never were interested in that. We wanted to stay focused on being spontaneous and creative and and whatever that meant at the time.
Secret Samadhi was a departure in a lot of ways as you went spiritual at a time when radio really wasn’t spirituality-oriented. I’m curious if you had a lot of pushback from the label on that.
Ed Kowalczyk: Oh yeah. We had pushback from the label a lot, especially after we sold eight million records or so. There was just more pressure to keep that train running. And so that butted up against our higher vision of being real artists. And so Secret Samadhi was in some ways a real sort of statement that we weren’t going to play the game, that we were going to do what we wanted to do. I’d like to think that we did that with every album, give or take. We tried to stay there.
I mean, I think that now in hindsight 25 years after Throwing Copper, the fact that people are still so interested in us and and the fans are still so loyal… I think history has shown that we like staying focused on that. Regardless of the ups and downs we stay important to our fans.
Ed Kowalczyk: Absolutely. We have an amazing studio in our hometown of York in Pennsylvania . We plan to get backlin there as soon as we can. It’s funny, because when we got the band back together after our breakup… It’s surprising how creative we wanted to be right away, besides just doing the shows we got right back in there. But it’s been a catch-22 of the intense interest in the band again on the touring side that we have, I guess, a high-class problem now. Like finding the time to to do that.
So we’re hoping that after this tour with Bush this year, in October we’re gonna get our heads back in that creative space and look to do another EP for next year and we’re super-excited about Local 717. We had to leave it kind of halfway, like we would have put another maybe another EP right away, but we ended up being on-tour so much, so we’re trying to find that balance now.
Another thing that’s very interesting to me about +LIVE+ is that even though you have these songs that everyone knows all the words to, not a lot is known about you personally. People, for example, they can recognize you guys, “Oh yeah that’s Ed from +LIVE+,” but they don’t really know much about you. Is that something that you regret at all? Or is there something that you wish more people knew?
Ed Kowalczyk: I go back to the days of starting the band and the kind of artists that we were interested in and that we’re influenced by, all my favorites I didn’t know a lot about. There was a mystique, there was a focus on what I considered really mattered, which was the music and not so much on the personalities. The day to day stuff, which is of course nowadays almost everything, social media and all that… I think that’s still just sort of the old-fashioned part of who we are as far as how we came up and what we focus on and what we value.
We just don’t really take that part of it that seriously, the showbiz part, you know? Having every nook and cranny cut out there. It’s more like we’re focused on the music and we feel like we’re vehicles for that. And we’ve always been okay with being more nameless and faceless and just letting the music speak. I’ve always felt like that was pretty important.
You’ve also worked over the years with a bunch of different artists and different one-off projects. Like, I remember you collaborating with Rachael Yamagata on something. Are you big on following new artists and new music? Or do those sorts of collaborations come one at a time
Ed Kowalczyk: Oh, I’m all over the place. The last few years I would say 80 percent of everything I listened to on my Spotify list or daily mixes is probably pre-1960s records, blues records, early rock n roll, really… I’m all over the place in terms of finding new music. I mean, that’s the one thing I really do enjoy about social media and all of the ways that you can find out about music now. It’s super-exciting because it’s really all over the place.
And oh my gosh, you mentioned Rachael. She sang with me on one of my solo albums and I worked with Tricky. I worked with Peter Buck from R.E.M., which was amazing for me as a fan, he played on one of my solo albums. But new music, old music, my ears always perk up no matter what.
So I guess in closing, Ed, any last words for the kids?
Ed Kowalczyk: For the kids? Come on out… Okay, here’s the talking point: We’re going on tour with Bush this summer and National Concert Week is coming up for Live Nation and they want everybody to know that from May 1st through May 7th you can get your tickets for $20 bucks. I’ve done my talking point job there. (laughs) So come on out and see us, it’s gonna be fun.