Published on May 2nd, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
O.A.R.’s Richard On Talks “The Mighty” Album, O.A.R.’s Influences & The Band’s Plans For 2020
O.A.R. — short for “Of A Revolution” — formed in Maryland in 1996. The group’s ninth studio album, The Mighty, was released back in March and quickly spawned a hit with “Miss You At The Time.”
Together with American Authors, O.A.R. — which consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Marc Roberge, guitarist Richard On, multi-instrumentalist Jerry DePizzo, bassist Benj Gershman and drummer Chris Culos — will be hitting the road for a Live Nation-produced tour this summer. Kicking off on June 5th at the Hampton Beach Ballroom in New Hampshire, O.A.R. is scheduled to wrap the tour in the late summer. Currently, as part of Live Nation’s National Concert Week promotion, $20.00 tickets for many of O.A.R.’s summer 2019 tour dates are now available through Tuesday, May 7th.
Highlights from my interview with O.A.R.’s lead guitarist Richard On are below. The full interview will be airing at a later date via the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast. In the meantime, more on all things O.A.R. can be found online via the band’s official website at www.liveoar.com.
One of the things that impresses me most about O.A.R. is that it seems like you guys genuinely like each other. A lot of bands get on-stage and you go, “This is a business relationship.” But I do realize that a lot of you went to high school together and I’m curious when it was that you went from going, “This is a hobby,” to “This is a career.” If you knew there was an exact moment?
Richard On: Well I think that moment was different for every band member. For me it was when we were playing at Ohio State and we were invited to play the as the opening opener at the release party for this band. We went on at three o’clock. We had no idea how big our band was or how popular the band was just from passing out CDs when kids were going to class or coming in and out of the dorms. You can’t really get a gauge on who is listening and who’s paying attention. And we showed up there and the place was completely sold out…
And then after we were done everyone left and at that moment I knew that we we had something special. I knew that the music was spreading throughout the campus and that people were interested and people were listening. And that was kind of the “a-ha moment” for me where “Hey, this could really turn into something bigger than than we dreamed of.”
When you guys started out playing together, was it all covers or mostly covers?
Richard On: No, we started writing very quickly our own songs. That’s something that we always wanted to do. Of course you know our first eighth grade talent show performance there were a bunch of covers for [Eric] Clapton and Pearl Jam. But soon after that we wanted to write our own songs. I mean, we were definitely inspired by the artists we were listening to, but we wanted to create something that was our own and try to find a sound that that made us excited about playing music together.
Were Clapton and Pearl Jam the artists that made you want to start playing guitar? Or was it a specific album in your case?
Richard On: For me personally, The Cure really got me inspired to start playing guitar from a song point of view. That was more of my inspiration. As far as energy of being in a band, Pearl Jam was huge on all of us. Just seeing them onstage and their energy and their performance was mind-blowing. I mean, I remember just after school every day we’d watch Pearl Jam videos and that made us really excited about being a band. As far as playing guitar, I mean Clapton was a huge influence on me, still is. All the greats, [Jimi] Hendrix, of course…
Was guitar your first instrument? Or did you start out on piano like most people kind of had to?
Richard On: You got it, you got it. If you grew up in an Asian household you had to play the piano or the violin, and my aunt taught piano lessons. I played piano for about eight years before picking up a guitar.
In your case, did you find that even though you kind of dreaded it at the time that it helped you with chord structure and music theory and all that?
Richard On: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I didn’t really understand what was going on. It was more like… “I don’t really want to be playing something that was written by someone who died hundreds of years ago.” I wasn’t interested in that. But then when I started playing guitar, I started seeing the connection, the theory connection, and a lot of that started to make sense. And yeah, it was super-helpful.
When I did some Q&A day with you last year in advance of your winter tour I asked how The Mighty was coming along and all that and you said, “Well, we’re still making it.” And here we are, it’s done. When exactly did it get finished and how long was the process of making The Mighty?
Richard On: The process probably started, as far as writing songs… There’s songs on the record that are these five or six years old that we just never completed or we just never felt good enough to make the record. So the process could have actually started there. As far as recording and starting to track stuff, that probably started in maybe October. We had a pretty solid demo of “Knocking At Your Door” and then slowly but surely, after the winter tour was finished. We had a lot of time to really focus in on it and we wrapped it up… Now we’re getting ready to go on tour. So we’re trying to figure out, “okay, how do we how do we play these songs live and still keep the energy that they have on the record?” That’s the fun part. That’s the challenge.
And will you be playing a lot of the record on-tour?
Richard On: We are expecting to play every song on-tour. That’s always the big challenge because our catalog is so big and everyone wants to hear a lot of different songs from different eras of the band, but we will do our best to play those songs. I mean, we absolutely love the record. We love the songs and we’re excited to just see how they how they resonate live.
Beyond this summer tour and knowing that you have a new record out, how far in advance or how far ahead are things booked for O.A.R.? Like for example, do you know what 2021 looks like? Or are you more of like a “six months at a time” kind of band?
Richard On: We’re going a year in advance pretty structured and then two years kind of an outline. We’ve got to think ahead. You got to think about the future. You’ve got to think about what direction the band’s going to go in, how much we’re going to tour or what new music to record. There’s a lot of things that go into consideration when we’re planning. We’re already definitely talking about 2020, for sure.
Is there anything that the band hasn’t yet accomplished that you’re still hoping to?
Richard On: Gosh, I don’t know. I mean, we’re always up for the challenge for anything. And at the same time, we never expected anything, you know? So I don’t think we’ve ever set our goals on like, “You know one day we’re going to win a GRAMMY or we’re gonna do this or do that.” We work hard and we try our best and we still have an opportunity to you be on the radio or make records and tour. And so we don’t take that for granted. Every chance that we still have we’re gonna do it and where that leads us we don’t know. Hopefully it’s something bigger and better than we’ve ever done. We’re just gonna keep trying.
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Richard On: I’m just excited for everyone to hear the new music, and hopefully people come out and put some butts in the seats and have a great time listening to the new tunes.