One on One with singer/keyboardists Lawrence Gowan of Styx

One on One with singer/keyboardists Lawrence Gowan of Styx

11988652_1034945939863433_906298225324818860_nWe had the chance to talk to Styx’s singer/keyboardists Lawrence Gowan from the road while on the summer tour with Def Leppard and Tesla. My one on one with Lawrence was just as highly energetic as the live shows are, which I heard are sold out shows. We talked about the surge of younger crowds in attendance and the power of Google and YouTube keeping classic rock alive, new material and a quick glimpse of the show along with some tough questions from fans.

The current line-up is comprised of Tommy Shaw (vocals/guitar), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Ricky Phillips (bass, backing vocals), and on select dates Chuck Panozzo (bass).

Styx has released over 15 studio albums in their 38-year career span and have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Throughout their illustrious career, they’ve performed more live shows since 1999 than all of the previous years of its career combined, they are a nonstop hard working band that delivers an amazing live show. If they stop in your hometown, please go out and see them, they will not disappoint.

SSL – Hi Lawrence, Good Morning! How are you doing?

Lawrence – Good morning to you as well

SSL – Thank you for taking the time to talk with Seattle Sound Live.

Lawrence – I am a little bit envious of you being in Seattle, I love it there.

SSL – We love Seattle too and we are patiently waiting for you to get here, looks like we will be graced with 3 shows this time around. (full tour dates listed below)

Lawrence – Fantastic, that’s great, we are very busy but very happy to be very busy. (laughing)

SSL – Exactly, how is the summer tour going with Def Leppard and Tesla?

Lawrence – The last time I asked about the nuts and bolts side of the tour we are in the top 3 for amphitheater tours of the summer. I have barely seen an empty seat on the tour and it’s been an over the top reaction and the audience seems to be …it’s amazing every single year they seem to be getting more and more attached to a classic rock bill like this and the beauty of it is that every single year, this year is no exception I see more younger and younger people coming to these shows and easily half the audience is under 30 years old and were not even born when some of biggest records were made. So, they are seeing more than 4 hours of classic rock laid out before them, with the young band being Tesla going on first, then us and then Def Leppard. They seem to know the words to every single song and are deemed to be well versed, literally, I suppose as the people that have been with the band ever since the beginning. It is a phenomenal thing to witness.

SSL – That is amazing isn’t it, I kind of know part of the answer why for the surge of the younger generation!

Lawrence – Please enlighten me …

SSL – (laughing) okay well, I don’t want to give my age or anything,

Lawrence – You don’t have to do that, no, no (laughing)

SSL – (laughing) Okay, for example, my brother was 6 years older than I was, so in the early 80’s I grew up with Styx because it was blasting through my brothers stereo (rest his soul) and as I grew up and had kids and they would be exposed to it as well. That’s why I think.

Lawrence – Okay and I think that is unique and counts for a good number of them. BUT, I would add to that, for instance when talking to these younger kids that are at the hotel getting their albums signed or something, I would ask how did you discover the band Styx… and they will say, “oh we know these classic rock bands by name ..You know Led Zeppelin, Styx, YES and Genius…I just google them and suddenly something will pop up on YouTube and we see something from your tour and want to come see your show”

SSL – Oh Wow!

Lawrence – I think the nature of the internet is so pervious and persuades the thinking of so many lives and you can instantly access something you have heard from the past, I will give you a prime example from myself that should reach across decades as well, just last week I had this jukebox from the 1940’s that I had restored I was looking for some 1950’s early rock 78 records and because of the internet, I quickly was clicking around and noticed this song Stardust written by Hoagy Carmichael, which we also share the same birthday, I clicked on that and once I did, it’s like you go down this rabbit hole of discovering all of these different versions of this song , for instance Nate King Cole and a great one with Willie Nelson, so you are suddenly connected and since I can’t go see Nate King Cole, I suddenly felt this urge to go see Willie Nelson just because of that one song and seeing him perform it. That’s something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me but we played in Austin Texas last week and I know he lives there, I wonder if I could ever come there and see him. So, you see how the thought process begins to tumble and it dawned on me that this is the exact way it was described to me by the number of younger people, that related that fact you know the name and we do a lot of our own programming these days. Because where we had some negative follow I suppose , as far as record industry and the major labels, so with the internet it’s been a positive boom to bands that bring around a great live show. I am not being boastful by saying that but we have been doing this every year and the audience keeps getting bigger and bigger. The beauty is in my lifetime I have never seen a form of entertainment that hits me harder than a great live rock show and performance.

SSL – Exactly, I feel the same way about live shows.

Lawrence – So here we are in an age the live experience is the one thing that we cannot download and people are more and more drawn to it.

SSL – I completely agree with you, I think it’s interesting how we, in the older days, we were just subjected to what was on the radio, now we can access anything we want in return opens the doors to a whole new variety of music.

Lawrence – I think it’s cool we are being profiled I don’t even care. (laughing)

SSL – (laughing) Yeah, it’s how that works I do believe.

Lawrence – Maybe one day I will care, right now I am in showbiz, you can dig all you want.

SSL – I have so much for you and such little time, speaking of digging, I would like to dig right in with some fan questions. Some of them are tough questions thou.

Lawrence – Dig in, let’s do it, fire away.

SSL – For starters, you have toured with so many bands, which one is your favorite?

Lawrence – That’s a hard one to say, I will say that with each band we tour with, it’s an amazing now compared to how once upon a time, it was a deeply competitive field that your facing with another band and there are legendary stories of backstage drama that went down with the band in the past, but now we mainly tour with these very established acts many of whom we want to see and may have not have seen in the past. I have never seen for example, Boston. I have been touring too much myself and when we tour with them, it was fantastic, it was a wonderful experience and we got to see their inner workings of how that band kind of that band puts their show together so that is a great thing to do. Over the years we toured many times with REO Speedwagon and that’s a band that has grown in this era the same way we have so we share a great relationship with that band. I will say that we seem to really hit it off with Def Leppard, there is that British sense of loyalty, I am the only member of Styx that was born in Brittan. I was actually born in Scotland. But there seems to be an instant connection with our backstage humor which extended out to the show and that led us to really enjoying each other’s performances and we matured together in the eight years. So, I will make this opportunity to say that Def Leppard is our favorite band to tour with in 2015.

SSL – It is an amazing line up, I just love it.

Lawrence – That’s great I am glad to hear that.

SSL – I was watching a show that you performed in Indiana this year on YouTube…

Lawrence – Oh dear!

SSL – The one where you opened up with one of your melodies, followed by a Queen stint and then carried on to Come Sail Away, do you do that often? Is it just a warm up to engage the fans?

Lawrence – Oh Yeah, Yeah, it depends on time, when I first met the band they seen me do that with my own show, it’s amazing when you are alone on stage with a piano you can get away with all kinds of things and each night can take on its own trajectory, mostly because the audience helps dictate where it leads to. I really enjoy that moment of the show. It involves the audience a lot, it’s like a college of classic rock knowledge.

SSL – Yeah, and its playful. So, let’s give the readers a little preview of the show, how long is your set list?

Lawrence – The whole night is about 4 hours, we get about over an hour, and we really cut down and focused our set on the songs almost the entire audience will know. For example, Renegade, Come Sail Away, Blue Collar Man and Grand Illusion. Along with others like Fooling Yourself and Lady, Too much Time on my Hands.

Check out “Fooling Yourself” here

SSL – Okay, sounds like a good set. Another million dollar question, I hate doing this to you, but what is your most favorite song?

Lawrence – Generally speaking, I have to say “Renegade” is my favorite because that’s the one I don’t have to sing lead on that one, its Tommy Shaw’s song and I get to really observe the audience at the end of the night, because we generally save that one for last. Whether we are in Japan, England, Sweden, America or Mexico, it’s amazing to see where the audience is emotionally at that point and I love witnessing that.

SSL – Yeah, and you can soak it all in…

Lawrence – Yeah, to absorb it in a manner that will stay with me.

SSL – You answered that million dollar question beautifully! I hate being so rough on you with these hard questions.

Lawrence – Yeah, I know these million dollar questions are worth every penny.

SSL – Let’s see what else I have for you, when Styx isn’t on tour, are you working on your solo stuff?

Lawrence – Yes, in fact I have a solo record that is ready to go, just waiting on the right opportunity when I can properly promote it and to actually release it. I can see for the moment we have so much on our plate, there is more of a demand to keep the band around the world and we are happy to meet those demands first and foremost.

SSL – I understand, I just had to ask, what are the plans for Styx after the summer tour? Is there another album on the horizon?

Lawrence – We are working on some new material which is always exciting and I know right now we are on the road until next February. We are booked an awful lot so we keep trying to figure out ways to elevate the show and to meet the demands, it’s a happy place for the band right now.

SSL – I know I was looking at your schedule and you guys are nonstop busy.

Lawrence – yeah we are.

SSL – You guys just did the “Soundtrack of Summer” and I really enjoyed the re-make of Hotel California is there going to be any more of those collaborations in the future with other artists? (another tough one)

Lawrence – I would hope so, there isn’t anything on the agenda at the moment for that right now but I would hope so. That was a really successful thing for us to do with Foreigner and with Don Felder so, I hope there will be more of that coming up, but nothing on the horizon right now, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t suddenly be there 10 minutes after we get off the phone. (laughing)

Check out STYX – Making of the Grand Illusion Pieces of Eight Show – Memphis

SSL – Exactly!! Okay, I have some fan based questions, one is from a musician from Tacoma, Tony DeLisio of Mechanism asked…. What is their favorite album they have recorded and maybe some funny stories from the road?

Lawrence – Okay, the studio album that we did called Cyclorama, which was in the first 5 years that I was in the band and it was a tough one to make because it was the first time we tried to make a record where we all lived in different cities and we had to keep meeting up to make it. It was a tremendous labor of love and I am so happy that we accomplished that. So that is one of my favorite recording moments and we also recorded in some legendary places like the Capitol Tower in Los Angeles and that is a legendry room that dates back to the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s all kinds of great records were made there, so making that record there is tremendous to be near that kind of history. As far as funny stories from the road, they go on….

SSL – Forever? (laughing)

Lawrence – (laughing) Forever, yeah, you know it’s a tough one. I mean we played at the Minnesota State Fair last night, and it was funny that I never thought I would see the day of a box of chocolate covered bacon backstage (laughing) it’s kind of weird. That’s one of many, there is one a day actually. There are all kinds of them, there are some that are fairly common, and like last week we left a band member behind at the gate, because we thought he was in his bunk sleeping. (laughing)

SSL – (laughing) oh my gosh!

Lawrence – We found out about a 100 miles down the road and turned around, came back and picked him up, it can happen to anyone (laughing) luckily it wasn’t me (laughing)

SSL – that’s funny (laughing) here is another one, Joseph K. Jaramillo asked when is the last time they spoke person to person with Dennis DeYoung? Has a reunion EVER been discussed seriously?

Lawrence – I would be the worst person on earth to ask, I have absolutely no idea if that was ever to be entertained.

SSL – kind of irrelevant?

Lawrence – I came into the band after they had split, I have been the new wife for the last 17 years so, as long as people are alive and breathing anything is possible but, that’s is a decision that I doubt that I would be making.

Check out Lawrence’s charming charisma and stage presence in this small clip!

SSL – I figured that, let see just a couple more, these are from Bernita McDowell and Leland … Is Suite Madame Blue really a protest song?

Lawrence – Yes, I sing that one, my perception of that song isn’t really a protest song but rather a great commentary, my interpretation is about a guy or someone that is trying to express a very patriotic state of mind in difficult times. So, I find it to be as relevant today as it was when it was first released in 1975.

SSL – Okay, and is there a venue you haven’t played yet but want to or what is your favorite venue? (another million dollar question)

Lawrence – There are several venues that we have been able to knock off the list over the years, like Wembley in London England a few times and the Tokyo Dome in Japan. I love whenever we play at a NHL hockey stadium, because I am a hockey fan. I am the lone Canadian in the band so we usually play in the arena where the Predators play. So, I love those places. It’s amazing when a venue that you haven’t given great credence to, ends up being your favorite show of the year. It’s amazing that amount of time that you have played and your favorite is the one you least expect. We played at the Iowa State Fair, a few weeks ago and that became my favorite venue, because the audience was spectacular, the night was beautiful, the weather was incredible and the atmosphere was beyond anything we expected, it was almost like a dream. See what I mean? The venue can present itself to be something greater than what a venue is known for its bragging rights.

SSL – Nice! And another one from the ladies and for chuckles…How’s “Lorelei?” (laughing)

Lawrence – (laughing) how is Lorelei? Well, the great thing is we are still living together or she is living with some band member together and when she says be there by 8 o’clock you better be there by 8, you got to love her.

SSL – Ha-ha! (laughing) I have two more hard questions. Who is/was your biggest influence? And what advice do you have for aspiring musicians today?

Lawrence – Again, another moving target, Maybe, most of all, I would have to say John Lennon. He would be my greatest motivator, quickly followed by Freddy Mercury, Paul McCarthy, George Harrison, Elton John, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. I could keep going and going. (laughing) But John is at the top of the pyramid today.
This is another hard question, I am reluctant to say the wrong thing and steer someone down the wrong road, because this is not a “connect the dots” vocation in life. The heart of my answer would be, fall in love with your instrument and fall in love with playing music and see where that takes you, if it doesn’t take you to a professional career at least you will have the joy of engaging your soul with a musical life that will enrich your life in so many ways, great things can happen but if they don’t, music itself at its core with have the most profound effect upon you.

SSL – Yeah, I am so sorry to hit you with those hard questions, you were such a pleasure to talk to, by far the best interview, lots of laughs and that is priceless for me. Seattle Sound Live is looking forward to seeing you in Washington and wish you continued success in the future. See you at the Spokane show!

Lawrence – Thank you Shanna, it was nice to talk to you and we hope you enjoy the show!

STYX official website is www.styxworld.com

Tour Dates with Def Leppard & Tesla
August 28 Grand Forks, ND Alerus Center
August 30 Noblesville, IN Klipsch Music Center
September 01 Allentown, PA The Great Allentown Fair
September 03 Louisville, KY KFC Yum! Center
September 04 Maryland Heights, MO Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
September 05 Tinley Park, IL First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
September 16 Auburn, WA White River Amphitheater
September 17 Ridgefield, WA Amphitheater Northwest
September 19 Mountain View, CA Shoreline Amphitheatre
September 22 Chula Vista, CA Sleep Train Amphitheatre
September 23 Phoenix, AZ Ak-Chin Pavilion
September 25 Albuquerque, NM Isleta Amphitheater
September 26 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
September 28 West Valley City, UT USANA Amphitheater
September 30 Spokane, WA Spokane Arena
October 2 Bozeman, MT Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
October 4 Bismarck, ND Bismarck Civic Center

Their new live album ‘Live at The Orleans Arena Las Vegas’ is a brilliant representation of what present day Styx sounds like.
You can buy “Styx Live At The Orleans Arena” [CD] Here
Track Listing:
1. The Grand Illusion
2. Too Much Time On My Hands
3. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
4. Lady
5. Suite Madame Blue
6. Light Up.
7. Crystal Ball
8. Superstars
9. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) feat. Done Felder
10. Come Sail Away
11. Rockin’ The Paradise
12. Renegade

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Shanna Torp

Shanna Torp

Shanna is a contributing editor at Rock Paper Rock and the resident interview guru. She is currently the Owner of SLT Social Media Services and is gearing up to finish her BA in marketing.


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