On Stage: DeWyze looks to move past American Idol

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Lee DeWyze

Many musicians are reaping benefits from exposure of their music via television — in reality competitions or show placements in popular series.

Lee DeWyze had fared well with his experience in what used to be called “the small screen.”

The talented singer-songwriter built a legion of fans through his performances on the “American Idol” TV show. DeWyze was the overall winner in the ninth season of the show.

“I’ll always appreciate ‘America Idol’ but it’s not what I hang my hat on,” said DeWyze, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles.

Television also helped him gain exposure when his song “Blackbird Song” was used in the TV series “The Walking Dead.” “Blackbird Song” has over 12 Million YouTube views collectively, and 5.8 Million Spotify streams. The single has sold more than 100k copies and was considered one of the top 10 most influential syncs in 2014 from the Musicians Guild of America.

The versatile entertainer is currently touring in support of his brand-new album, “Paranoia,” which was released on this weekend via Shanachie Entertainment.

On February 19, DeWyze will bring his tour to the area for a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) with Frank Viele as the opening act.

“The album is out on February 16 and this is just a short early tour for it,” said DeWyze. “A lot of the cities we’re playing, I’ll be playing the record for the first time. There will be a lot of songs that will feel very fresh and very new for my fans.

“I’ll probably be playing four or five out of the 10 album tracks at each show. I’m really looking forward to this tour. It’s going to be fun to play these new songs. Last month, we released the first single form the album – ‘The Breakdown’ – and it got 300K hits the first few days.”

DeWyze released his debut album “So I’m Told” in 2007 and followed with five more full-length albums through 2016.

“Paranoia” is DeWyze’s seventh studio album to date and first full-length set of new music since 2016’s Oil & Water. The single, “The Breakdown,” was selected for a key scene in Showtime’s top-rated show “Shameless,” which aired on the January 21, 2018 episode.

DeWyze successfully road tested many of the songs from “Paranoia.”

“I learn things about songs by playing them live,” said DeWyze. “Singing songs live brings a different energy. And, when I perform them live, I learn how the songs are supposed to be sung.

“I recorded ‘Paranoia’ here at my own studio in North Hollywood. I wrote all the songs and the melodies and played the music. I played all the instruments – including MIDI and drums.”

All of the albums tracks were produced and recorded by DeWyze along with his friend and engineer Nico Grossfeld.

“Nico is super-talented,” said DeWyze. “And, he really gets me. There’s no ego when we’re working together.

“It’s nice to have your own studio.  There’s no need for rushing. And, you learn where the right spots in the room are. It’s home away from home.”

DeWyze definitely did not do any rushing when he was making “Paranoia.”

“I spent a year-and-a-half making this album,” said DeWyze. “The whole record was a labor of love. A lot of writing and thought went into it.

“For example, with the song ‘Carry Us Through,’ I did it and then didn’t like it. I erased everything off the track except the vocal and started over. It’s the right song choice.

“A thing happened while I was making it. Everything was very ethereal and spacey and open – and super dark at the same time. That really shaped the other music. I feel really good about the song choices. I stepped outside the box.”

Video link for Lee DeWyze – https://youtu.be/J5X_Z46S4b0.

Frank Viele

Frank Viele is a road warrior — a musician who knows that the key to success is taking the music to the people. For the past few years, he has been touring in support of his album “Fall Your Way,” which was released late in 2015.

“I stated writing the songs on tour in 2015,” said Viele, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston.

“I released ‘Fall Your Way’ and did my first national tour. Prior to that, I was playing mostly regionally. That album was a game-changer. Last year, I did 89 concerts in 31 states. And, I played in the O’Hare airport (O’Hare International Airport in Chicago).”

The airport performance was an unexpected surprise for all involved.

“I was in the airport waiting for my flight to Wisconsin,” said Viele. “There were a lot of flight delays. When we were in the airport’s waiting area, the flight captain saw me with my guitar case. He asked – ‘Can you play guitar?’ I said – ‘Yeah.’ So, he asked me to play for the passengers.”

Video link for Viele at O’Hare — https://www.facebook.com/FrankViele/videos/10154421671473175/.

He could have played the Kinks’ classic “Tired of Waiting” but that might have stirred things up with the disgruntled passengers. Instead, he charmed his captive audience with the Bob Seger favorite, “Against The Wind,” while a video was even recorded by the flight attendant.

Viele, who initially built his reputation performing with his band the Manhattan Project, offered the following description on his Facebook page — “A bourbon-drinking, cartoon-watching, blue-collar entrepreneur, his musical roots started on his grandmother’s piano as a young child, developed as a teen tailgating with an acoustic guitar in the parking lots of Dave Matthews Band concerts, and blossomed on the road as a young adult performing as the quintessential ‘weekend warrior’ in the East Coast jam and singer/songwriter scenes. Viele has music embedded in his DNA.”

“Music was around me for a while,” said Viele. “I had a brother who was nine years older so I listened to what he listened to. My grandmother was a stride piano player from Macon, Georgia. “I have her piano – a 1971 Wurlitzer Baby Grand – and I write songs on it when I’m not writing on guitar.

“When I was a kid, my stepfather owned a restaurant and every Saturday night was karaoke night. I said I want to sing so they let me sing. I loved soul music. In high school, I lost my stepdad. The guitar was sitting there and it became a release for me. Music was important for me spiritually. And, other people liked my music.

“In college, I started as a pre-med major at Stonehill College in Maine. I missed music so I transferred to Marist College where I was a business major with a music performance minor. For me, it’s not that I want music — I need it. I put myself through college by playing guitar.”

Viele spent eight years as a high-ranking sales executive at WB Mason. All the while, music still was his major interest – and his fate.

“I’ve had a lot of time on the road driving by myself,” said Viele. “I’ve been seeing the country in a whole new way – and writing songs. I do a lot of writing in hotel rooms – songs from Motel 6.”

Those songs will soon be sprouting like early-spring daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths.

Viele’s new album “What’s His Name?” is scheduled for a March 23 release. The album is billed as “a personal tour de force of passion, candor and craft.”

“‘What’s His Name?’ comes from a guy who has seen almost half the country – me and my guitar,” said Viele. “I love the record. It’s the best I’ve ever done.

“You’ll notice a lot of slide guitar on the album. I thought that slide would work well with some of the songs so I learned how to play slide guitar.

“I recorded the album with Vic Steffens at Horizon Studios in West Haven, Connecticut. We probably had 15 sessions over two years. We had a lot of songs to choose from. We got it down to 24 and picked 12.”

The studio phase is over. Now, Viele is again in a phase captured in the title of a 60s dong by Tom Rush – “Urge for Going.

“The more I tour, the more I want to write,” said Viele. “The more I write, the more I want to tour.”

Video link for Frank Viele — https://youtu.be/sa23P14WwRsv.

The show in Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $29.50.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Y&T on February 20 and Uriah Heep on February 21.

Another concert on Presidents’ Day will feature a totally different style of music.

Fire from the Gods

On February 19, Fire from the Gods will perform at the Trocadero (10th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215-922-6888, www.thetroc.com) as part of the metal-drenched “Of Mice & Men: The Defy Tour 2018,” featuring headliners Of Mice & Men along with Blessthefall, MSCW and Cane Hill.

Fire from the Gods is now in its second incarnation.

The band was a hip hop/metal hybrid when it formed in Austin, Texas in 2010. The original lineup, which included guitarist Drew Walker and bassist Bonner Baker, vocalist Eric July, guitarist Tony Esparza, and drummer Judson Curtis, released its metal-core debut, “Sleeping with Anchors & Mirrors” that year.

The band that is performing tonight at the Trocadero Theatre features AJ Channer (vocals), Jameson Teat (guitar), and Richard Wicander (drums) along with founding members Walker and Baker.

This line-up signed with Rise Records and released its album “Narrative” in 2016.  In 2017, Fire from the Gods released “Narrative Retold,” a re-release of their 2016 album.

“‘Narrative’ was released in April 2016,” said Channer, during a phone interview last week form a tour stop in Detroit, Michigan. “Fire from the Gods had been around for 10 years and had popularity in Texas and the Southwest.

“When I joined the band, they had hip hop vocals but it was mostly metal core. When we got in the studio, it started to take shape with a different look – a whole different direction. The old stuff was heavier with metal core.

“Now, we’ve moved into a territory where we’re flirting with an active rock sound and I think we’re really comfortable with it.

“Initially, we thought ‘End Transmission’ was the one to be the first single.  I thought ‘Public Enemy’ would be better. But then, ‘Excuse Me’ was the one. The popularity of ‘Excuse Me’ was intended to appeal to a mass audience. We put it out there and people dug it.”

Now, Fire from the Gods has released a video for the next song pulled from the album – “Evolve.” The video was directed by Channer.

According to Channer, “‘Evolve’ and the concept for the video was something I thought about for quite a bit even before we wrote the song. I wanted to use satire and bit of comedy to show how crazy and – sadly — how bad we look as a society these days. We’re constantly chasing our tails in a never-ending cycle of insanity.”

The video starts with a black screen with the following written in white letters – “It seems the whole world has descended into chaos.”

“We’re at a point where it’s unite or die,” said Channer. “We have to accept diversity. The only chance is uniting for a common good.”

Channer was born in the Bronx to a single mother of Jamaican descent and spent his childhood moving between London, New York City, Los Angeles, Norfolk, and even Ghana where he attended middle school. Drawing from this diverse experience, he speaks with unmitigated honesty about the state of the world.

According to Channer, “This album is the personal narrative of a minority man living in major cities and being American. There’s a socio-economic theme throughout the whole record that carries from each song to song. It’s all about the underdog. We’ve all had to fight for everything we have in this band. The political climate in our country is quite racially and socially charged. There are a lot of issues and energy people are expressing along with misguided hate and anger. I want to channel this in music that can resonate. This is where we come from and who we are as a band.”

The album was recorded during the Christmas holiday in 2016.

“We recorded the album at House of Loud Studios in New Jersey to record with David Bendeth, who has worked with Paramore, Of Mice & Men and Breaking Benjamin. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn so the band stayed with me and we commuted to New Jersey. We started two weeks before Christmas and finished January 2.

“We were under pressure. Bendeth’s time in the studio was booked for Of Mice & Men but something happened and they couldn’t do it. The label said to David – we have this new band…would you like to work with them. He said yeah but told us that, because of the budget, we only had a month-and-a-half. It was a pressure cooker.

Video link for Fire from the Gods – https://youtu.be/JvDrm914334.

The show at the Troc, which features Of Mice & Men, Fire from the Gods, Blessthefall, MSCW and Cane Hill, will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.50.

On February 20, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will present a tasty twin-bill featuring two talented singers from the U.K.

Ed Rogers

It’s a show that musical Anglophiles will love …a Brummie, who sings and writes songs and a Liverpudlian guitarist/singer/songwriter…. Ed Rogers, who was born and raised in Birmingham, and Marty Willson-Piper, who grew up just outside Liverpool.

Some people are “never at a loss for words.” Rogers, who just released his latest album “TV Generation” in 2017, is “never at a loss for songs.”

“I’m already finishing off demos for my next album,” said Rogers, during a recent phone interview from his home in lower Manhattan. “I’d like to fond a low-fi studio and knock it out in a week.

“I also have demos that I made for a power pop band – under an alias. And, Steve Butler from Smash Palace and I have been collaborating. I also have about another 20 songs that I recently wrote.

Over the past decade, Rogers has been extremely prolific, releasing seven solo albums and two with Bedsit Poets, a Folk/Brit-inspired trio whose name was given to them by The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone. Rogers released his seventh solo album, “TV Generation,” via Zip Records in June 2017.

In the gritty tradition of Kevin Ayers and Ray Davies, “TV Generation” merges Rogers’ authentic and reflective lyricism with his powerful melodic voice. The result was an album with roots in both Brit-pop and Brit-folk. He was joined in the studio by a variety of talented musicians including James Mastro (Ian Hunter), Sal Maida (Roxy Music, Cracker), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Geoff Blythe (Dexys, Black 47, Elvis Costello), Marty Willson-Piper (The Church), Jane Scarpantoni (Lou Reed) and the album’s producer Don Piper.

“When I was making the new album, I finished 20 songs in demo form,” said Rogers. “Don Piper didn’t like six of them. By the time he came back, I had written another four. All the songs on the album were written by me – and they were written in a lot of different styles.”

The tunes show the wide range of Rogers’ influences – a tune which has the lyricism of Ray Davies, a song that reflects the jangly sound of the Byrds, a song with strings opening it and vocals that have Bowie in their DNA, a rocker that traces its roots to the “British Invasion” from the 1960s, a lilting song with a samba-influenced melody.

“I consider myself to be an observational writer,” said Rogers. “I like to tell a story along with the music.”

Born in Birmingham, England where he spent the first 12 years of his life, Rogers moved to New York City just as the British Invasion began in the States. He started his career behind the drum kit, which he played in several garage bands. When a subway accident in October 1985 left him without his right arm and right leg below the knee, he turned to songwriting.

In addition to his impressive songwriting career, he co-produced 20 shows for the extremely successful series “The Beat Goes On” at NYC’s The Bottom Line. He has co-hosted the Irish Rock Revue for several years, at well-respected venues such as The Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Highline Ballroom and Outdoors at Lincoln Center.  In October 2017, Rogers co-produced, co-hosted and performed at “Marc Bolan & T. Rex 40th Anniversary NYC,” a two-night, sold-out celebration presented at one of NYC’s premier venues, City Winery.

Rogers’ first solo album “Sunday Fables” was released in 2004 on Not Lame Recordings. The following year his Folk/Brit-inspired trio, Bedsit Poets (whose name was given to them by The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone), released “The Summer That Changed” on Bongo Beat Records. His second solo album “You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been,” which was co-written and produced by George Usher, was released in 2008, as was the second Bedsit Poets album “Rendezvous.”

“Sparkle Lane,” his third solo effort, found him revisiting his British roots, with songs inspired by his early years growing up in Birmingham. In 2011, Rogers released “Porcelain,” which was a departure from his previous work with a much edgier vocal and musical approach. The following record, “Kaye,” which was released in 2015, is an album inspired and dedicated to the late Kevin Ayers, an English singer-songwriter, psychedelic legend and founding member of Soft Machine.

“In my live shows now, I’m performing songs from all my albums, including four or five from ‘TV Generation,’” said Rogers. “I rotate a lot of songs in and out of the set list.”

Willson-Piper is best known for his tenure as a lead guitarist, singer/songwriter and occasional bass player, with disparate acts – the Church, All About Eve and The Saints. As a songwriter he has written songs for and with Charlie Sexton, Aimee Mann, Jules Shear, Linda Perry and Grace Slick.

His long list of eclectic projects includes four albums with English project Noctorum, two albums with MOAT, a collaboration with German/Swedish composer Niko Röhlcke, and as a touring guitarist with legendary Swedish Progressive band Anekdoten.

Willson-Piper has also worked as a radio DJ in New York City and teaches songwriting and guitar through his website. Most recently, he has performed all over the world with his own band featuring interchangeable line ups. This latest fascinating incarnation features his German wife Olivia on violin, Hannah Moorhead on bass and Don Piper. On guitar.

Video link for Edward Rogers – https://youtu.be/bWu56ADYefY.

The show at the World Café Live, which also features Marty Willson-Piper, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Another show at the WCL on February 20 will feature the Gin Blossoms on the Downstairs Stage. On February 21, the World Café Live will present Phoebe Bridgers along with Soccer Mommy on the Downstairs Stage and Matt McAndrew on the Upstairs Stage.

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