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Cover Story – 7th Heaven

| October 1, 2015 | 3 Comments
7th Heaven (2015) L to R: Mooshey, Cox, XXX, Hofherr

7th Heaven (2015)
L to R: Mooshey, Cox, Heisler, Hofherr, Kennetz (photo Dan Machnik)

 

Technically speaking, this may be the 30th anniversary of Chicago rock mainstays 7th Heaven, but mention the milestone to founder Richie Hofherr, and it may as well be a passing footnote. Sure, the band’s performed alongside everyone from Bon Jovi and Kid Rock at Soldier Field to Journey, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Neon Trees and eons more, but with at least 250 headlining shows on the books every year, a continuously swelling catalogue, and of course, the band’s signature “30 Songs in 30 Minutes” medley that regularly gets reworked, there’s simply too much coming down the pipeline to get sidetracked reminiscing about yesterday.

“It’s not necessarily a [nostalgic time] because our train is still moving at such a fast pace and it’s really blazing right now,” the guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist shares during a late night dinner at the Stonewood Ale House near his home in Schaumburg after playing to more than 10,000 fans at a suburban festival (the same weekend as Riot Fest and Zac Brown Band’s Wrigley Field sell out).

“We prefer not to have to stop and go down that road yet because we’re still on our journey, so I don’t know if I want to reminisce about it. I think our band has more to accomplish before we should be celebrating, you know?”

For starters, the group that’s also currently comprised of fellow co-founder/drummer Michael Mooshey, guitarist/vocalist Nick Cox, bassist Mark Kennetz and recently added front man Adam Heisler just dropped a trio of projects ripe for the plugging, including the new studio CD Next, the double disc retrospective The Best Of 1985-2015 and the Blu-Ray Live On The Oasis Of The Seas.

While the visual collection taps into their arsenal of covers as diverse as Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock, “Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance,” the audio installments are entirely original, cleanly executing the band’s brand of melodic pop and alternative rock.

“The new record shows a nice growth for us,” considers Hofherr. “Our new singer Adam (Heisler) is a great addition to the band and he’s a great songwriter. He was in Dot Dot Dot and The Fabulous Janes and brings really great, positive energy. We love having him in the band and we share a lot of similarities and visions of what we want to do…This new record is a little bit more alternative than our normal records, but I’m okay with that.”

“I liked everything Adam brought to the table and I welcomed him as a writer. I wrote about half of it, but I was flipping a house and I’m building a house, so Adam wrote the other half and helped me produce it. It’s the first 7th Heaven record somebody helped me co-produce and he did a great job. It’s funny because some of the AOR guys want to hear more guitar-driven rock, but we’re not going anywhere. We’ll do another record and we’ll fit their needs. We’ll do an alternative record, a pop record and then you go back and forth. I think that’s the awesome part about being in 7th Heaven.”

Though Hofherr’s musical and real estate pursuits would probably seem like a full plate when paired together, it’s a mere scratching of his scheduling surface. After some careful addition, it turns out this king of multi-tasking runs no less than 14 companies, many of which are wrapped up under the NTD World umbrella (the band’s record label, publishing company, booking agency, management and more) with additional dabblings as diverse as writing and producing other artists (Mecca, William Beckett of The Academy Is… and even some of the pre-fame Fall Out Boy guys), graphic design, video production, philanthropy, a credit card processing company and a travel agency tied in with 7th Heaven’s annual cruise.

“No, I don’t sleep much,”he lets out with a laugh, letting IE in on his secret of answering emails into the wee hours, hitting the sack around 6 a.m., waking up at noon and spending time with family right up until show time. “I’m a very fast paced individual. As a kid, I was very hyperactive with a lot of energy and my mind still races, but I’ve learned how to harness and focus that when I need to get a job done. If I have to focus on something, that speed becomes an asset to myself and allows me to balance my time.”

Miraculously, Hofherr’s managed to remain a dedicated family man now, a decade into his marriage with two boys under the age of five, all primary factors in 7th Heaven’s decision to simply play around the city and suburbs rather than hit the road like back in the day. “There’s nothing in my life that’s made me happier than being a dad- nothing even close- and I’ve done some really cool things in my life,” insists the humble rocker, who just so happens to have three Billboard chart-topping singles (“Sing,” “Better This Way” and “Stoplight”) to his credit, along with all the usual performance perks that come with having the virtual keys to the city (“Mancow’s Morning Madhouse,”a Walter E. Smithe/Chicago Cubs commercial and a Chicago Bulls game to name but a few). “My wife’s a little tougher and I’m the sappy one that’s crying when I don’t see them. I’ve been married ten years and it’s awesome. My wife’s very supportive.”

In addition to firmly guarding his family ties at home, Hofherr wants 7th Heaven to be a band literally any age group can catch in concert. As the conversation continues, it’s apparent he has no time for negativity, controversy or any kind of typical rock star drama, but truly wants to break down the barrier between the band and their fans, which currently spans practically everyone from eight to 80-years-old. “I think what makes our band unique is we transcend generations,” he confirms. “We didn’t really set out as a goal to do that, but it just kind of happened where you see mom and dad having a great time with not only their kids, but maybe even their mom and dad, so you have three or four generations from one family coming out to see the band, and somehow, we’re touching all of those people. I think we create such a positive energy and environment that people of any age can sense it and they share it with us for a period of time. I really do care about people and want them to have a good time. Not everything in life has to be so negative.”

However, there is one minor misconception 7th Heaven as a whole wouldn’t mind clearing up, mainly directed at more casual listeners who don’t own any of the band’s music, but only see its name on many marquees around town and make an instant assumption. “Some people know that we live in a cover band ecosystem and they may not realize that for an original band, we’ve released almost 800 original songs!” he contends. “That’s like less than one percent of the bands on planet earth in the history of time, and granted, not all of them are good, but when it comes to all 42 songs on The Best Of 1985-2015, I can stand behind them all. The only reason why none of them are major hits [outside of Chicago] is we didn’t want to fund them by choice or we didn’t have the resources at the time. I can’t justify the money to promote a song in Utah when we’re not going to go there. That’s nothing against anybody living there, but we’re kind of like the residency band in Chicago.”
Continues Hofherr: “I know that sounds funny, but I can tell you I swear on my hand to God we’ve had people come over from Germany, Sweden, Australia, Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania and so many other countries and cities. They come because they became fans on the internet and they ask if we’ll be coming there and I say ‘we don’t want to tour. I don’t want to leave my sons’ so they come here. I tell them ‘come to Chicago. It’s a great place to visit and this is a great weekend to come.’ And sometimes I say, ‘hey, want to grab dinner afterwards?’ I appreciate that they gave a crap to come see my band!”

In hindsight, it’s all pretty remarkable to consider 7th Heaven amassed such a sizeable following locally, nationally (and even internationally) without ever signing a single record deal throughout its entire career, a voluntarily choice that astonishingly transitioned from the cassette trend of the ’80s, the CD boom of the/’90s through the download / steaming era of today. Granted, that independence allowed the group to do absolutely whatever it wanted over the years (like release the almost absurdly ambitious 700 song Jukebox box set), but also stemmed from sheer indifference when it comes to the typical music industry measuring sticks.

“I don’t care if we’re number one, two, three, ten or twenty in the landscape of some thing,” Hofherr asserts. “It’s nice to be number one at something, but it doesn’t define success. Success is that you executed what you set out to do, not some barometer chart based upon somebody else’s conclusions of what success is…I am not motivated by money and I’m not motivated by fame or popularity or any of that. I truly just want to work. Nothing is more fulfilling in life than setting a goal and achieving it.”

As a fluke power outage shuts down the bar where Hofherr’s holding court slightly earlier than expected (though he still gets a few “hellos” as patrons exit by generator light), it’s only fitting to revisit the question of just how a band with no major label, limited touring experience and minimal radio exposure outside Illinois could’ve possibly thrived for 30 years, especially considering countless acts with all those aspects in place haven’t lasted half as long?

“I think we found a great core group of people in our organization – past and present- who care about what we do,” he hypothesizes. “We have pride in playing, we have a great time, we created a great ecosystem, we see the happiness they bring us and we try to bring that happiness back to the audience through our performances. It’s a really healthy high to have in life and we’re a very positive light in a dark world.”

“Unfortunately we live in a world where there’s so much hatred and anger and fighting and wars and depression, but we want to make people realize it’s just a perspective and life can be as fun as you want it to be. We’re not out trying to be the best band in the world or size up against anyone else. We truly just enjoy playing and performing and that’s what we’re trying to do. We could be your flavor of the week or not. You can like us or not, but we’re just having fun. And hopefully nobody can fault us for just having a good time!”

Appearing 10/9 at Hollywood Casino, Joliet; 11/6 at Austin’s Fuel Room, Libertyville.

-Andy Argyrakis

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Comments (3)

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  1. Sue H says:

    Hey, how come you only mentioned 4 members in the cover photo? You forgot Blair (Adam) the lead singer.

    Are you sure? Mentioned in photo tag, 4th paragraph, 6th paragraph…
    -Ed

  2. Alyson says:

    7th Heaven brings much joy to me in a world filled with negativity. They all appear to genuinely have a blast helping us enjoy our experience. They take time to be personable with the people who follow them, which even furthers their incredible value. Wonderful group of gentelmen.

  3. Kimmy says:

    It is amazing, thinking about watching 7th Heaven in High School, with Richie Hofherr in the battle of the bands! Spandex, big hair! So proud of him for keeping the dream alive!

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