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Stage Buzz Q & A: Ed Kowalczyk of Live

| September 3, 2018

On the surface, it resembles any other cleverly-conceived summer shed tour – alt-rock powerhouse Live co-headlining a massive jaunt with folk-rocking combo Counting Crows, celebrating the 25th anniversaries of both. Great bang for your concert buck, all told. But to Live leader Ed Kowalczyk – who acrimoniously quit the band in 2009, then later rejoined in 2016 – it signifies so much more. It’s the fourth time that he and Crows leader Adam Duritz have been on the road together – the singers are old friends at this point – and it also marks the official reformation of Live’s founding members, a surprise only the most observant fan could have seen coming. Additionally, the group has quietly been writing and recording together again, and the results – as heard on the galloping new single “Love Lounge,” from a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled EP – are the first new tracks from the group in seven years.

Kowalczyk can’t help it – he feels reinvigorated this time around like he’s caught his second wind. And, he’s happy to report, it all feels like a fairytale ending for the once ill-fated Live. “It’s like a dream, and we’re pinching ourselves daily because we’re having such a blast,” he says. “Seeing us come back together like this, and be as creative as we have – not just with the shows but with what we’re doing in the studio, as well – has just been a wonderful thing.”

ILLINOIS ENTERTAINER: So what is a “Love Lounge,” exactly?

ED KOWALCZYK: Thinking about that song, at the moment you hit a bar, I mean, what better name than The Love Lounge? It’s kind of a fantasy bar I’ve had in my head – who knows? Maybe I’ll open one called The Love Lounge one day. But lyrically, it came to us through Zack Lloyd, our guitar player who is touring with Live and is now part of the writing process, as of last year. He sent me this riff, and in a stream-of-consciousness, I started to go with it, because it had such a great vibe and a beautiful arrangement. Then Chad Taylor, our guitar player, produced and arranged it, and the energy was just infectious right away. We actually got to play it for the first time in concert in Boise the other night, and the response was just through the roof.

IE: But you’ve got more new songs in the pipeline, right?

EK: We do. We’ve got an EP that’s ready – we just have to mix it. So we’re hoping to put that out when the tour is over, in the fall. So we already did all the hard work – now the fun part is listening to the mix, then putting all that work together. And we actually started writing right away after regrouping. And the process of us reuniting started about three years ago. We have this amazing studio in York, PA, and we got in there right away and were writing. But it really took off after we played our first shows last year, together again after seven years apart. We played a lot of festivals and shows like Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza. And when we got back from doing all that, it really kicked up our energy, kicked up our tempos – everything was like, “We wanna rock! We wanna rock, fast and hard, and have a great time!” And thanks to that energy getting kicked up a notch; now we have this EP that’s pretty much ready to go.

IE: But how did you guys get back in touch in the first place? And not through lawyers this time?

EK: Rewind all the way back to 2009. We’d decided on a break, which turned into a much longer break than anybody had anticipated. But that’s life – it’s a box of chocolates. But three years ago, Chad and I really started to miss each other. And we said, “Let’s get back onstage together, or let’s just get in a room just to see what happens.” That’s the short version of how it all started. But right away, it was just a really natural rekindling of our relationships with each other and our chemistry. And it’s slightly miraculous because I don’t think anybody expected us to be getting back together. But we did. And it really is better than ever.

IE: And it all coincided with your 25th anniversary?

EK: It really did. We had the 25th-anniversary edition of our debut album, out last year, and next year we’re looking to follow that up with the same for Throwing Copper. So we’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline.

IE: Do you understand now that there’s just something majestic that happens when you guys assemble?

EK: Yeah, I think that we absolutely knew that. And the fans keep reminding us of that, year after year. Of how special it was. I mean, we all went and did our own things. But we all had this feeling, like, “Wow – we really do have a unique sound and chemistry when it’s just the four of us together.” So we missed it. All the good years we shared jut really outshone anything we did n our break. But there’s also this level of gratitude there that you can really feel onstage, and people can sense that excitement and the new energy of the reunion. It’s really authentic.

IE: Any other upcoming songs you can talk about?

EK: I don’t have a title for the EP yet. But there’s a song on there that we’re hoping comes out next because it’s just our favorite song, ever. It’s called “Be a Giver, Man.” And it’s just a really fun song, super upbeat, and we’re saying to turn it around in this selfish culture we’re living in and be a giver, not a consumer and a taker. And that dominates our culture right now. So it’s a big statement in a fun little rock song, which I always try to do anyway.

IE: What have you learned from Live?

Every now and then, somebody will post something about how I look so intense and brooding in our old videos. But hey – it was a brooding time. But if I could just grab that dude now, at 46, I’d tell him to relax. And the interesting thing is, we have relaxed since the reunion. And our confidence in our approach has made the music more intense and energetic. There still is a bit of that brooding aspect that’s there, but we’re actually bringing this new sound to the old one – we’re doing things now that are more sophisticated, more musical. And yet our music still has this…this impact. And I think that’s why the Live shows are going off well as they are.

Live plays the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park with Counting Crows on Saturday, September 8.

-Tom Lanham


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