By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
Ed Kowalczyk, former lead singer and songwriting force behind the multi-platinum, rock band LIVE, has a new EP out called, “The Garden,” which features five new songs and five remixes, including a cover of the classic John Lennon song “Mind Games.” While the EP was digitally released last month, he plans to put out a full-length album in early 2013.
He’s been playing new songs on his “I Alone Acoustic Tour,” at intimate venues across the country, with a special performance at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Saturday, March 2.
“I’m having the time of my life doing this,” said Kowalczyk. “My lyrics are very personal and people have such a personal connection to it that when the music gets stripped down and the environment gets really intimate, it enables an experience that you can’t duplicate in a bigger room. The main thing to expect is a personal and direct connect with my craft and my lyrics.”
But make no mistake about it: Kowalczyk said he still loves doing full-band shows. The acoustic gigs have helped him write a new chapter in his music career.
“I’ve fallen in love with it,” he said. “It’s not an acoustic show where all the hard songs are prettied up. It stays really intense. When you do a great version of a song, it’s almost that much more gratifying because you’ve done it without the normal tools and you feel that much more accomplished. I’m really having a fun time doing it.”
Kowalczyk also had a great time writing and recording the EP, laying down tracks in early spring. He said it’s much more produced than his albums of the past, and credits producer Jamie Candiloro, who has worked with artists such as R.E.M., for helping him arrange music to lyrics he previously wrote.
“He’s not only an amazing producer and engineer, but also a really, really great musician,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s one of those guys that can bang on a trash can and make it sound amazing. He’s incredible on drums, keyboards, [and] guitars. I play guitar and keys, as well, so we basically hunkered down like two mad scientists with these songs I had written.”
Two of Kowalczyk’s friends, both guitarists, also performed on the EP. Candiloro played all drum parts.
“It was a team effort, but the captain of the ship was Jamie and his vision,” he said. “It’s a product of Jamie’s genius for being able to arrange the music around the vocals. He’s just an amazing talent.”
As he has stated in other interviews, Kowalczyk said the process for this album was different from the one he used on his first solo album, “Alive”, and from any of his albums with LIVE. While his method was similar to methods of the past, as he typically crafts most music with an acoustic guitar, the difference was, again, in the production approach.
“Lyrically, melodically, and what you end up getting emotionally, in terms of the dynamic, is very much like what I’ve always done. I think it’s more developed and more of a sophisticated approach in terms of production.”
Kowalczyk’s fans have had a positive reaction to the EP, and have embraced it wholeheartedly. On social media sites, some have called it his best work.
“I love them,” he said of his fans. “One thing that has been good about social media is that interaction with them. Being able to have music available for them immediately is really exciting and part of why I did the EP. I didn’t want them to have to wait until I finished a whole album. I’ve had some of the best concert experiences of my life in the last year doing acoustic tours and reconnecting with them, not only with old material, but with the new stuff.”
The compliments he’s received, he said, have been “unbelievable.”
“A girl the other day said that all the other music she buys is just marking time between my releases,” said Kowalczyk. “I didn’t even know what to say to that. It really does feel great.”
A common thread to his lyrics will always be a personal touch. He said he’s always taken a “heart on sleeve” approach.
“This record is no different,” Kowalczyk said. “They’re intimate songs about transformation, moving onto the deeper dimensions of my soul. They’re personal, but they are also universal, and that’s what’s really exciting about putting this out. People from all over the world react to it as if we’ve known each other our entire lives, and that’s always to me a sign that you are on the right track.”
He’s also on the right track in life, as he knows how to balance being a musician with fatherhood. The oldest is 10, the middle child is 8, and the youngest is 18-months, and they love that their daddy plays music. The eldest two have seen him perform at shows.
“I live on the east coast now, so I’m hoping they can come to a bunch more,” he said. “They are super supportive. They are really engaged, and love music of all kinds. They are music fanatics. I don’t know where they get that,” he joked.
Tickets to his show at the Narrows can be purchased online at www.narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.