Nutshell to recreate legendary performance

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Craig Naso had always wanted to do a recreation of the legendary acoustic concert that Alice in Chains did for MTV’s famous “Unplugged” show. The Alice in Chains tribute band that Naso founded, called “Nutshell,” went back and forth in negotiations with Skyworks Productions and Showcase Live in Foxborough before agreeing to do the show at a most appropriate time around the 15th anniversary of the original performance.

“It does not get old and we are so proud to get asked to do this,” Naso said. “It’s like an honor.”

Nutshell will be recreating the Alice in Chains Unplugged set on Aug. 12, starting at 10 p.m. at Showcase Live.

Nutshell is a four piece band that tries to stay true to the original live sound of Alice in Chains.

“We’re going to try to have candles on the stage, not the ones you light, but the ones that are flickered,” Naso said. “We may add a couple of songs to it, though, as well as the songs they did. It’s going to be a great show.”

Naso said the original show was very plain and raw with the musicians so close to each other on a small stage. He said the audience could see vocalists Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley looking at each other a lot during the performance.

Naso said Nutshell will play the songs from the show straight as they sounded. He said the band wants the lights to be low and the audience to be seated, just as the atmosphere was when Alice in Chains did the taping at Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 10, 1996. Naso said he wants the atmosphere to be very relaxed and for people to sing along.

“It will be a nice mellow show with really good music,” Naso said. “Hopefully, people will enjoy it and feed off the love we have for the music.”

It’s not like Nutshell, which consists of Naso on lead guitar and the vocals of Cantrell, Doug Merrill as frontman singing the vocals of Staley, Pete Gelles on bass and Pete Keoplin on drums, is not used to playing acoustically. The band usually includes about 45 minutes of acoustic music in its regular show. With the show stripped down, Naso said the audience can tell how good the late Staley’s voice was.

“When we play, everybody loves the acoustic sound,” Naso said. “They like it better.”

For the acoustic show at Showcase Live, Nutshell will have another musician sit in on rhythm acoustic guitar which Alice in Chains did on Unplugged with Scott Olson. Nutshell has picked a fan of its tribute band, Tom Toye, to play Olson’s part at the recreation show.

“He’s come to all of our shows and he really shows his love for us and I found out he can actually play,” Naso said.

In April 1996, Alice in Chains emerged from a three-year hiatus by performing on the MTV Unplugged show, the acclaimed acoustic mini-series that allowed viewers to experience popular rock bands performing their material in its basic, purest musical form. The Alice in Chains episode turned out to be one of the most memorable editions of the series, and fans and critics alike hail it to be one of the best live acoustic performances of all time by a rock band.

The band’s highest charting singles and heavy duty grunge-rock opuses such as “Rooster” and “Heaven Beside You” went over beautifully in their new, tight and emotionally-charged acoustic delivery. A live album of the performance was released in July 1996, which debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and was accompanied by a home video release. The album received platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America and the home video received gold certification. While the performance was one of Alice in Chain’s final appearances with vocalist Layne Staley, Nutshell keeps the spirit alive by capturing its essence and presenting an authentic “unplugged” tribute show that honors the raw talent of this amazing band.

Naso said he thought the songs “Nutshell,” “Frogs” and “Down in the Hole” sounded best on the Unplugged show. He said “The Killer in Me” could have been better. But he said the flow of one song to another on the live album meshes together like a story.

To prepare for the show at Showcase Live, Naso said he has watched the video of the Unplugged performance a lot and listens to the Unplugged album on the way to work.

“I think we’re going to come as close to it as anyone could,” Naso said of recreating the Unplugged set of Alice in Chains. “We don’t look like them. We just want to play their music, put the passion into it the way they did and give the respect to the music the way they did.”

He said the members of Nutshell are excited about the concert at Showcase Live. The band has played the concert facility at Patriot Place before.

Naso said Alice in Chains was outside of the grunge band circle of its time, but said every single album they came out with had a different sound. When the band came out with “Jars of Flies,” an album made with acoustic guitars which had its first number one single, he said no other group was doing what Alice in Chains was doing, which was combining heavy metal music with acoustic sounds.

Naso said he fell in love with the album. He said the vocals of Staley on “Jars of Flies” really touched him.

He said it made sense for Alice in Chains to play the Unplugged series which has featured artists, like Eric Clapton, Nirvana, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen, among many others over the years. Naso said the sound of Alice in Chains on its Unplugged show cannot be matched. He said the acoustic sound really amplified the beautiful singing voices of Cantrell and Staley who did not have their vocals drowned out as much by guitars as during an electric show.

Nutshell was started about six years ago after Naso discovered how much he loved performing Alice in Chains music during open mic nights. Naso said he is a friend of the Layne Staley Fund and has been introduced to Staley’s mother.

Naso said a lot of retakes had to be done during the MTV taping because of mistakes. He said Nutshell’s vocals are very tight and the band will not play a song if it does not sound right.

Nutshell has played in a lot of clubs and bars in the past. Naso said it will be nice to play the recreation of the Unplugged set at Showcase live where the venue has very high quality sound. But he said playing acoustically really shows the talent of a band because the musicians cannot hide errors.

“We’ve played a lot of big shows, but I’d say this is the biggest one because this is how we started,” Naso said.

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Meowing behind the mic with Cat Wilson

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With more than 23 years in the broadcasting business, Cat Wilson said she considers herself lucky to be hosting “The Cheap Seats” on Cool 102, a two-hour radio show based out of Hyannis, Mass.

“In a time when commercial music is just compressing itself, I have the opportunity to tear that hole wide open every week,” she said. “Commercial radio has gotten very small and their play lists are very tight. I get the freedom to play new music and introduce people to bands they have not heard before. There’s something for everyone.”

Wilson, who plays everything from rock and blues to pop and funk, often invites New England bands and artists to appear on her live segments on Sunday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. They share their music, experiences, as well as a handful of tunes from their favorite local bands while co-hosting the show.

“I like to think that I give them the opportunity to tell their stories about their songs, their life on the road, or their practices,” she said. “I’ve even been known to let slam poets on the air with me. It’s not an ego thing for me; it’s the excitement of it. Even if they’re not in the studio, they can sit at home with their family or be at a barbeque and hear their song being played on the radio.”

Wilson originally began hosting The Cheap Seats in 1997 on Rock 104.7 FM, which is now known as WKPE. The show temporarily went off the air before she resurrected it two years ago on WCIB Cool 102, or 101.9 FM, a 50,000-watt commercial radio station.

“It actually got a Massachusetts Broadcasters Award for an ongoing music program,” she said.

Of the many musicians she’s had on the show, Wilson said one of the most “amazing” co-hosts was Boston-based blues artist, James Montgomery. Best known as a singer and harmonica player, Montgomery fronted his own band in the seventies and has toured with acts such as Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, and the Allman Brothers.

“I was actually a bit nervous because he is a god and when he came in, he was nervous, too,” she said. “It was just him and me in the studio.”

But as the show got going, he asked Wilson to play a CD from a group of young musicians he was acquainted with. While the song was on the air, he told her that he planned to help them tighten their arrangements.

“He was so interested in giving feedback to this younger band and told all these amazing stories throughout his entire career,” said Wilson. “He really is every bit as excited about finding new bands as he is about getting onstage.”

She also had Grammy-winning jazz and blues artist, Doug Bell, on the show.

“I ended up swapping recipes with him,” Wilson said laughing. “It was hilarious.”

In addition to great interviews, she said she’s also conducted some unsuccessful ones. Fortunately, her “favorite awful interview” with Goo Goo Doll lead singer, Johnny Rzeznik, wasn’t live. To her relief, it was over-the-phone.

“It was when ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ came out and they were on tour,” Wilson said. “I’d been waiting in the studio for his call to come in and the band had problems crossing Canada getting back into the United States.”

When Rzeznik called, he was an hour-and-a-half late. He was exhausted, but still willing to do the interview.

“I was excited about asking him a question about co-writing a song with Paul Westerberg of The Replacements and come to find out, Westerberg was one of his big influences,” said Wilson. “All of a sudden, I hear, ‘whoop’ and then muttering in the background. He’s gets back on the phone and said he fell off the bed while he was talking to me. The entire interview went straight into the gutter.”

But Wilson thinks it is important to learn from mistakes. In fact, she said she was “awful” when she started her career and often plays an old air-check tape of herself doing a newscast for aspiring broadcast college students to prove how “horrible” she once was.

“At the time, I was so shy that I was pretty much wallpaper,” she said. “To save my life, I couldn’t pronounce peoples’ names, whether it was an international military figure or a sports person. The kids all laugh. It seems to break the ice and there’s always that one shy, quiet kid in the back and you can see them light up a little bit when they realize how tragically bad I used to be.”

Wilson began her training in radio in high school at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Inspired by MTV Video-jockey Martha Quinn, Wilson knew she wanted to host her own music show, just not on television. In time, she started hosting radio shows at Ripon College in Wisconsin, where she was majoring in English and working on a minor in Business Communications.

“As goofy as it sounds, it was MTV that did it for me,” said Wilson. “MTV just came out and I was developing my ear for music. I said, ‘that’s what I want to do except I don’t want to be in front of a camera.’ I was always more comfortable behind a microphone than on stage or even in class in front of people. I could just sit in a room and listen to music. As far as I knew, I was talking to myself about the music I was playing.”

After graduation, she moved around the country and worked in various radio stations. She lived in locations such as Olympia, Washington, and Savannah, Georgia, before returning to the Cape Cod area.

For Wilson, her most cherished thing about Cape Cod is the fact that “you’re always a half a person away from a musician.”

“Once you start talking about music, people say, ‘oh, yeah. My son’s in a band,’ or ‘I used to be in a band,’ or ‘I play in a band,’” she said. “It’s really amazing the musicians per capita we have here in Southeastern Massachusetts. That’s why I love being able to have the show here. Music is such a part of the culture and it’s great because there are so many talented people.”’

While she hosts The Cheap Seats on Sunday nights, she spends her days as the Marketing Manager at Cape Cod Harley Davidson.

“I had Aerochix do a benefit show there last summer and it was hugely successful and a whole lot of fun,” she said of Boston’s only all-female Aerosmith tribute band.

Wilson said she wants more bands to know how much she enjoys providing an avenue for them to expose their music. She encourages artists to send her their material so she can share it with her fans.

“I don’t play everything I get, but I do always listen to it,” she said. “I’m always willing to talk with bands and I do one-on-one meetings with them. I love music and I count myself very lucky that I’ve been able to find my little niche. I always thought of The Cheap Seats as this crappy local music show, but what I realized is that it’s just music. Whether the musicians are 16 or 60 years old, it’s good music and that’s all that matters.”

Wilson can be contacted through The Cheap Seats website at thecheapseats.net. Artists can also mail their information and music to Cool 102 at 154 Barnstable Road Hyannis, MA 02601. Check out The Cheap Seats on Facebook.com/thecheapseats. Past interviews can be accessed on the web site.

Photo by Jay Kenney

‘The Whiskey Poet” is brewing new music

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

It’s been about four years since solo artist Craig DeMelo, 28, released his debut recording, “The Whiskey Poet.” But with a stack of fresh material, he is looking forward to intoxicating fans with a new album in the near future.

“I’ve recorded two songs so far, but it’s a slow process,” he said. “I just need to get back in the studio and bang out some more tracks. I’ve written a bunch of songs that I’m dying to record.”

DeMelo, who has opened for artists like Howie Day, Hootie and the Blowfish, Matchbox 20, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, is thinking about putting together a disc of three or four songs to “tide fans over.” For a full-length album, he is considering releasing it one song at a time.

“I think that’s a really cool idea and I’ll probably end up doing something like that,” he said. “I just need to decide the final list of songs that I want.”

Because the album is yet to be completed, he hasn’t settled on a title. He has some ideas, but wanted to keep them a secret.

“I have a few concepts and things I’ve been thinking about,” said DeMelo. “But they’re in the vault.”

While he said finding time to record is difficult, writing new material was smooth sailing. The Beatles, Damien Rice, The Dave Matthews Band, as well as heavy metal acts and hip-hop artists, have been prime influences since he began singing and playing guitar when he was 16.

“I think everything finds its way into my music one way or another,” DeMelo said. “It’s cool because there’s something for everyone and it appeals to a wide range of people. But I kind of play the crowd at shows. I feel them out and play it by ear. Whether it’s the songs I write or the songs I cover, I hit every different group. It’s fun for me because I get to mix it up.”

He said his favorite songs to perform are his original, guitar-based tunes, but people always respond well to the hip-hop songs he’s been known to compose. He performs these tracks, along with popular hip-hop covers, at shows.

“My singer/songwriter stuff is my heart and soul but I do like doing hip-hop, too,” DeMelo said. “I’ve got a bunch of original songs where I can write a hook and rap verses. I do a cover of, “Regulate,” which is a fan favorite. People seem to really dig it.”

When writing music, DeMelo said he doesn’t solely rely on his own experiences for inspiration. Articles he reads in newspapers or things that happen to his friends often motivate him, including hardships.

“Sometimes you have to draw from somewhere else because you can’t keep writing the same kind of tunes,” he said. “It’s going to sound weird but it’s always good to have something bad happen because then you have a genuine, legit muse. It’s something to write a song about. If things are going well, and things have been going well for a while now, you have to pull from different places.”

As DeMelo said, things have been looking up for him lately. In March, he was honored as “Best Male Vocalist of the Year” at the Limelight Magazine Music Awards show.

“I was just happy to be nominated because I’ve never really been recognized for anything like that,” he said. “But I did win an honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition in 2009. I was one of the finalists, so when I think about it, it’s cool to be recognized as a singer and also in the songwriting aspect.”

He also recently signed a deal with Brain Rot Music Publishing. The company, which has offices in Los Angeles and London, aims to feature his music on television shows, movies, and commercials.

But that’s not all. He and his wife, Stacy, are about to become parents.

“Our son will be here in 10 weeks,” DeMelo said.

While he prepares for his new addition and upcoming album, DeMelo is earning a master’s degree, as his job requires him to. He is an English teacher at New Bedford High School.

“I was a Communications major, so now I’m taking a bunch of English classes,” he said.  “Sometimes I’ll bring my guitar in for my students and they eat it up. They look at me differently once they see me play. I’ve been toying with the idea of opening up with it every year and just playing for them.”

DeMelo frequently performs at Knuckleheads in New Bedford and has toured throughout New England and California. For more information and a list of shows, visit his websites at http://www.craigdemelo.com or http://www.thewhiskeypoet.com.

Photo by John Sykes

Beautiful Tuesday: Folk with pop edge

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Since Theresa Andrewski has taken over the lead singing role for Beautiful Tuesday, the sound of the band has changed from a more folk style to folk with a pop edge. The combination seems to have worked well thus far for the Cape Cod based band.

“The songs that we are playing now are a little bit more upbeat, a little bit more fun, but still staying with that folky sound with the acoustic guitar and keyboards,” Matt Almquist, who plays guitar and provides backup vocals for the band, said.

Almquist knew Andrewski could sing because he was in chorus with her for four years in high school.

“She’s been a huge addition to the band,” Almquist said of Andrewski who is now a preschool teacher.

Andrewski, who also plays guitar, said she has been singing for a long time, but she said a lot of people did not know what her singing was like, because she always sang with a group of people who were singing together.

“I was always very quiet about my music, so it’s kind of ironic that I’m the frontman of a band,” Andrewski said.

Andrewski said when she joined the band, she thought it would just be a fun thing to do, but said it has turned into so much more, as all of the members of Beautiful Tuesday have grown both musically and in their friendships.

“I think I fit right in,” Andrewski said. “I think we all have really reached a new level. We bring out the best in each other.”

Beautiful Tuesday was formed in May of 2009. The other members of the band include drummer Jayk Watson and keyboardist Eric Cheever.

“We’ve all been friends for years now,” said Almquist who is studying audio production at the New England Institute of Art. “Our common interest in music started it all.”

The band spent a year writing music and with about 10 original songs, Beautiful Tuesday played its first show in June of 2010.

Almquist has been playing guitar for 10 years. When he was in sixth grade, he took a short, semester long class in which the teacher had every student play guitar.

“Since that time, I haven’t put it down,” Almquist said.

Watson only learned to play the drums for the band. There was an old drum kit hanging around, so he started playing and has come a long way for someone who just picked up the drum sticks.

“He’s all self-taught,” Almquist said. “He’s already gotten an endorsement from SJC Custom Drums and Saluda Cymbals.”

But Almquist said the band has varied influences from Mozart, which is an influence on the keyboard player, to Spill Canvas and City and Colour. He said those three kind of sum up the music of Beautiful Tuesday.

“They have a lot of traits that we look to achieve in our music, such as quality lyrics in their songs, emotion in their music and things people can relate to,” Almquist said.

Beautiful Tuesday released a full length album in March that the band recorded at MGW Audio in Falmouth.

The three songs that Beautiful Tuesday has released from its album have included “Beauty in the Breakdown,” “Rain” and “Crash.” “Beauty in the Breakdown” is a typical love story about a relationship and looking back at memories from that time together. “Crash” is about a car accident. “Rain” is about a misguided person who is lost and trying to find her way. The lyrics in that song start out mello and somber, but the bridge of the song brings new light and hope and sends a message not to let the world bring you down.

“We always emphasize the bridge as being the most important part of the song because you can’t give up hope,” Almquist said.

The band made a video for “Rain” that was taped in Sandwich by Justyn Moro who did all the filming and editing. Almquist said the video pretty much just sticks to the story of the song. The video can be found on YouTube.

Almquist said Beautiful Tuesday plays out as much as it can, usually one or two shows a week. Almquist said the music scene on Cape Cod varies. He said there is a lot of pop/punk and hardcore and not a lot of pop/folk. He said the band wants to branch out over the next couple of months, playing out of state and spreading its music to as many places as possible. Beautiful Tuesday has played a variety of venues from Knights of Columbus and Veterans of Foreign War halls to The Central Mass Expo Center and The Colosseum in Rhode Island.

“I think it’s good,” Almquist said of playing with the other bands. “I’ve had people tell me our band is a refreshing difference when we’re at a show with a bunch of hardcore and metal bands.”

The music of Beautiful Tuesday has been played on college radio stations and WCOD, 101.9 FM, which Almquist said helps support a lot of local bands on the Cape with its Sunday night show called The Cheap Seats. Beautiful Tuesday recently co-hosted that show with Cat Wilson. The members of the band were allowed to bring in songs from other local bands that they like to listen to so they could be played on the show.

“It was cool to see how much Cat does for the music scene and how much she does at her radio show and to get a look behind the scenes at a local radio station was a good experience,” Almquist said.

At ‘home’ with Aston

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Earlier this year, Aston, an Attleboro-based band that defines their music as, “pop-punk/rock,” released an album that took them two years to complete. They titled it, “Home,” and said it is their “labor of love.”

“We had the songs written, but we would play a couple shows, work, save up some money, and then drive up to New York to record a song,” said bassist Mike L’Homme. “It took a while, but the whole experience was absolutely worth it and we got what I consider to be our best achievement. We’re so proud of our songs.”

John Collura and Paul Carabello, formerly of The Ataris, produced the album at Silent Owl Studios in Pine Island, New York. L’Homme said he and the other members of Aston played a gig with them in 2007 and stayed in touch.

“When they ended up leaving the band, they asked us if we ever considered having them produce our next album,” L’Homme said. “They are such good guys and we give them a lot of credit because they helped us take it to a whole new level. They knew the style we were looking for and they helped us achieve that.”

Dan Alteri, Aston’s vocalist and guitarist, agreed and said, “my favorite experience in this band was recording the new EP with Collura and Carabello. Opening up for the Ataris in 2007 and meeting [them] was awesome and then to be able to travel down to New York and have them help us out was amazing. We had a lot of fun and it definitely is one of the highlights.”

While this marks the band’s sophomore album, they consider it an EP. Their debut release contained a dozen songs, but their new album consists of just six tracks.

“It was quality over quantity this time,” said L’Homme.

Aston formed in 2005, but L’Homme’s younger brother, Nick, recently joined and took over lead guitar duties and also provides backing vocals. They have been friends with other band members, Alteri, as well as drummer, Jeremy Quaglia, since grade school.

As best friends, they said they learn a lot from one another. They think their strong bond helps make them to be a solid band.

“We each have our own personalities, ideas, and opinions, so it’s a lot of back and forth creatively sometimes, but we all get along and work together to make our music as good as we possibly can,” Alteri said. “We all vibe off each other when writing [and] performing.”

L’Homme credited Alteri for being the ringleader when it comes to composing music.

“He brings the ideas and we all collaborate,” L’Homme said.

Alteris said that while is he is responsible for creating the base for majority of their material, it’s a group effort.

“I write the frames and then bring it to the rest of the band and they each add their pieces in and we work out the final structure together,” he said.

Bands like New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Blink 182, and even The Foo Fighters have always heavily influenced them. They are proud to write and play music they like to listen to.

“If it’s fun for us, that’s what we want to play,” said L’Homme. “We’re pretty much four friends who are in it for a good time and are doing the most fun thing that we know how to do.”

One concert they said they not only had a great time at but also helped propel their career was an event at Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts. After winning a contest through MTV, they opened for the Plain White T’s.

“It was right when, ‘Hey There Delilah,’ was the number one on the Billboard Pop Charts,” said L’Homme. “We played for 6,000 people and sold out of our T-shirts. It was the best day of my life.”

Over the last six years, they have opened for other acts like Secondhand Serenade, All Time Low, Permanent Me, Self Against City, Four Year Strong, Zox, Just Surrender, and The Army of Freshmen.

Most recently, they opened for the North Attleboro-based band YORK at the Ruins at the Colosseum on June 3.

“We were really excited to have them ask us to open for them,” L’Homme said. “It’s always cool to make a hometown connection with another band when you’re both from the same area.”

Aston’s new album, “Home,” is available on digstation.com. To further make their music more accessible to their fans, they plan to launch a website in the next few months where people can download the album for free or “name their price” and donate to them.

“A lot of bands have been doing it and we want anyone who’s interesting in hearing it to have the songs and put them on their iPods,” said L’Homme. “We’re really excited about it.”

In fact, L’Homme said anyone who wants a free copy of, “Home,” can get one by emailing him at mikelhomme@gmail.com.

Photo by Nick Fellow

Godsmack vocalist aims to reveal sensual side on solo tour

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Sully Erna, lead singer of the Boston-based rock band Godsmack, is set to kick off a tour for his solo debut album, “Avalon,” with an eclectic ensemble of seven musicians who will help him share his new blend of seductive voodoo with fans. The show will hit the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford, Mass., on Saturday, May 21.

Erna said he is “super-stoked” for the tour, which will feature a massive drum explosion.

“Wait until you see this,” he said. “There’s this piece called ‘Cast Out,’ with a long chord that just rings out about halfway through it and everybody puts down their instruments and eight people go at it drumming at the same time. It’s sick. Some people are on hand drums, shakers, one guy is on a drum set. It’s like a ritual.”

He also said the performance will include “amazing” cinematic visuals and scenery. In that aspect, Erna hopes to emulate some of the bands he favored when growing up.

“Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac just took you into this zone and through this real musical journey through visuals,” he said. “We really want to pull people into the music here.”

The set list includes updated versions of Godsmack songs and will highlight Erna’s new material, as well, which consists of mystical world music with an alternative spin. He wrote a few tracks within the last few years but knew the style wasn’t quite right for Godsmack because it was too mellow and peaceful.

“It’s got a different vibe to it,” said Erna. “It’s very emotional. I love that I’m a part of this project that moves people on a musical level and isn’t so much about all the pyro and that kind of stuff. I put my heart and soul into it and it’s really meaningful to me. So far, people are embracing it the way I hoped they would and I hope they spread the word. I can’t wait to get out there and just enjoy playing and traveling again.”

Erna began the project with longtime friend Lisa Guyer, a blues singer with a four-octave range. She has opened for artists such as Pat Benatar and Ted Nugent, and recorded with guitarist Barry Goudreau of Ernie and the Automatics.

“I talked to (Guyer) first and said, ‘I think the dynamics of our voices work well together,’ and that was the nucleus of it,” said Erna. “From there, we met Niall Gregory, a percussionist from Ireland, and then it was us three.”

Shortly after, Guyer invited a few people to join the mix and Erna asked classically trained cellist Irina Chirkova of Bulgeria to become a member. It wasn’t long before the band completed their line-up, adding guitarist and vocalist Tim Theriault; keyboardist, vocalist and midi player Chris Decato; bassist and acoustic guitarist Chris Lester; and David Stefanelli on drums and percussion.

“Everything just kind of fell into place and little by little this thing became what it is,” Erna said. “I’m very grateful to have everybody. They are just phenomenal musicians from all over the world.”

All of them are multi-instrumentalists and are featured on his new album. He said they each bring their unique abilities to the group, ultimately creating a powerhouse of performers.

“They’ve all brought in their own influences and that’s why I think this whole thing became so special,” said Erna. “If we didn’t have a show prepared, which we do, it’s neat to see multiple people up on the stage play all these different instruments and jamming. It’s pretty cool to see everybody shifting around doing different things. I’m excited and everyone involved is excited because as a musician you want to play everything.”

In addition to being a vocalist, Erna is a guitarist, pianist, and drummer. He was three and half when he took his first drum lesson and started singing and playing guitar over the years. However, he recently developed a fond relationship with the piano. He believes is has a soothing, meditative affect.

“There’s just something calming about playing the piano,” Erna said. “Sometimes, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning. It grounds me and I feel very centered. I’ve definitely connected with the piano the last few years more than ever.”

He feels the piano is often under-appreciated at times and thinks of it as one of the most important instruments ever created.

“It has every note,” he said. “You don’t need a full band and you can really make it sound full with all the bass notes, lead notes, and harmonies. You can play by yourself and it can move you to tears at times if you play the right kind of melodies.”

Erna said those types of deep experiences also occur during live performances at small venues. Because stages and audiences are closer together, he is able to see just how much his music impacts his fans.

“I was doing an acoustic story tellers type of evening and I looked out at the crowd and see people in tears,” he said. “It made me think, ‘wow.’ When you’re writing a song, you’re not always thinking about how it’s going to affect someone. But when you bring it live and you see the emotion when you touch people through your own experiences, it’s the most rewarding part of playing in front of a live audience.”

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love performing for arenas full of fans. Right after his brief solo tour, he will hit the road with Godsmack, Megadeth, and Disturbed for the Rockstar Mayhem Festival this summer.

“It’s great timing,” Erna said. “I think it will be a fun summer tour because we’ll be playing an hour of hits and then cooking on the grill by 9:30 and enjoying some drinks. I think it’s going to be more of a vacation than work. Godsmack are like my brothers and I need that side of me for balance, just like I need the more seductive side.”

White says ‘YES’ to the Zeiterion Theatre

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

As a member of the progressive rock band YES for nearly 40 years, drummer Alan White said while he doesn’t think they have ever performed in New Bedford, they are eager to play at the Zeiterion Theatre on Tuesday, March 29, as part of their “Rite of Spring” tour. For the brief tour, they will be performing in smaller venues, as they want to share hits like, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and “Roundabout,” with audiences in intimate settings.

“I’m looking forward to playing there and seeing all the fans,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to do any of the new music because the album isn’t finished, but we’ll be playing a mixture of songs that the band really loves to play and the fans love to hear, so hopefully everybody enjoys it.”

While the album is yet to be mixed and mastered, they wrapped up the recording process a few weeks ago. White said the sessions were “very good,” and anticipates it will hit stores by July. They were originally going to title it, “Weekend Fly,” but went with, “Fly From Here.”

“We always banter around with names,” White laughed. “It’s usually the last thing we decide on and it’s funny because one of the first things people ask you is, ‘what’s the name of the album?’”

In addition to being their first album in ten years, it’s also their debut recording with Oliver Wakeman on keys, as well as Benoit David, on vocals, who both joined in 2008 and have been performing with White, along with longtime members, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, ever since.

White said the chemistry of the band is solid, as is the new music. Their friend, former band mate, YES collaborator, and celebrated rock producer, Trevor Horn, produced “Fly From Here,” and influenced a lot of their latest material.

“He is a great songwriter,” said White. “The writing process was pretty much driven by him, (Squire) and (Howe), with the other guys making contributions. We’ve been playing with each other for so many years and it’s really professional. We work together to achieve our goal.”

One of the main reasons White said he has stayed in the band so long is because he believes they know how to keep their sound fresh and exciting. After become a member in 1972, he enjoys being part of a band that “wants to create new music all the time.”

“It’s one of those groups that’s always looking for something new on the horizon,” he said. “With pretty much every album we make, there’s a movement forward from what the band sounds like. We’re always looking for different opportunities.”

Before he became a musician, White planned to study architecture at a technical college in England. However, playing in bands at gigs since he was 13 took up most of his time, as he was focused on improving his musical skills and building a reputation as a qualified drummer.

In 1969, when White was just 20, former Beatle John Lennon asked him to perform with the Plastic Ono Band. White agreed and the concert was recorded, becoming the successful album, “Live Peace in Toronto.” He also played on the “Imagine” album, and was featured on the single, “Instant Karma.”

“John actually took me under his wing,” White said. “He liked being around me and he liked the way I played. He used to tell me. ‘Alan, whatever you’re playing, just keep playing it because it sounds good.’”

Lennon introduced him to George Harrison, and White performed on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. He said working on the album was quite the experience.

“When I was recording with (Harrison), about 15 people came into the studio everyday and picked up instruments, and it was like a regular group with him as the leader,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. Playing with them was a stepping stone in my career.”

White said he is grateful he has gotten the chance to work with acclaimed musicians, including the members of YES. He’s pleased to be on the road with them again.

“I especially love playing with a group of talented musicians like this,” he said. “They make it interesting. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s part of my life. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t playing music on stage.”

The Zeiterion’s box office is located at 684 Purchase St., New Bedford. Tickets are priced at $65 and $49. Box Office Hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.

Music and entertainment coverage since October 2006!