The solo career of former Live lead singer Ed Kowalcyzk takes him to the Westcott for a Saturday gig
Although Ed Kowalczyk is best known as the powerful lead singer for the 1990s rock band Live, when he comes through Syracuse on Saturday, March 5, he’ll be showing a very different side. The musician responsible for writing and singing explosive songs like “Dolphin’s Cry,” “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes” will be visiting the Westcott Theater on his “Open Wings and Broken Strings” tour and he’ll be stripping the show down to where all of his songs begin.
“I like doing solo acoustic performances because that’s how I started this whole thing,” Kowalczyk said in a phone interview. “Just me and my guitar.”
Throughout his career with Live, Kowalczyk toured extensively and sang on each of the group’s seven albums. But in 2009 when the band split, he saw it as an “end-of-chapter moment” in his life, not an end-of-book.
In July 2010 Kowalczyk released his first solo album Alive (Soul Whisper) and toured to promote it with his full band throughout the summer and fall. This spring, he’s experimenting with a string of acoustic performances before rejoining them for full-band dates beginning in May.
Until then, he comes to the Westcott, 524 Westcott St., with Emerson Hart of Tonic and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer. Doors for Saturday’s show open at 8 p.m., with music starting at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $25 to $30 and can be purchased online at www.westcotttheater.com and at The Sound Garden, 310 W. Jefferson St.
Kowalczyk spared a few minutes while at home in California with his two daughters and expectant wife to talk about this new chapter in his life.
How was it transitioning from Live to a solo career?
I was responsible for all the lyrics and music for Live, so the writing process didn’t change much at all for me. The main difference was the new musicians who brought a new interpretation to how I was hearing the songs being fleshed out. They’ve made me interpret my own writing in a new way and pushed me to rethink some things. It was a smooth transition, but there’s a lot of new energy and excitement around it.
How does it feel performing solo compared to a full band?
It’s kind of a yin and yang. I love to rock; that’s where my passion lies and my album is heavy. But because I write with an acoustic guitar, for me to go back to that place and really strip it down and get into a really intimate moment with the fans really serves my creative process in a lot of ways.
How do you work your spiritual beliefs into your music?
People who have followed my lyrics for a long time know that I’ve always been very interested in spirituality and I’ve never been afraid to put that all in my lyrics and really wear it on my sleeve. I’d like to think I took a page out of the U2 handbook, especially with regard to lyrics. I focus on making them infused with my faith, but also make sure that it’s a very universal message.
I have people from all walks of life listen and it’s been really wonderful to see the fan base respond the way they have.
You recently partnered with World Vision to help children in Zambia. What’s this project about?
While on tour, we make an appeal every night and have a table set up where people can sponsor children in Africa and really change their lives for about $40 a month, per child. We’ve got 160 children sponsored since we started last year. We’re also raising money for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Program Fund, which brings sanitation and water to communities in need in Zambia. We’re about $8,000 into a $15,000 goal.
You’ve collaborated with other musicians like Chris Daughtry in the past. Who’s next?
That’s been one of the most exciting things about the new chapter in my life as a solo artist, just experimenting and meeting new people to write and produce with. I’m really looking forward to doing more of that and reaching out and finding those people that you share a mutual kind of spirit in music with.
Who is your greatest musical influence?
My first real concert was U2 when I was 17 and they were on the Joshua Tree tour. About halfway through the show I pointed to Bono and said, “I want his job.” I wanted to do what he was doing. That was a huge influence to me and remains to this day.
Who are your favorite new artists?
I’m super into Bon Iver. It’s a different style than what I make, but the melodies, the arrangements are so unpredictable and so cool that they definitely get into my head and they’re really going to help guide where I’m going melodically because it’s so different. Even if I make music that is more mainstream rock, I’m probably not listening to much of that. I’m trying to listen to things that are different than what I do.
You’ve influenced many successful artists of today like Breaking Benjamin. How does that feel?
I turned on the radio once and this guy was mentioning me in an interview about how I influenced him and I feel like I’m part of this community of artists. It’s really heartening. Being in a band, being an artist is challenging! To be able to turn on the radio and know your music not only inspired fans, but that some of those fans actually went on to take that inspiration and make more music and inspire more people--that feels really good.
Why is music so important for children and for people in general?
Regardless of whether you become a musician and that becomes your job, your life, or not, it’s such an important thing for the creative mind. Music is really important for the development of higher emotions and all the faculties of the higher-feeling dimension of the being. And it’s wonderful to see children respond to music and really just love it at such a deep level and see the magic that music puts in their faces and eyes. I really can’t say too much that it’s a super-important part of the formation of children.
You have children. Are they playing music?
They’re both just starting and they’re doing great. They’re super into pop music and Taylor Swift. . . and dad! Not necessarily in that order, by the way.
Ed Kowalczyk: “People who have followed my lyrics for a long time know that I’ve always been very interested in spirituality.”