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Interview with Larry Gowan



You can call him, Larry, Lawrence or just plain Gowan. Regardless, this talented classically trained songwriter, keyboardist and vocalist remains one of Canada's most talented musicians. He is now a full time member of the Classic American rock band Styx and soon to be featured on their new studio album. This interview was done on January 16, 1999 on his last solo tour prior to joining the Chicago based band.

GB - On a couple of your later albums you are know as Lawrence Gowan. Now its back to just Gowan again. Why the name change?

LG - In the 80's the one name thing was very popular. I think I'm always going to be known to people here as Gowan, and that's not going to go away and that's all right with me. There's one album I did called "Lawrence Gowan, But You Can Call Me Larry" that just kind of added all kinds of confusion to the issue and I can see your still confused so it's working well.

GB - I understand you're currently working on a new studio album, possibly to be released in the spring time?

LG - Most of the material from the new record I have already played live. I had the opportunity last year to work in a lot of the songs in a live context, which I haven't had that chance to do on records for quite awhile. I think the songs have worked in quite well, just by me playing them in front of audiences and alternating according to the audience reaction.

GB - Your last studio album had more of a guitar feel to it. What direction will the new album take?

LG - It going to be a lot of piano on this record mainly because of touring solo. The solo show is mainly piano based. It caused me to focus on that instrument again with renewed vigor.

GB - Do you feel more pressure being on stage yourself, as compared to having a band back you up?

LG - There's a certain musical accomplishment you have to come up to in a solo show, that you can maybe get away with not matching in a band show. My band is quite strong and when I work with them it's easy. We played several shows last year, I didn't have to be one hundred percent on because they are such great players, I can sit back and kind of enjoy it and just be sure I sing the hits in tune. That is as much as I need to accomplish. In a solo show there is nothing to fall back on. I have to rely entirely on the rapport that develops with the audience, which is usually a little bit easier because most people in the audience can identify with having to do something by themselves on stage. It's got a little bit of that intimacy alone up there. But I can't allow for any musical slips, although there are mistakes every night, that wind up kind of being a bit of a human moment that can enhance the show in certain ways.

GB - This past summer you played at the Princess of Whales Tribute Concert with people like Steve Winwood, Chris DeBurgh at the families Estate in Althorp, England. What was that like?

LG- It was a phenomenal experience because I played with the BBC National Orchestra and to have them do one of your pieces of music, and her family really liked the piece and wanted me to play it there. That was a great honor and especially after the show, going into their house and basically getting a big sing-a-long going at their family piano. This is something most musicians don't get a chance to experience. Also to have a piece of music have some what of a historical dimension to it, also is a very unique thing and I'm drawn to that.

GB - Recently you recorded two separate live albums in the span of a year or two. Both having similar songs on them. Why "two" live discs?

LG - One was purely an acoustic record, as I was starting to get a lot of interest as a solo artist in festivals primarily in US and an number of them here in Canada. They said "perhaps if he performed acoustically he could fit on the bill with a lot of other acts that as the rock guy he couldn't do,"so I did a purely acoustic album and these festival people really gravitated towards it. I thought that went so well, I figured that it was time to do a live record. I always wanted to do a French record as well, so I combined the two, so there's a live album which I recorded gigs in Quebec City, Montreal and Sherbrooke, mixed in with a couple of studio French recording so that was an interesting album to do as well.

GB - And you can only get them at your shows or through mail order?

LG - The Solo Live acoustic one called "No Kilt Tonight" you can only get at shows and I made it primarily for the festival shows, or for any solo show I do. "Au Quebec" is the other solo live album that's available in stores.

GB- A few years ago you did a UN tour of Bosnia. What effect did that have on you?

LG - Quite profound really, I don't know if it had a great deal of a musical effect but as an experience of playing in front of troops, yeah. There is almost no words to describe what it's like to be on that side of the east, especially at Christmas, as it was right over the Christmas holidays and see what people have to endure, and to get a chance to play music in such a environment is such a tremendous life experience. I was also in the Sinai Desert in Egypt playing in front of troops in eleven different countries and through Israel. Quite a tense backdrop for a concert!

GB - You are originally a classically trained concert pianist are you not?

LG - That was initially my musical training, a lot of my musical background is in classical music and a lot of those motif ideas tend to surface in a lot of my songs. If you listen to "A Criminal Mind" or "Moonlight Desires", they've got melodies that are quite conducive to orchestration and that's why the shows I have done translate well to orchestral arrangements.

GB - So why the transformation to contemporary pop-rock music?

LG - It really wasn't that a great of a jump I just wanted to write my own stuff and take time with finishing up studying classical music.. I mean pop music is, I believe, the classical music of today, because that's what the masses are gyrating towards, and that's what I'm much more suited at doing anyway.

GB - I understand your first album in now out on CD, is that so?

LG - They re-released the first album which is the one prior to "Strange Animal" so I'm going to play at least one or two songs from that every night because over the years it's become kind of a favorite. A lot of the people that listen to my music mention songs from that first album that was resurrected after the success of "Strange Animal".

GB - I read you sometimes forget some of the older songs that you haven't played in a while?

LG - I forget them, but that is part of the charm of the solo show. There's a built in spontaneity where the show can change direction, given any rowdy-loud enough group that keeps demanding one particular song. I can change the course of the show in a moments notice and go towards that. Often I do that and often try something I can only get a verse and a chorus out of it, because I haven't played it for maybe ten years.

GB - I am really impressed with you official web site. How much input do you have into that?

LG - I don't have a great deal of input, the people who run that just do such a remarkable job on it. It's become a real center point for such a number of artists now and I think I was probably one of the earliest to get in there, not on my own efforts though but on the efforts of a lady in Calgary that began it. I've seen three or four pop up and hers was by far the best, so I said you can make that one the official one. Periodically I check in, leave messages, read what some people have said about the shows, which is always a great immediate way to find what your doing. The tour I just did in England with the Stranglers for example. That generated a lot of response from their fans that have never seen me before and got a chance to see me over a extended tour in England. Over six weeks playing everywhere in that county, that was great way to stay in touch with not only people back home, but to stay in touch with how that tour was progressing.

GB - You have also just released you first album over there "Home Fields" how's the reaction been to it?

LG - That was mainly what this tour was to support, that album is doing very well. It's surprising to learn how may records sold on import over the years. We needed something for that market place, so I let a couple of guys who work at basically magazines that champion my stuff over the years choose the material. I said ,"Whatever you think is appropriate for England lets put that together as a compilation", "Home Field" was that album.

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