Ed Kowalczyk Of Live Talks National Concert Week

Ed Kowalczyk
Todd Gay / ToddGayPhotography.com
– Ed Kowalczyk
Infinity Music Hall, Norfolk, Conn.

It’s been an interesting journey for Live and its longtime frontman Ed Kowalczyk. The band had four RIAA-certified Platinum albums in the ’90s and was a truly global sensation. Internal troubles led to a hiatus and an eventual splitting of the band in 2009 though, and it seemed to many that lightning would never quite crash the same way again . 

The dissolution was not permanent however, as Kowalczyk made up with Live founders Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Gracey in December 2016 and the group has since been touring in what is now a very different environment from when they left it, taking in numerous festivals, a run Down Under and a full tour with Counting Crows

Live is on tour with Bush and Our Lady Peace this summer and is participating in Live Nation’s fifth annual National Concert Week, meaning tickets to shows are available for $20, fees included. Those discounted tickets will only be available for one week starting today.

In celebration of National Concert Week, Kowalczyk spoke to Pollstar about what fans can expect at the upcoming shows and what the return to Live has been like.

So how have you been enjoying being in the band and on the road again, first with Counting Crows?

Oh my Gosh it was so much fun. I’ve known Adam for years and we had a blast, notwithstanding the nationwide heatwave we performed in all summer. I lost about 10 pounds, gained it all back though.
It’s been awesome, we got the band together 3 years ago, time is flying, we’re having a blast. The first year we came back we didn’t really tour per se, we did a lot of festivals and we did do Australia. We didn’t do North America until we did the Counting Crows run. We went to every city to reconnect with fans and now this year with Bush we’re getting back to our core fanbase so we’re super excited about it. 
What is different about being on the road now versus your earlier days?

Right from the beginning of this reunion. We were just so happily overwhelmed by the interest in us, the loyalty of the fanbase and how excited everyone was, the opportunities that came right away to perform, not to mention the fact that nobody in the band really expected we would get back together. It was sort of a ‘Pinch me are we really back together?’ moment. 
There was a real joy in it, there may be an extra layer of joy or gratitude to it overall. Right away people could pick up on that – we aren’t just up there hashing it out for money or anything like that, we were really enjoying being back together again and people could feel that, obviously it was happening in a real way for us. 
We have just been riding that wave and it’s just been getting better and better, the band’s performing really well, we’ve added a guitar player from when I went solo, a guy named Zack Lloyd from New Orleans. This year we are adding a really amazing percussionist for the tour, Clint Simmons from Austin. We’ve expanded our touring lineup with what we can throw at these songs which we’ve been playing for years. And the band’s energy is over the roof. 
Live’s music has often had spiritually conscious lyrics throughout your career. Where has that stuff come from and has your relationship with it changed over the years?

It’s been a really natural, organic evolution into what we’re doing now. I’ve always felt, from a lyrical standpoint and just who I am as a person, I’ve always allowed that to be right out there. Really, the interest in the spiritual aspect of things and in the spiritual traditions and all of stuff that influences my lyrics, that’s who I am as a person. I just happen to be able to do that in this band and be the one the guys look to come up with what we are gonna sing about. I’ve always been really grateful for that as an outlet.
What I love about where we are now is that all of our albums are really different. They have this common core, but we really grew with each record and tried new things. Now when we put sets together, all these years for the reunion, it’s really exciting and it never gets boring.  There’s throwing copper and there’s songs like Lightning Crashes, then there’s the darker songs on Secret Samadi. There’s all this variety and feeling that makes it really fun and big. We’re at a place now where we have this incredible new energy but we also are blessed to have this long career with all these albums we can pick from.
So you guys have this experience of having been right in the music industry before the digital music age and now, when everything is digital and internet-based. 
Yeah, it is a unique perspective. We’re current now and currently touring, doing great stuff, but we also straddle that pre-iphone, pre-napster era, maybe the last hurrah of record stores and the way that people bought and consumed music has changed so much. 
We’re excited about social media, and we’ve engaged it, especially with the new music that we put out last year. 
There’s this wild west thing with social media, the internet and distributing music through that which we’re learning to say, “here’s the way we did it 20 years ago, how can we use this new technology to get the music out more quickly, to embrace it,” to get out of this mentality where we have to make a entire album, and its gonna be this two or three year, worldwide thing, then we go home and make another one.
To get us out of that mentality, it’s been a bit of a process, because some of that has been ingrained in us, we’ve spent so many years doing that thinking about the band with that structure. But I think we’ve gotten our head around it with the EP, and what we’re going to put out next year, once this tour is over, we’ll go back in the studio. I’m excited to embrace that.
It must have been strange to reform in a new environment.

Yeah, the iPhone came out in 2006 and we split in 2009, so basically all of the internet as we know it now emerged, for all intents and purposes, while we were split. 
When we got back together it was like “Wow, this is a whole new thing.” I was used to using it as a solo artist, when I was growing, but as Live, that was a big question mark. It was like “How do we approach this? Here’s how we used to do it, but that didn’t really make sense anymore.” I think we are getting our head around it though.
Why should get people out to your shows for National Concert Week?

I’ve mentioned the fact that since the reunion there’s been this extra level of excitement and energy in the band and gratitude for each other. We’re just having a blast and it’s really coming accross in the music and how we’re performing it. There’s a freshness to it that I don’t think it we would have if we hadn’t split. 
To our fans: Come out and see it this summer. I’m really excited to tour with Bush and Our Lady Peace. It’s a great package, lots of great songs and between these bands its gonna be a pretty special event.

What can you say about the role of concerts in a society?

I could sense when we reunited – we jumped right into those festivals – I could just tell right away they’re more important than ever. This communal gathering that music has always been about, people are more engaged and hungry for it than ever. Our lives have become so disconnected from standing next to someone and rocking out. Everyone’s on their phones all the time, but when you get in those concert environments, people are like “Hell yeah,” this is what it’s all about. And I’ve been doing this for so long, I mentioned straddling that pre-internet area to now, I can sense that people are that much more excited about being in that environment with each other and experiencing great music. It’s a very exciting time to be back in the band and doing this again, it’s awesome. 
You can learn more about National Concert week at https://ncw.livenation.com. Discounted tickets will only be available through Tuesday, May 7.