In 2009 it looked like Pennsylvania rock band +LIVE+ were dead, with original lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk departing after 20 years and 20 million records sold.
Ed returned to the line-up in 2016; we talk about this rebirth and what fans can expect from LIVE’s return to Australian shores.
You have spoken about how your time spent performing solo forced you to reconnect to the heart of the songs on the acoustic guitar. Since returning to the band, how has that time spent away transformed your live performances? [Ed] It's been really amazing on a few levels. One being that I definitely built up my playing 'chops' as it were, and not just on the guitar. When I put down the guitar on stage with +LIVE+ now, it's like I have a whole new overall energy as a frontman.
The solo career was a training ground in so many ways. I do a few songs acoustically in the encore and the guys mention to me how engaging my storytelling has become etc. All of that was honed from years on the road as a solo act.
I know that you have been working on new material, with some of it experimental and some of it sounding like traditional +LIVE+. How is that progressing? The writing and production process just took a quantum leap after the new year. 2018 has been magical in that way so far.
I'm more excited than ever about our music and can't wait to play the songs in concert. They are super rockin', but I'm not sure who they sound like anymore... we are blowing the doors off the studio in ways that I didn't imagine.
I don't think I'll ever go back to any kind of label or commit to anything that f^%$s with my creative process ever again. I spent 20 years of my life hearing 'well, we're not sure if it's a single' and stuff like that. Totally over it. Funny thing is, having that attitude is probably how you get singles.
The split in the band in 2009 looked terminal, but you have managed to heal the wounds in ways that bands like The Beach Boys never could. Reflecting on this, what advice would you offer to other bands who go through similar rifts? Wow, that's a tough one. Every situation is totally different obviously and I wouldn't want to presume that I have any answers to give; honestly, we are as surprised as anyone that we got back together.
I went to see U2 on tour about a year before we worked things out and Bono started riffing between songs about people who have been together for a long time (i.e. marriages and bands) staying together... he said something like 'I know it's hard sometimes, but it's so important to stay together'.
I felt like he was speaking directly to me about our band... and low and behold here we are. From where I am standing now, I couldn't agree more with the crooning Irishman.
Your music is ideal for massive outdoor concerts like the Adelaide 500. What have been your festival highlights since returning and touring in 2017? So, so many awesome festival moments from last year.
A highlight was watching Dave Grohl from the side of the stage at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans jamming to the show with a huge grin on his face. I hadn't seen him in years, and it was awesome to see someone I respect so much catching the new, reunited +LIVE+ happy bug.
You have collaborated with many artists over the years, including Tricky and Adam Duritz from Counting Crows. Are there any emerging or contemporary artists that you would like to work with now? Oh for sure.
I'm really digging the bands that came out of the California desert scene like Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal. I love their approach to rock & roll and how rooted it is in the traditional form, but how adept they are at making it so interesting and fresh.
Josh Homme would be someone I would love to work with or produce a song of ours.
Some songs from 'Throwing Copper', such as 'Lightning Crashes', contain beautiful, spiritual themes about rebirth but have been misinterpreted as being quite dark or serious. How important is it for you that listeners understand your intent? Or are you happy for everyone to take their own meaning? All of my lyrics are designed from the outset to create a mood or a feeling that is wide open to interpretation.
I never write from actual experience or biographically; I just pull down bits and pieces of words and feelings and mush them together until they make me feel good... then I forget about whatever meaning I may think they have and give them away to whoever happens to listen to them.
+LIVE+ perform at the Adelaide 500 3 March with special guests Birds Of Tokyo. +Live+ also play ICC Sydney Theatre 1 March and HBF Stadium (Perth) 6 March.