By MIKE CHAIKEN
Steve Augeri was no musical newcomer when he was tapped to take over the lead vocal slot for the band Journey.
He already made some noise with the group Tall Stories in 1992. And when that band broke up, he joined the group Tyketto, which made the hard rocking circuit.
Eventually, however, when Steve Perry decided he no longer wanted to be part of Journey, the rest of the group turned to Augeri to take over the front man slot. It was a role Augeri held for nine years and for two albums, “Arrival” and “Generations.”
(Perry was in Journey for six years until 1983 and then returned for two years in 1995 for a reunion and an album.)
Although his Journey days have gone past, Augeri is still making music as a solo artist. And he still revels in the music of a band he called home for nearly a decade.
Augeri is coming to Bristol on Saturday, July 5 to perform at the centennial celebration for Muzzy Field.
We caught up with Augeri via email to talk to him about his music, Journey’s music, the music business in general, and the upcoming Muzzy celebration.
Observer: How does your music, circa 2014, build upon where you have been musically before in Tall Stories, Tyketto, and Journey?
Augeri: Working along side the caliber of musicians (that are in) Journey as well as Tall Stories and Tyketto, you’re bound to— if you’re wise— pick up on the good traits and positive elements of their music. You also hope that some of that talent and creativity transfers over to you and comes through in your current music. I believe it has, whether obviously or subconsciously. It’s bound to, right? If (it doesn’t), you were just walking through life with ear plugs and blinders on. Hopefully, (listening to my music) it’s apparent.
O: How does your music differ from where you’ve been?
A: Well, finally—once, at least in everyone’s life— we get a chance to stand on our own two feet. It’s liberating, challenging, and a bit frightening at the same time. Banding (together as) a part of a band… hopefully, (it’s) a democracy and with (that it’s about) compromise. Being a solo artist gives you the chance to take risks and (travel) down avenues that you might not have had the chance to unless you were the one and only pilot steering the ship. As I may have said in the past, you’re better or worse (as a solo artist). But that’s how one grows and really finds his or her potential, by sticking out your neck and swinging for the fences. Holy run-on metaphors, Batman!
O: In previous efforts, you were part of a collective, where the focus wasn’t necessarily on you alone. But now, as a solo performer, it is about you. What is the challenge for you as a performer to know it’s up to you each night to bring it and that you can’t rely on your bandmates to pick up the slack?
A: Well, that’s true. Standing in front of a band like Journey was a hell of a “buffer.” No doubt. (As a solo artist) it’s made me work a great deal harder and made me more conscious of the quality of my performance. Nowadays, with a light work schedule, more times then not, I have the luxury of being at my best and under better conditions. On the other hand, I have a tremendous band with me on stage, The Steve Augeri Band, and two wonderful talented singers joining me each night. So you see, I still have that beautiful cushion that allows me to not stress and go out and create and have a good time, which translates into the audience having a good time.
O: I was reading one of the interviews on your website where you spoke about how the music industry has changed from a world where albums were king to where singles are the way to go.
A: Well, in my world that seems to be the case. More like to each his own depending on the individual artist. With the reports of album sales waning more and more as time goes on, why not release a song right after you’ve recorded it with or without a label? The difference is if you’ve got the means to expose it to the masses or not. And nowadays a kid on a desert island in his bedroom with a $50 guitar can write a song, record it on his laptop, and have it for sale on iTunes or stream it on YouTube and almost have as good a chance at success than the “recording artist” with the huge budget. More importantly, if he or she has the “song,” or shall I say “THE” song, isn’t that all that matters, the music?
O: As an artist, first of all, how does this make things easier for you that you can release a song when it’s ready rather than waiting for another nine songs to take shape?
A: Easier, I’m not sure. Yes, I need to be somewhat conscious of the past releases. But again, I would rather not limit myself and not release a “good song” just because it doesn’t quite fit the mold. It’s probably first on the list of “How to Alienate Your Fan Base 101.” But, my favorite bands throughout history had a sense of diversity and surprise. I like to think of myself as one who won’t sit still in a pool of last year’s model. I will however, when I feel I have a cohesive “collection” of songs or, “an album” worth of material, have a pressing of those tracks and call it (and album).
O: What is the challenge for you as an artist where the focus is on one particular song rather than a series of songs that work together as a whole?
A: I suppose it’s a bit more challenging since you’ve only got the one attempt rather than 10 or so songs to make a statement and an impression. I never thought of it like that but, you put your best foot forward always and hope for the best. If someone has made an effort to seek your music out of hundreds of other artists, chances are they’re already on your side and are in a positive place to receive your song. That is I think they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt before they would turn you off or shut you down. People WANT to love and be loved. It’s kind of the same thing isn’t it? MUSIC=LOVE!
O: A single greets visitors to your website, “Tin Soldier.” Tell me about the track and what it means to you?
A: Well, firstly it was co-written by a very talented Swedish writer by the name of Fredrik Burgh and an old collaborator of mine and friend and bandmate, Tom DeRossi. Ironically, it has many familiar sounds and attitudes that I have yet to record since doing my solo music. I felt it was time to flat out rock. So, there’s “Tin Soldier.” There’s not that much depth in the lyric other than the usual obstacles, pitfalls, heartache and sorrow that one may or may not encounter in the art of love and / or war. And liking those who indulge in such a treacherous and perilous game of chance to that of a warrior or they’re need to be. Or at the very least the need to grow a thicker skin. Let’s call it “The Conflict of Conflict.”
O: You grew up in the days when the album was king. And you worked with a band, Journey, that was very much about the album, even though they did have singles. For you, as a music fan, what are some of your favorite albums, that for you epitomize the art form of the LP?
A: Well, as you said, and I agree there was a time, a shift in my opinion when top 40 radio ruled my world. I’m talking about growing up in a household in Brooklyn, New York and with parents who seemed to have the radio on constantly. It wasn’t until my teens in the Seventies that I, like most music junkies, became really familiar with the “LP.” The beautiful thing about the Sixties and into the Seventies as far as radio was concerned, was that there were no boundaries as to what to play stylistically then. A Motown song was followed a rock and roll song, followed by a country song, followed by a pop song… well, actually, they all were “pop” songs. Everyone listened to everything and it all kind of bled together. I miss that from radio of at least the fearlessness of non-conformity. Sometimes there are glimmers of it when a huge pop star crosses the line and “crosses over.” There’s an amazing Alica Keys’ song called “Wait Til You See My Smile.” That song should have been on a rock station. I tell you what, maybe I’ll cover it because it goes to show you it’s just about the song as far as I’m concerned. Sure, you’ve got a better chance with a a great vehicle to deliver it. You know what I’m talking about. There are a lot of beautiful voices out there. But if they don’t have the one special song to get noticed….. then “whadda ya got?” Which brings us back to the “singles” vs. full CD’s. It doesn’t matter unless you’ve got the goods. Bring it, we’re all ears, right? Getting back to your original question… my first two LPs were “Every Pictures Tells a Story” by Rod Stewart and Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” They changed my life and turned my world upside down in the most beautiful way you can imagine. Then, you can add every Led Zeppelin album, The Who, on and on. I was a product of the classic rock super bands and then some of the Seventies… and I’m proud of it.
O: You will be coming to Bristol to perform live. What can fans expect when Steve Augeri takes the stage?
A: As those of you who may already know, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of performing the Journey catalogue these past years and I’m fortunate to have that luxury because that’s what the people want to hear. Sure I will slide a new song here and there, as well as a song or two that I myself recorded with Journey. But, I’m not kidding myself. Give them what they want and we do and we bring it.
O: The gig will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Muzzy Field, where people like Babe Ruth once took the field. How does it feel to be part of the city’s history where your performance likely will be part of the story of Muzzy Field when it heads into its next century of use?
A: Wow! No pressure, right? That’s terrific. Well, we’re just honored and proud to be invited and be a part of the 100th anniversary and big celebration of Muzzy Field. We, my band and I, promise to make it a most memorable show indeed. See you all there.
Steve Augeri performs at Bristol’s Muzzy Field on Saturday, July 5. Russell Thompkins Jr. and the New Stylistics is also on the bill. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Performances begin at 5:30 p.m.
For tickets, go to Ticketmaster.com. For more information, go to TheReachFoundation.org or SteveAugeri.com
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN