Bill Leverty of FireHouse
With the recent wrap up of the VH1 Metal Mania Stripped tour that put FireHouse on stage acoustically and stripped down every night with the likes of Jani Lane, Stephen Pearcy, Kip Winger, and Don Dokken; guitarist Bill Leverty took time out of his crazy schedule to answer a few questions about the tour, his side project Wanderlust, and about his future possible career as a Detroit Red Wing!
Having received his first guitar at age 4, it wasn’t until many years later when Bill Leverty was reunited with his passion for playing and the rest was history. FireHouse was formed by Bill and drummer Michael Foster who joined forces in 1984. They soon sought out frontman CJ Snare; who had been playing with a different local band (whose bassist just happened to be Perry Richardson) and soon after CJ joined up with Michael and Bill, Perry was soon to follow. Their first release on a major label was their self titled release in 1990. From there, things skyrocketed. Years later Allen McKenzie joined the band on bass as Perry moved on to other projects. 8 albums later, a crazy amount of miles logged on the road, they are still rockin the masses and taking their signature brand of four part melodies coast to coast, playing acoustic, live, and everything in between.
Interviewed by: Star Rhoney | January 2006
Hi Bill. Well we made it through another year, and 2005 was a busy one for FireHouse. It seems like you guys are touring year-round. A big one this year was the Cinderella tour. That one transported me back to the early 90’s. It was like I was there again rockin’ out having a BLAST, it was so much fun. How did that tour come together and how was it for you guys?
It came together through our booking agent, John Domagall, contacting the producers of the Rock Never Stops Tour and putting our name in the hat. We had played on the very first RNS tour back in ’98, so we were already being considered, but we needed to just get a few of our needs ironed out like our meet and greet and stuff like that. The tour was absolutely awesome for us. Cinderella was very cool to everyone. I hope we can do more gigs with them in the future. They are a great bunch of guys.
In the beginning…Early FireHouse Press Shot
What were some of the highlights of that tour?
There were so many. Playing in El Paso, TX for about 25,000 people was one, even though it was 110 degrees. Go cart racing in Toronto was another. (Jeff “Gordon” LaBar won… I came in second… couldn’t get around him!) Playing in Tampa, FL in front of 12,000 people at the St. Pete Times Forum was another… I love indoor gigs because they generally sound better AND we get to use the lights! That was a GREAT indoor gig in an arena. I also really enjoyed getting up early, grabbing my hockey stick, and playing hockey in the empty venues with Jeff LaBar, Larry Morand (Cinderella’s tour manager), and Jeff Lizotte (Cinderella’s assistant tour manager), and whomever else showed up. Playing guitar with Tom Keifer was another. He showed me some really cool stuff. The last night of the tour was also great because all the bands and crews got together and partied.
Then you wrapped up the year in support of the VH1 Classic Metal Mania Stripped ‘The Anthems’ CD which came out last fall. It is an acoustic album and an acoustic tour. What a completely different but equally amazing show. That must have been quite a change for you guys? A lot of the bands on the tour were scaled down versions but FireHouse had their whole band. Was that by design?
It took us back to 1997 when we toured the world in support of our GOOD ACOUSTICS album. We tour as a band, not as a duo, because this is our livelihood, and it would be rude to tell two of the guys that two of us are going to put them out of work for a month. Besides, we have a lot of songs that are 3 and 4 part vocal harmony songs and we don’t want to leave those parts at home!
Metal Mania was a great concept. The DVD from the tour is scheduled for Feb 21 release and I can’t wait. There have been 2 CD’s in the line so far, and I’m hoping there will be more. I think the next one should be called ‘Artist’s Choice’ so the band can pick THEIR favorite song. What would your choice be?
“All She Wrote” if it’s acoustic and “Holding On” if it’s an electric song.
Firehouse has always been known for their great harmonies. I think each one of you could be a lead singer. You tried your hand at lead vocals on a couple of Firehouse songs and now on your new side project CD WANDERLUST. Did you have a different approach to this CD than you do when writing for Firehouse?
No. I just write songs with no pre-conceived ideas. I demo the songs with my voice, and if a particular song fits my voice real well, I sing it on the final recording. If you think about it, the three songs that I sing on the FireHouse records: “I’m In Love This Time” (O2), “Holding On” (PRIME TIME), and “I’m The One” (PRIME TIME”), all have a Southern, bluesy vibe to them and could’ve been on my WANDERLUST album. The Southern, bluesy vibe is very inherent in my musical style. I just try to write songs and record them. It’s actually very great to have more than one outlet for the songs.
What made you want to do a side project? Was it something you have been considering for a long time?
No, not really. I just had a bunch of songs that had piled up and worked well with my voice, so I felt it was time to really make good recordings of them. I didn’t make a conscious decision to make a solo record until it dawned on me that these songs needed to be recorded on something more than just a demo. I call WANDERLUST a side project because “solo album” often gives people the idea that the artist is “going solo” or leaving the band. That’s not my intention at all. I just like making music and I have a lot of music that I write that doesn’t always work as well for FireHouse as it might with a side project.
You’ve done some producing on the Firehouse CD’s. Did you also do the producing on WANDERLUST? Do you see yourself doing more producing in the future and how is that different from basic recording?
Yes, I produced WANDERLUST, and I’ve produced the last 5 FireHouse albums. I also recently produced a Canadian band called Rockarma. Check them out at their website: http://www.rockarma.com. Producing has always been a great passion of mine and I would love to produce more artists if there is time in the FireHouse schedule. The difference is that when you are recording, you are focusing on YOUR performance. Where you’re producing, your focus is on EVERYONE’S performance. You see the project from beginning to end. Your job isn’t done until the record is completed. You have to make sure that the record is turned in under budget, and that you get the best possible performances out of the artists with the budget you have to work with. You also work with the artists to help them achieve their vision of the songs and offer suggestions along the way to enhance the songs.
Are there any plans to go out in support of WANDERLUST?
No. Telling the guys in FireHouse to sit home for a few months while I selfishly go out to tour on WANDERLUST is not my idea of being a bro. That’s why I call WANDERLUST a side project. I’m not trying to launch my solo career here. I’m just trying to get some more of my songs out there for people to listen to, and hopefully they’ll like them enough to actually BUY the CD and have it in their collection.
What else do you see on the horizon for 2006?
Firehouse will be playing a lot of gigs in ’06 and hopefully, we’ll get an album together for release in late ’06 as well.
You have a few websites we’d like to mention. There’s http://www.firehousemusic.com , your personal web site http://www.leverty.com for info on your solo CD http://www.wanderlustband.com and you’re also new to myspace http://www.myspace.com/billleverty . Tell us about your experience with myspace so far. Do you find it addictive or are you on there strictly for promotional purposes?
I’d say both. It’s very addictive AND I use it to let people know about my music. How perfect is that! I love checking out other people’s music and Myspace is a great place to do that. I’ve gotten in touch with people who I haven’t talked to in years thanks to Myspace. I’ve also met some “cool new people”! I try to check it out a little bit every day.
After reading your myspace page I found something I never knew about you, you’re a huge hockey fan! I read that you try and play a couple times a week. Who do you play with and are you any good?
I play in a couple of leagues here at home. One league is 18 and over, and the other one is 35 and over. “I aint as good as I once was”, but I can compete. There are a lot of guys I play with who have been playing since they were in diapers. I can keep up with them, but I know my limitations.
Do you have any other hidden talents or hobbies that we might not know about?
My wife says so, but I really shouldn’t talk about that… ?
One entertaining thing about Myspace is all the crazy surveys. I haven’t seen you partaking in any of them but since someone puts an enormous amount of time and effort into coming up with them, we thought we’d wrap this up and see if we could get you join in on the fun with this TheyWillRockYou mini survey:
1. If you could put together a concert of 5 bands, who would it include?
Firehouse, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers
2. What was the 1st thing you did when you got up this morning?
I took my daughter downstairs and we played the piano while mom made us all breakfast.
3. If you could be anywhere right this second where would you be?
Right where I am – at home with my wife and daughter.
4. What’s your favorite food? And can you cook it?
5. What’s the last song you sang?
Ba Ba Black Sheep… Great tune!!
6. What’s your current favorite article of clothing?
My track pants. I dress for comfort. I’ve never been a fashion conscious guy.
7. Are you always on time or always late?
On time, but not necessarily IN time!!
8. Can you dance and do you?
I believe that there are two kinds of people: those who make music and those who dance to it. I don’t want to do both.
9. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Firehouse would’ve sold 600 million records instead of 6 million.
10. Say something totally random about yourself.
Please excuse me, I have to use the restroom.
See, wasn’t that fun? We’d like to thank you for talking with us and we hope to see a lot of you and FireHouse in 2006! Best wishes!