Mike Ruocco of Cinder Road
With a new name, a new bassist, a new guitarist, and a new record deal, the only thing that stayed the same with this band is their passion for delivering a solid rock n roll roller coaster ride for anyone willing to throw their hands up and join the ride.
Cinder Road (Mike Ruocco on vocals/guitar, Chris Shucosky on guitar/vocals, Pat Patrick on guitar/vocals, Nat Doegen on bass/vocals, and Mac Calvaresi on drums/vocals) are currently out on the Daughtry tour opening the show to sold out crowds from coast to coast. Boasting a stage presence that rivals the best of the best, this band needs to be unleashed. Remember when rock shows were actually ROCK shows? Cinder Road has brought the energy of the arena rock show back. Hallelujah!
Their debut album, SuperHuman, on EMI/Union Records, is set to be released in June. The album, produced by Marti Fredrickson, is this young band’s one way ticket to rock and roll stardom. These guys are rockstars and they don’t even know it yet. There is not one miss on this album covering all the bases from ballad to bad-ass rocker. A little something for everyone, depending on your mood. The songwriting and musicianship shine through but truly nothing speaks louder than their live performance. They deliver the goods, and if I were you, I’d place your order now.
Before their show in Boston, another sold out venue, frontman Mike Ruocco took a few moments to sit down with me and talk about the new album, the new line-up, and a day in the life of Cinder Road.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | March 2007
So let’s start off with the name change. I’ve read that you wanted a fresh start and to separate yourself from other bands with the name Plunge, but where did the name Cinder Road come from? Is there any significant meaning behind it?
Cinder Road is the street that I grew up on. Chris and I actually both grew up on it, next door to each other on Cinder Road. It was where the band was started, it was where Chris and I became friends, it was where we rehearsed over the last bunch of years, it just made sense. Plus, there was no one who had that name so it made it a lot easier.
Since we last talked, about February of last year, there have been a few changes in the band’s line up. Can you give us a little background on the newest additions Nat and Pat?
When we started making SuperHuman our bass player Brian decided that music wasn’t what he wanted to do as a career any longer. So, he decided he was not going to play with us any more. But previous to that, when we were a four piece band, I had played in another band with Pat in the past, and we worked really well together. I really wanted to bring another element into the band so that I could put down the guitar a little bit and just front the band and secondly instead of playing electric all the time I could play acoustic on a song or two. Bringing Pat in was great, it also took some of the responsibility off of me as far as the music goes. We did that and then shortly after Brian decided to leave the band and we put a call in to Nat and told him we were looking for a bass player and asked him if he was interested, he said “make me a name tag because I’m getting that gig.” It was great, Nat played in another band back home, he was actually the guitar player and singer for that band. It all came together and believe it or not the first show that this line-up ever played was the first night of this tour. I was in the rehearsal room when Nat tried out, and then I flew to L.A. to finish the record and to do some last minute stuff by myself. The rest of the band rehearsed for another week without me and we got onstage in Anaheim and that was the first time we ever played as a band onstage.
And how did that go?
It went fantastic. It just made sense from the minute we got onstage. It just worked. Obviously we’re still changing and fine-tuning and tweaking. We’re very hard on ourselves about our performance and always striving to be better, I think that’s a good way to be.
So this is the official line-up?
Yes, this is Cinder Road. The cool thing is that Plunge had so much history as a band for twelve years, different members, different records, a lot of tours, a lot of shows, it was a blessing in disguise that I’ve become very happy with in that Cinder Road feels like a brand new band to me. Because it is. It’s a new record, all new songs, a couple of which Plunge played..but a new record, new members, new tour, new record deal, new everything. It felt good, it felt good to start over, I was so married to Plunge for so many years that it felt really nice to start over without really having to start over.
Let’s talk a little bit about the new album. It’s called SuperHuman, is that also the name of one of the songs or just the album title? And where did it come from?
Yes, it’s a song as well.
The song was originally slated to come out in May, but now I’m hearing June, do you have a release date yet?
It will be out in June.
Are there any songs on the album that I’ve heard before?
Back Home To You, Feels So Good To Me, and then Scared from the Hometown Hero album was completely redone. You’ll recognize it but it’s first person. Instead of being first person like it was “I’m a little lost right now..” we changed the perspective to you “You’re a little lost right now..” It’s more of a story than an autobiography kind of thing.
Are you doing new songs as part of your set on this tour?
Our set is basically all new songs.
Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the tracks? Maybe some song titles? What we can expect?
Do you want to hear them or do you want me to tell you about them. (DUH! I think you all know how I answered THIS one!)
You worked with Marti Fredrickson on the album, What kind of working relationship was that? Was he intimidating? What kind of influence did he have on the songs?
I wouldn’t say that it was intimidating no. I was a little nervous the first time I met him but I had started working with him over two years ago..actually we’re pushing three years now. Marti and I from the first time we met and started working together, we really hit it off. This is going to sound kind of hippie-ish but If I started a musical sentence, he finished it. If I had an idea for a song, he knew how to put the exclamation point on the end of it. He definitely was really hard on me but it’s easier to take direction and criticism from someone that you really respect rather than someone that sits behind a desk.
So he didn’t compromise anything, he just enhanced it..
At times I felt a bit compromised but then you realize that sometimes you’re not always right.
So in the end you did agree with him?
I did! I did agree. Now that has nothing to do with how the band is run…because…that isn’t going to change. (Said in jest of course to the rest of the band sitting around the bus!)
I loved this quote “It was important to make a record that you could listen to from start to finish” because I think that concept gets lost a lot in todays music industry. Everyone is looking to write the next hit but..never thinks about backing it up. I can’t remember the last time I bought a cd and loved it from start to finish so that you actually thought that, rocks my world. Do you think you’ve accomplished that with SuperHuman?
Absolutely. Granted, I did write the record so I may be a bit biased but I feel like after we finish writing, we wrote the whole record in basically two weeks, after every single song we wrote Marti and I would look at each other and say “That’s the best song we’ve written.” “that’s our favorite song so far” and then we’d write another one and be like “Dude! This is the best song” and then we made the record and we’re listening back after all the mixes were done and we felt it was a really strong record. I think the reason why it’s a strong record is because it’s the exact record that I wanted to make. It’s totally me, it’s what I wanted to do. People ask what we sound like or how would you compare it, I can give you some comparisons for namesake but the bottom line is, I made the exact record that I wanted to make. If I thought an idea was 80s and I wanted to do it, that’s what we did. We wrote ballads and we wrote up-tempo songs and mid-tempo songs because that’s what we were feeling that day. I wasn’t trying to make a concept album, I wasn’t trying to make a record that was artsy. I’m not like that. I just wanted to make a rock n’ roll record. My first record was Def Leppard Hysteria on cassette and that’s the kind of record I wanted to make because it’s got Love Bites and it’s got Pour Some Sugar On Me. This record has Back Home To You and Learning To Love and it has Get In Get Out and I’m So Sorry.
This tour has to be an amazing opportunity for you guys. But at the same time, you’re going into a situation where these are his fans. I think soundwise, his fans would definitely dig Cinder Road but how is it going. Do you feel any pressure to win them over?
To be honest, not really. The only pressure that I feel is the pressure to put on the best show for these people that will give them a lasting impression. In other words, when we got the tour, when our manager called on New Years Day and said “How’s the band doing, have you been rehearsing a lot”. I was like “Yeaaah” when in reality we had no bass player we didn’t know the entire record yet, we hadn’t rehearsed it…and I was like “yeaahh totally” and he was like “well you guys got the Daughtry tour”. I freaked out. Ever since then 2007 has been a whirlwind. Every day I feel like I’m in a dream. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. But as far as the fans are concerned. You really couldn’t hit a better demographic for us. Obviously I was nervous the first few nights of the tour because we thought ahead of time that they might dig our music but you never know until you actually play the show. It just meshed perfectly. When we got up on stage and did our thing, they dug it, and it works.
So on some of the shows you’re doing acoustic sets, how is that determined?
If the stage or venue is too small for Daughtry to set up their backline…we don’t make that decision.
How is the camaraderie on this tour? Do the three bands hang out at all?
Yeah we hang out sometimes..
I noticed you’re all sporting your Daughtry hoodies..
We hang out with the Daughtry guys all the time. Every day, we’re very close with them. I don’t know if you’ve seen our tour diaries..
I have, I love them.
Yeah, JP and I wrote a song, Joey was witness to my extreme wedgie, but those guys are real down to earth. They’re real down to earth like us. Everything is good with them, I love hanging out with those guys. The Eve To Adam guys are cool too.
You have a day off in two days, what does the band typically do on days off?
We..typically shower..which is..
Yeah. So we played yesterday, we play tomorrow, we play tomorrow, so Tuesday we get to shower. We just relax we’ll grab some drinks, we’ll chill, we’ll go out to dinner. We go out to dinner with the Daughtry guys, we’ll go to a bar or to the hotel bar. It’s kind of hard to go out with Chris because he’s so famous. We went to the mall in Indianapolis and walked around for a couple of hours and it was wild everyone was like “Oh my god, that’s that guy from American Idol.” It’s hard for him to do that..but we try. We hang out as much as we can.
What’s the first single going to be on SuperHuman?
It’s going to be one of three songs. It’s going to be either, Get In, Get Out, I’m So Sorry, or Should’ve Known Better
There was mention of making a video for the first single, do you have a concept in mind?
I have the concepts in my head but it’s going to depend on the actual song because they are all totally different songs.
What shows have been the highlight of this tour so far? It seems like the venues sort of vary as far as capacities go but I’m sure there have been some stand out shows for Cinder Road?
I would say, for me, some of the highlights were playing L.A., because I had never played a show in Los Angeles and that was just a dream for me.
Where did you play there?
We played the El Ray Theater. I would have preferred to play somewhere on the Sunset Strip, I’m sure eventually we’ll get there but that was a highlight for me. Austin, TX was probably a highlight for all of us. We played Stubbs outside and it was just really nice warm night and a big amphitheater stage and 2500 people in the crowd. It was the kind of crowd that just rocked, it was good from top to bottom. Any time we’re in a bigger venue, we have a really good time. We have a good time ALL the time, but the bigger the venue obviously the crazier it can get. Well when we played in Dallas it was like 200 people and it was just Cinder Road and Daughtry and we got up on the bar and sang on the bar.
Was that a private show?
It wasn’t private, it was acoustic. It was cool man. We’ve been having fun with it.
It’s always surprised me with this band, how you realize the importance of connecting with your fans. With Cinder Road and formerly Plunge, the band takes a really grassroots approach by reaching out to the fans pretty personally and having a very active support team that the band is highly involved in. This sort of serves a few purposes, fans get involved and get to feel like they are part of your success as well as helping spread the word and promote the band. Have you always realized the importance of this? And have you always realized the potential for this sort of project?
I think for one, it wasn’t anything that anybody really taught us in the beginning. When we were in a cover band, we didn’t really have a choice, there are no dressing rooms, you just hang out. The more people you make friends with, the more people that come out. So on a larger scale, when I was playing with Plunge and some of the SR-71 dates, especially with SR-71, that’s where I really realized it, I was just kind of bored and I like to think that I’m fairly personable, so out of sheer boredom and the fact that I wanted something to do I’d go hang out with the crowd. People would come back and say “we hung out at this venue, that was soo cool” and I thought..hey that’s just part of the gig. We’ve all talked and we’ve had ideas as a band. We give out 8x10s and stickers to everyone in line on this tour because we know that it’s not our show and we know that it’s not our tour, but we want them to remember us. We hang out, we sign autographs every single night and take pictures and do whatever we have to do because we want these people to be around A – when our record comes out and B – ten years down the road when hopefully we’re still touring.
What comes next for Cinder Road after the Daughtry tour?
There’s talk of an acoustic press tour, like going old school, like the 80s band use to do, we just go and play acoustic at every station across the country. My idea is to go and do that at the stations, play our single, then throw a free acoustic show at a little dive bar in town and just blow it out. Have everyone come out and hang. That’s my idea. After that, another tour.