John Vento is often called a chameleon in the Pittsburgh music scene; and, while his critics may use the term as a pejorative, Vento views it as a compliment. He understands that they’re motivated by the frustration of their inability to lock him into a specific musical style. After all, the front man for the high-energy, hard-rockin’ bands, The Businessmen, and the Nied’s Hotel Band, is also known for his introspective, brooding solo recordings.
Rather than a drawback, however, Vento considers such diversity to be among his strengths; and his fans agree. They relish sharing his tumultuous trek toward achieving his artistic vision, which he accomplishes by channeling a blend of eclectic influences through his own, raw emotions.
Helping to engineer the roller coaster ride is a stout core of collaborators, including John Randall Fox, Buddy Hall, Tim Hadley, and Frank Ferraro, along with renowned playwright/lyricist, Amy Hartman. Many members of this crew have been with him for more than a decade; and it’s easy to understand why, as Vento consistently showers them with appreciation and accolades. Though a one-of-a-kind performer, he professes a great distaste for the word, “solo,” insisting that, “Without my collaborators, I would not have accomplished anything.”
That’s no surprise to those who know him, as he truly is a humble, loving, and grateful person, who treasures his family and friends. Certainly, that comes across, loud and clear, in his honest, from-the-heart songs; and that, undoubtedly, is another quality which endears him to his fans. As he puts it, “If just one person is touched in some small way by one of my songs, that’s the greatest reward that I could receive.”
Of course, it’s purely logical that Vento would find a great following in this town. His steely resistance to categorization is the very essence and backbone of Pittsburgh. Built by a veritable melting pot of blue-collar workers, the once-gritty city has risen from the slag heap, through the smoke and haze, to become a sparkling, spectacular hub of culture and learning. Yet, it remains true to its deeply-forged identity.
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It was a great pleasure to bring this interview with Steve Fossen to the Better Each Day listeners. He is a founding member and original bassist for Heart. His work on the albums “Dreamboat Annie,” “Little Queen,” “Magazine,” “Dog & Butterfly,” “Bebe le Strange,” as well as several greatest hits and compilations, has been a staple of radio since their releases, selling tens of millions of copies.
In 2013, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored the talents and contribution of the original six members of HEART: Ann and Nancy Wilson, Howard Leese, Roger Fisher, Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier. Steve and Mike are proving that they still have a lot of love left to give to the music world as they announce plans for their latest project – Heart By Heart.
Driven to recreate the songs of HEART, while bringing the essence and purity of the group back to the stage, Heart By Heart was created to offer fans the unique experience that only those who were actually in the original band could offer.
Steve Fossen, co-founder of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Heart.
“With Mike and me at the helm, we can, once again, help bring out those musical nuances and ignite the energy within our own band that made HEART one of the most beloved rock groups of our time,” explained Fossen.
In order to play the songs the way they were conceived, Fossen and Derosier surrounded themselves with musicians who shared their philosophy for excellence. Lead vocalist Somar Macek delivers a “jaw dropping performance” with her vocal range and stage presence. Fossen and Macek had been performing as a duo for years, often times naturally weaving their way into a HEART song as if being guided by a larger force. It was during their duo days, in fact, that Fossen actually started thinking about putting the band together. The name “Heart By Heart” came from Macek who said it signified their true feelings for one another.
With the help of the legendary Randy Hansen on guitar and Seattle radio host Bob Rivers on keyboards, the band was off and running. But it wasn’t until the group was performing at a local show that they finally found what they were missing – Lizzy Daymont on guitar and vocals.
“We were amazed with her musical talents and how well she knew the songs, one week later she joined us on stage as a member of Heart by Heart. In fact, when I heard Somar and Lizzy harmonize for the first time I had to hide my face because I thought I was going to cry,” said Fossen. Though not sisters they sing together as if they were.
After the departure of Bob Rivers, Lizzy added keyboards to her duties, and 30-year veteran touring guitarist Chad Quist has joined in place of Randy Hansen.
With the lineup complete, Heart By Heart’s mission is simple – to create music that is authentic, passionate, and true to HEART’s original recordings. After all, Fossen and Derosier, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 as members of HEART, would never do the music any injustice.
“When I first discovered Heart By Heart, I thought they were just a HEART tribute band – a really, really great HEART tribute band. I was excited to meet two rock legends – Steve and Mike – and to hear the band in person. What I wasn¹t prepared for was how amazing this band sounded,” said Tom Moon, of Starleigh Entertainment. “It wasn’t just that they are all world class players and singers, they are, but what astounded me most was the authenticity with which they played the material. Heart By Heart is way beyond a tribute band, their performance is a real and impactful musical experience, once you hear what they do, you cannot help but be won over.”
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From Robert Berry’s breakthrough work with Bay Area stalwarts, Hush, to his dramatic leap to international renowned with “3″ featuring Keith Emerson & Carl Palmer, to his performances with the legendary Ambrosia, combined with his long running project – Alliance, with members of Boston, Sammy Hagar and Night Ranger, to the December People, along with his…Listen to the full episode
Robert Berry has managed to survive in the treacherous minefield that is the music business and flourished as a performer, songwriter and producer. It seems he’s done it all. While he may be best known as the vocalist/bass player in the ELP spinoff, 3, with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, Berry impressive list of credits include a stint fronting Ambrosia, and long running affiliations with Alliance, December People, and the Greg Kihn Band.
Berry has released 5 solo albums, contributed to a number of high-profile tribute albums and has an impressive track record in the studio.
He grew up in a musical family in what would become Northern California’s Silicon Valley. It didn’t take long before he appropriated a Vox Continental organ from his father’s music store. By the time he was a freshman in high school, his group had released a single that went on to become a regional favorite. Although he denies it, according to his school mates, Berry was known as his school’s first full-fledged rock star. His bands became solid fixtures on the Bay Area college and club circuit, where they worked constantly. It was during this period that his interest in multi-track recording blossomed. Legend has it, Berry somehow finagled the very first Teac four-track recorder to arrive in the valley. It wasn’t long before he had written and recorded an experimental twenty-two song ‘rock opera’. As his quest for knowledge grew he managed to snag a part-time position as ‘assistant everything’ person at a busy San Jose recording studio. By the time he was a senior in high school he had acquired a reputation as a solid performer and in-demand studio musician.
2016 was a big year for Robert Berry as he met with pal Keith Emerson in Los Angeles to discuss a 30th anniversary release of the long awaited follow up to the debut 3 album. If that wasn’t enough, he co-wrote 11 all new songs, produced and played Rekihndled, the Greg Kihn Band’s first studio album in over 20 years.
The year 2017 was noteworthy for some major efforts. Early in the years, Berry, on bass and lead vocals joined with Terry Brock (GIANT, STRANGEWAYS) on lead vocals, Gary Pihl (BOSTON, SAMMY HAGAR, ALLIANCE) on guitar, and Matt Starr (ACE FREHLEY, MR. BIG) on drums, to form ALL 41. They release the band’s debut album, “World’s Best Hope”. Simultaneously, he mounted a dedicated effort to complete his collaboration with Keith Emerson on the long awaited 3 follow up. That album, which took shape in 2016, was nearly shattered with the news of Keith Emerson tragic death. Ultimately and as a tribute to the friendship of Emerson and Berry, it somewhat painfully got back on track and is set for a summer of 2018 release date as 3.2 – The Rules Have Changed on Frontiers Music SRL.
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Linda’s was the final episode for 2018, and what pleasure to have her as a guest.
In Linda’s words: “Music has been at the center of my life since I can remember. Early influences include Karla Bonoff, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell: many other female singer songwriters since then have shaped my taste in music: Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Mia Borders, Caroline Herring, Susan Cowsill, Lynn Drury, Shannon McNally, Amy Mann and Brandi Carlile. This list is actually pretty endless–I would also have to include the Beatles, the Stones, and the women of the early blues movement, such as Memphis Minnie. I write Americana music, rooted in my life experiences. Many of my songs tell stories, and they are all different; I don’t want to write in just one style–I am open to a variety of music, from country to soul. In short, I am a work in progress and I hope you like what you hear. Little Queenie was released on my birthday in 2016, and No Limits, my second album, was released in October of 2017. I am currently writing and recording songs for my next record, due out in the spring of 2019. My style continues to evolve! You can hear my songs here, as well as on Seattle Wave Radio and Local Roots Music NW Radio, available for purchase on CD Baby and BandCamp.”
A simple but important point is made in this interview as a recurring theme throughout all; music is for everyone and although it helps, no special skills or education are required to enjoy listening to or creating your own. But as seen below, Linda is a bit of an overachiever.
Writing Fellows Institute, University of Washington, Tacoma; September – June, 2009
Adjunct Faculty Institute, Tacoma Community College; January – March 2006
Summer School for Applied Aesthetics, Lahti Finland; August 18-23, 2002
The School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University; June 20 – July 26, 2001
The School of Criticism and Theory, Dartmouth College; June 17 – July 26, 1996
Ph. D. English, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; May 1989
M.A. English, University of Southern Mississippi; August 1982 Graduate Study Abroad, University of London; Summer 1981
B. M. E. Mississippi College, 1979
And, that doesn’t include any of her music background!
“If Chrissie Hynde had bolted Akron for Nashville instead of London, her unbuffered emotion and incisive observations might have taken shape something like those of Ms. Blair. The Washington-based singer/songwriter takes on romantic love’s frequent left turns and rude awakenings with straightforward lyrics and vocals to match. “Wild Night”, in particular, evokes the soulfulness of the afore-mentioned Ms. H. Other instantly attractive tracks include “All The While”, “Lucky Man” and “Far Away”.”
— Duane Verh, Roots Music Report
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