Styx still loving life on the road

BMS talks with keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan

, Contributing Writer

Lawrence Gowan doesn’t gamble – unless it’s on his music career or on the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series again this year after a certain Boston Music Spotlight writer’s insistence that the home team is going all the way again. “It’s not gambling if it’s a sure thing, correct?”

Okay, so maybe he’s not really going to bet it all on the Red Sox, though if he does and they don’t win, I hope he doesn’t come looking for me. Not that the yoga practicing vegetarian would do me any harm. At least I hope not.

One sure bet for Gowan was joining Styx in 1999 as their keyboardist and vocalist. For over ten years, Gowan has been part of the classic rock act that will hit Massachusetts on Sunday for a show at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset (**Update – this show has been cancelled due to Hurricane Irene**). With that in mind, BMS recently caught up with him to chat about the tour and how the band comes up with its setlists. Note to fans: start tweeting what songs you’d like to hear and maybe, just maybe, they’ll play your favorite.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): How’s the tour going?

Lawrence Gowan (LG): We’re on tour doing what Styx do: touring and touring.

BMS: Are you excited about the tour?

LG: Always, always. We’ve been touring incessantly really for the last thirteen years since I joined the band so it’s something that we’re always invigorated by and we feel  compelled to do and coming to Cohasset is just as important to us any place we care to play. What we try to do is bring our Styx experience every night we play. Also, I can’t remember the last time we played in Cohasset. I can’t remember the last time we played there, actually.

BMS: What’s the Styx experience like?

LG: Well you always get the classic rock Styx experience. That is guaranteed whenever we take the stage. I would say that we’ll probably, in addition to the absolutely required songs “Come Sail Away”, “Renegade”, “Blue Collar Man” and “Grand Illusion”, in addition to those we’ll probably go a little bit deeper into one or two songs from Pieces of Eight and probably from the Grand Illusion album only because we’re about to put out a DVD of us doing those two albums in their entirety. So I imagine we’ll go a little bit deeper with those. It’s surprising to us just how many of the songs that were never singles from those records, just how well embraced they are by a whole new audience. We just released an album called Regeneration Volume Two where we included a few of those songs. One of them is called “Queen of Spades”, and that one is going over extremely well so hopefully that will make it into the set list in Cohasset but I never know for sure because you have to wait on the day and see what James Young and Tommy Shaw choose. I like to leave the song picking to those guys because they have their reasons.

BMS: Do you know how they pick the songs or is it just a random thing?

LG: No, it’s not that random, funny enough. It’s usually based on knowing what records did the best in that region and being able to make sure that those songs are represented in there and it’s great with social media now and people voicing their opinion as to whether you should play one song or another and so when a song is mentioned a few hundred or a few thousand times, it will make its way into the show and that’s always exciting because you have that connection with the audience that goes beyond just sitting in your ivory tower picking songs you’d like to play.

BMS: What do you like most about touring? I know it can be kind of tedious when you’re on the bus 15 to 18 hours at a stretch.

LG: It’s really not tedious, funny enough. There are musicians who will give you that answer because the road has the capacity to wear you down very quickly. It’s usually musicians, of that persuasion, they don’t tour. We happen to embrace it and we happen to be in love with it. One of my favorite things to do is to wake up on the bus, look out the window and see that I’m looking at the Rocky Mountains, for example. Not many people get to enjoy that. In addition to that, in just a few hours several thousand people on their feet claiming they just had the time of their lives at a concert that you’re a part of. That’s a pretty perfect day for me. And the very next morning to wake up and suddenly you’re looking at the prairies in Canada or something. Those are things that, like I said, I’m excited by those special things. They’re unpredictable and they’re the things I love. I would add that being able to connect with people around the world and share that experience, to some degree, is really satisfying. So that’s how we spend our time.

BMS: How do you prepare before going on stage?

LG: The main one is that we’re a band that shares one large dressing room. So we definitely get a united sense of who we are and what are we are and what the combined personalities and combined talents are trying to accomplish, so that’s one very loose ritual. The other one would be that we all have our ways of getting ready for a show. I have to do my yoga routine before going out on stage because I’m pretty active on stage and if I don’t do that I don’t feel like I’m ready. And also, for myself, being a classically trained piano player, I have to go through my conservatory regimen backstage to make sure that my fingers are ready and that I’ able to deliver what we’re hoping to.

BMS: Let’s say you weren’t classically trained and weren’t musical at all. What would you be doing today if you weren’t in a band?

LG: If I wasn’t an astronaut I would probably be working at Starbucks.

BMS: Really?

LG: Yes, but I’d be longing to work for a local independent coffee shop that was close to a university. Or, I’d like to be going to Mars. It’s one or the other. It’s kind of a coin toss as to which would be more fulfilling [laughs].

BMS: Well, Mars would be interesting but you probably wouldn’t have many people to speak with unless there’s life out there.

LG: I know. I’m so chatty that I might miss it and I don’t speak Martian.

BMS: Although they might be able to speak English and it could work out well for you.

LG: It might. It might work out well.

BMS: Anything you want our readers to know before heading to the show?

LG: Only that they’re have a fantastic time seeing Styx and if it’s your first time, which seems less and less people fall into that category. It’s amazing how the audience has grown and how it’s really is all ages now. So for people who are seeing it for the first time, welcome aboard and you’re going to have a fantastic, epic time.

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