The inspiring sound of Alex Band’s powerful, emotionally charged voice is immediately recognizable to millions of music lovers, thanks to modern-day classics like “Adrienne,” “Our Lives” and the chart-topping hit “Wherever You Will Go,” which Billboard recently named the #1 Adult Pop Song of the Decade. And though ‘We’ve All Been There,’ Band’s solo debut (released June 29 on his own AMB label through EMI), contains the first new material we’ve heard from the former leader of ‘The Calling‘ in half a decade, “Wherever You Will Go” (which he wrote at 16 and released at 19, remarkably enough) remains a staple of the Adult Pop format, while “Our Lives” is a heavily used bumper on ESPN and other sports programming.
If his fans feel that Band is long overdue for a return to the spotlight, the L.A. native has himself been chafing at the bit to make his return throughout the last five years, which he spent in musical exile. But the time has finally come for that voice to inspire us once again. “I’ve lived with these songs for years,” says Band, “and the whole point is to share them with everybody now.”
Describing the title song, which opens this stunningly wide screen album and sets up its thematic breadth, Band says, “It’s definitely about my own struggle, but I think everyone can relate to what I’ve been through from experiences in their lives. I think everything I’m talking about on the record is pretty universal. And knowing now that I’m writing for different cultures, with fans around the world, it’s important that what I’m writing about is generalized enough that people can take the songs in their own way. ‘We’ve All Been There’ is almost like a mantra—‘Here I am…these scars on my hands…doing what I can’—with this chorus behind me singing, ‘We’ve all been there.’ In a way, I was writing my own therapy.”
The torrid first single, “Tonight,” is now in rotation at Adult Pop radio, where Band remained a core artist during his years of silence. The track has also been used in the CW series “The Vampire Diaries” and can be heard in the TV campaign for this summer’s World Cup (just as “Our Lives” was played over the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics). The striking video, directed by TV veteran David Barrett (The Vampire Diaries, CSI: NY, NCIS: Los Angeles), working with the production crew from the “Twilight” series of feature films, features Band doing his own stunts, including jumping—or more accurately flying—off the top of a cliff. As the video reveals, the song describes a supernatural love story. “I didn’t want to write a conventional love song,” he recalls. “I wanted it to have some weirder meaning—and this was before the resurgence of the vampire love story, but I’d just seen the movie Underworld, and I thought it would be cool and different to write about a vampire trying to win over this girl and to be able to have her for one night. So that led to lines like, ‘Let the music take us over/We’ll fall into forever, all is right/’Cause I got you where I want you/Tonight.’”
At its heart, though, We’ve All Been There charts the course of a distinctly human romantic relationship, from its first stirrings to its final moments. “A lot of these songs are drawn from personal experiences,” Band confirms. “I got married at the beginning of this process and got divorced at the end of the record. ‘Love’ was written in the early stages of that relationship, when my ex-wife was going through medical problems, which we dealt with throughout the years. And ‘Leave (Today Is the Day)’ was the last song I added to the record, after we’d gotten divorced. So a bunch of these songs are extremely personal.” His then-wife’s illness led to the critical need for a liver transplant, which she had to forgo due to the waiting list. The experience inspired Band to devote his time and energies to the Donate Life organization, which is dedicated to building organ-donor awareness.
Band’s creative mechanism was also triggered by “what I’ve seen friends and family going through, and I’ve been hugely influenced by what’s happening in the world. And music, of course—I don’t think anyone can listen to my records and not realize I’m a huge fan of U2. I get massive inspiration from going to shows by some of my favorite bands like U2 and Coldplay. But the biggest inspiration for this record was what I went through—the frustration of it all and trying to stay positive. But it resulted in some good songs, at least.”
The title song’s companion piece is the culminating “Start Over Again.” “As soon as we wrote that one, I knew it had to be the last track,” says Band. “It goes into a jam-out section, with a choir of my overdubbed voice singing, ‘After all you’ve done/You thought there’d be someone/To give you everything you want’—that thought of, ‘Haven’t I done enough?’ But sometimes you don’t get what you want, and you have to accept that and start over again. It was a sort of epiphany, writing that song. So it seemed like the perfect epic song to end the album with.”
So where’s he been all this time? “After the second album,” Band recalls, “my partner in The Calling, Aaron Kamin, wanted to do other things, and since I was already pretty much doing everything on my own, I decided to become a solo artist.” But when the powers that be at RCA insisted that he do a “supergroup” album project, Band sought and got his release, signing with Geffen soon thereafter.
Thus began an elongated project that would span nearly two years, eventually encompassing no less than five co-producers, primarily including the veteran John Fields (Switchfoot), up-and-comer Daniel Damico and engineer Tal Herzberg, with Chuck Reed helming two tracks and Matt Serletic one. Playing alongside Band, who plays guitars and several of the basslines, were some of the best musicians on the planet, including drummers Abe Laboriel Jr., Dorian Crozier and Kenny Aronoff, keyboard player Jamie Muhoberac and guitarist Tim Pierce. The renowned Paul Buckmaster (Elton John’s ’70s classics) contributed string arrangements to several tracks, while the in-demand Chris Lord-Alge mixed the album, as he’d done with The Calling. Loaded with potential hits—and strikingly cohesive despite its diverse origins—the album was completed in 2007.
Later that year, Geffen went through a reorganization, putting the album in limbo. “At the same time, Stu Sobol, my manager for 10 years passed away, which was incredibly sad,” Alex explains. “So, between Geffen going through major changes and Stu passing away, I realized then that I had to make a serious leap of faith and believe in myself. I decided that, if I’m gonna fail, I’d rather fail doing what I want to do.”
Band spent a year in negotiations and a sizable amount of his own money to buy back the album master—so you might say he’s financially as well as emotionally invested in this music. He’s spent the last year creating his label, surrounding himself with a top-flight team and partnering with EMI, which is distributing the album in the States and releasing it outright in all other territories. “I’ve finally got creative control, which is the main reason I went through all this,” he says. So now I’m starting completely over as a solo artist and reintroducing myself to the world.”
I had the chance to talk with Alex and ask him about his upcoming album, his plans for the future, and what he likes to do in the little free time he has. You can read about that below.
When did you first realize you had an interest in music and what sparked that interest?
I don’t know what really sparked that interest. I mean, I was really into music as early as 2 years old so I don’t know. I remember my father used to listen to the Beatles and David Bowie. When I was 5 years old, he flew us all to Paris to see “The Phantom of the Opera” and that really started it all. I got my first guitar at 8 years old and started writing seriously. At 11, I made my first record and at 15 I had a record deal.
How did you break into the music industry?
Well really the first step was the record deal. A guy moved in next door to us and it turned out he was the VP of RCA and I knew that was a good chance so I drove him crazy and ended up signing. 10 years later Disney heard “Wherever You Will Go” and asked for me to perform it in the movie “Coyote Ugly” when I was 19 and a year later I recorded an album.
What makes you feel that your upcoming album is different from other artists in your genre?
I would say the songwriting, mostly. Its lush and timeless. I think its a good representation of that. “Wherever You Go” is still played and that was released 10 years ago. I write songs that are big, compassionate, and heartfelt.
What are some of your plans for promoting your album – do you plan on touring, doing ‘meet & greets,’ etc…?
Oh, I’m doing it all. I’ve been on tour for the past 5 months in Europe and America. My single “Tonight” is in the 20s on the Top 40 charts. I’ve been doing a mixture of radio visits, meet & greets, opening for other people. In Europe I was touring, doing openings, and tv appearances. I have a headlining tour that starts July 14th. I start shooting today for a big tv show, that I can’t mention who it is right now, for August. I’m doing lots of cool promotions.
What are some short term and long term goals that you have lined out for yourself. What’s next for you?
Short term would be to make my first single a hit, working hard with radio and with fans to push it as high as it can go. Long term would be to get the album out and solidify my career as a solo artist. Put out records way more frequently, I mean this is my 1st in 6 years.
Have you written or created a song that didn’t make the album cut that you wished would have?
I think I’ve written about 150 songs for this album. Recorded 20 of them. 14 made the cut. One extra for iTunes. One extra on the European version. so I’m sure that the others that were recorded will be released in some fashion, so no I don’t think I have one. Usually the labels allow for 12 songs on a record, and I used 14 since I created it myself.
Do you have any musical pet-peeves?
I would have to say music without heart, music that won’t be here 10 years from now. I like music that captures a moment in your life, so that later on when you hear it you will remember the moment that was special.
Besides music, what are your favorite things to do? What keeps you grounded?
When I’m home, which is rare, I like being normal. Taking walks, going to the movies, spending time with my family and being with my fiance. Relaxing really. I like to fly, too. I’m a helicopter pilot. Just recently I flew to northern California and back for a performance. Its a freedom thing, really.
What do you miss the most, besides family and friends, while you are out traveling?
My cat. Or, well, I have two cats now, so my cats. Just the comfort of home, especially when I keep going to Europe. I think in this year I have traveled 150,000 miles, been around the world about 4 times. I miss the places I eat, the drinks I know, just the things you take for granted. The simple things like going to bed and waking up the same time, which is hard with the constant changing of time zones.
What is one accomplishment you hope to make above all others in your life and your career?
In my life, having children. It’s definitely something that I want to do. In my career, well I’m not going to sit here and say I want to win a Grammy. I just want to keep making a living with my music, touring, making albums, and having the freedom to do what I want to do with my music. Keep having a fan base. I don’t have to be the biggest or the best, but just to do it and sustain my lifestyle.
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Images Via: Total Assault