Ed Kowalczyk on Live’s Past … and its Future

Live is back on the road and opening for Counting Crows on their summer tour. The bands play Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands on July 22.
Live is back on the road and opening for Counting Crows on their summer tour. The bands play Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands on July 22. Photo courtesy of Live
Ed Kowalczyk is well aware of his band’s place in the pop-rock pantheon. Live is a band that once charted three consecutive Platinum records, including one that did so eight times over, has moved upwards of 15 million records worldwide and has charted nearly 20 singles on the Billboard Alternative Rock Radio chart.

Live is a band very much of its moment, namely, a time in the '90s when bands of a certain ilk – those with a look and sound that appealed to mainstream audiences – could make a mint and tour the world. That moment was the '90s, and while the decade has long since passed, the nostalgia for that decade has only just begun.

Live will experience as much when Kowalczyk and crew open for Counting Crows on Sunday, July 22 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands.

“There really is a nostalgia for our era of music,” Kowalczyk said on a recent phone call. “As history goes on, we look back and so many bands were doing such amazing work then. Talk about a band like Counting Crows and what they’ve done. There’s no denying it. It’s a testament to the quality of those bands’ catalogs; the vibrancy is still really high and the fans are still really interested in hearing those bands. Not only did they grow up with that music, it’s become the background music to their lives over the years. We’re excited to do the old songs, and we’ve very eager to show people what Live has been up to lately.”

There was a time when the thought of new Live music – at least, with Kowalczyk in the fold – was a pipe dream unto itself. The band took a hiatus in 2009; Kowalczyk took time to record some solo materials and fellow Live members formed a side project.

However, when Live announced that it would return to the road and studio, Kowalczyk was nowhere to be found. Instead, after seeking out a lead singer, Live opted to go with Chris Shinn; the newfound outfit even recorded an album (The Turn) in 2014.

Kowalczyk, admittedly, wasn’t a fan of the band moving on in his absence, saying that the new Live was “really sort of lame.” Two years later, Kowalczyk and his Live bandmates reconnected and elected to reform as a recording and touring unit.

“Once we got the ugly stuff all shuffled out, and once (guitarist Chad Taylor) and I reconnected at first, we realized how much we missed each other, how much we missed being on state,” he said. “We want, so let’s figure it out. It was a lot easier than I thought.”

Live is now touring in support of its new single, “Love Lounge,” with an EP to follow in the coming months. When it comes to the band’s upcoming double-bill with Counting Crows, Kowalczyk said fans can certainly expect some new material.

However, he and his Live bandmates certainly won’t neglect the songs that put the band on the map in the first place, tracks like “Lightning Crashes,” “I Alone,” “Selling the Drama,” and “All Over You.” Those singles helped propel the band’s third studio album, Throwing Copper, to Platinum status eight times over.

“It’s a dream come true as a songwriter to have these little songs you made, which you put together with some guys you’ve known since middle school, for that music to find its way into the lives of millions, it’s exciting but also a bit overwhelming,” Kowalczyk admits. “That’s a lot to take in, to take these sort of intimate songs and now, all of a sudden, they belong to everybody. It put a lot of pressure on us, but it was mostly amazing.”

“Mostly,” meaning there is a small downside to fame.

“You start out as a band because you want to make it, and you love each other, but then things transform overnight into this major business interest,” Kowalczyk said. “Employees, accountants – there’s a whole other world you have to figure out; it’s such a tremendous shift. When you’re young and starting out, you don’t have those concerns.”

Now, some 30-plus years after starting out, Kowalczyk and his bandmates are back together, back in the studio and back on the road. The business has changed, but the band’s passion for music has remained constant.

“Before we got back together, we felt we had to be a band that was clicking on all cylinders,” Kowalczyk said. “It didn’t make sense to go out and just play the old songs. We’re certainly blessed to do that, but if we were going to do it for real, we needed to have some new music too. Once we started writing new materials, we started getting more excited. The energy is better than ever, and we’re eager to get out and show it.”

Counting Crows (with Live) are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 22 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, 2005 Lake Robbins. For information, call 281-364-3010 or visit $29.50-$119.50, plus fees.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale