More "Alive" Than Ever
By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, gmclife.com
During his tenure leading grunge rock pioneers Live, Ed Kowalczyk sold an astounding 20 million albums, regularly toured the globe to sold out arena audiences and notched a plethora of mainstream smashes like “Lightening Crashes,” “I Alone,” “The Dolphin’s Cry” and “Heaven.” As the latter track and several others throughout the veteran group’s hit-rich catalogue indicate, the famed frontman often had his mind on spiritual issues, even if his faith didn’t come full circle until stepping aside for a brand new solo project (aptly, but unsurprisingly titled Alive).
“I was born and baptized Roman Catholic, and throughout my youth, that was the background of my faith life,” the singer recalls, phoning in from the road. “When I was 18 or 19, I started writing lyrics and went on my own version of a spiritual quest, but during the last couple of years, I’ve found a re-entry into a simple and deep faith in Jesus Christ. Making this record was part of the journey and it’s been a full circle trip where, yes, this is what I believe and it’s the truth.”
Though the new album’s title certainly salutes his past band, its dual meaning is clearly steeped in Kowalczyk’s renewed spirituality, so much so that Provident is handling Christian market distribution (while Sony RED handles the mainstream side). Given his foothold in both marketplaces, the project debuted at #4 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Album Chart and #6 on the same outlet’s Christian Albums Chart.
“It was one of those really organic things where I got a call saying [Provident] heard the record and the lyrics and felt it was really perfect for what they do,” Kowalczyk says of the CD’s ability to land simultaneously in both scenes. “I really wanted this record to get to people and have them consume it in their spiritual lives.”
Just take a look at the liner notes and it’s apparent that this solo artist is even more outspoken than he was during his time in Live. Still retaining the group’s alternative rock undertones, straddled with pleading vocals and gritty production, standout tracks include the redemptive “Grace” and “Drink (Everlasting Love),” coupled with the inspiring “Zion” and the prayerful “Soul Whispers.”
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been [Live’s] main lyricist and people have always appreciated me not being afraid to ask the big questions,” he relates. “And now with my reentry into the Christian faith, I’m wearing my faith on my sleeve and there are a lot of words Christians are familiar with. There’s a depth that transcends what I’ve done before. There’s a really deep song called ‘Soul Whispers,’ where even the way it was produced embodies a really prayerful moment of quiet tension.”
In spite of its overt message, Alive is geared towards all audiences without coming across as preachy or heavy-handed. For fans of Live’s last few collections (Birds of Pray and Songs from Black Mountain), it’s certainly a natural progression and one that Kowalczyk hopes will be a musical extension of the group, while also reeling in new listeners.
“You can’t worry about pleasing everybody because if you do, you’re not going to please anybody,” he admits with a laugh. “As long as I’m doing the best I can and making the most compelling music I can, then it’s going to find an audience, even if it changes and transforms. Sonically, it’s a throwback to the mid-90s, so people who loved what Live did then are hopefully going to love what I’m doing now. But it’s also really cool to see that I just started a Facebook page and 16,000 fans have already signed up. Sometimes I see kids who are 16 years old and I think to myself ‘I was putting out my first record [in Live] before you were even born!’”
This fall, Kowalczyk hits the road to meet his all ages audience first hand across a series of intimate clubs and theatres, performing much of the Alive album, along with a smattering of his past group’s classics. And as has been the case in most of Kowalczyk’s recent interviews, a chat can’t be complete without asking about the possibilities of a Live reunion and the singer’s future solo status.
“I was feeling like [the group] was getting sort of routine and I was feeling pretty malaise about music in general doing it the same way for so many years, but as soon as I made that mental move [towards this solo project], it looked really exciting,” he unveils. “At this point, I wouldn’t close the doors or predict the future, but I feel like I’m at the tip of the iceberg where every day is an exciting frontier.”
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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