By Joseph Suto
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with FireHouse guitarist Bill Leverty and find out what they have been up to. Their most recent area appearance occurred in November of 2007 when they played Club Paradise in Blasdell. See what Bill had to say about the many questions we threw his way.
Rock Show Critique: I will start with the question that many have asked… When will we see the next Firehouse album of all new material? It has been way too long.
Bill Leverty: It has been way too long and we hope to get another one done. 2012 is what we are aiming for.
RSC: On your writing process do you and CJ get together and write much or do you guys just pass things back and forth via internet or what have you?
BL: What we’ve done in the past is we write on our own and we also bounce it off each other. It will sometimes start with a riff or a chorus idea and it could just go from there. We keep building and sometimes we build backwards, we’ll start with the chorus and work backwards.
RSC: Is anybody else usually involved in the writing process?
BL: Yeah we write with everybody. Our first record had everybody in the band writing on a few of the songs. So did the second, its something I do and CJ does a lot its something I can’t get away from. I’m always fiddling with something musically.
RSC: It’s been a while where you did a full all out tour in some sort of package. Will there be one down the road or are you happy the way you’ve been doing it the past several years?
BL: Those aren’t really by our choice. They are by headliners choice on who they decide. We’re always available and on call to go out to do those kinds of big tours. Everybody wants them and when you get one its kind of like winning the lottery. Getting your name picked out of a hat or whatever. If we had it our way we would do a tour like that every year. In the reality of the business everyone wants to go out with The Rolling Stones. The Stones pick who they want to open for them not the other way around.
RSC: What are your future plans, Any more solo albums on the horizon or anything else you can share?
BL: Yeah I’m always working on music, just whatever inspires me at that moment. I don’t try and think in terms of the market or what the trends are or try to jump on any bandwagon. I’ve always felt that’s not really being to true to myself as an artist. I just record and put it out. Right now the most recent things I’ve been doing are covers of some old seventies classic songs that are preferably ones that have not been covered to death. I’ve grew up listening to that stuff. There’s been an urge for me to cover a lot of these songs for years. I’ve wanted to cover some of these cool songs that have been a big influence in my life as a musician. I’ve been trying to get around to do that. In doing these songs I’ve not only learned how these guys put these songs together and what they did to make the pieces fit together and so forth. I’ve also learned why I was influenced by Stevie Wonder or whatever. When you cover somebody else’s music it makes you have a greater appreciation for it. So I’ve had a lot of fun doing that. I’m writing all the time too and I spend a lot of time in my studio. Whatever comes out is sort of a snapshot of what I’m involved with at that moment. I’m not trying to think of what I’ll be able to do to make me get on MTV or something like that sort of thing.
RSC: You mentioned recording some covers, would those be more of a solo thing or with Firehouse.
BL: Well I’d love to do a cover with Firehouse, we can’t seem to agree on any particular cover tune to do with Firehouse so I’ve just been doing them on my own. I’ve put out five cover tunes in the last six months or so of songs I’ve enjoyed. Once I get ten I’ll release an album. It doesn’t make sense to press up three songs as the customer kind of gets hosed, so I think its better if you wait till you have eight or ten songs to get an album’s worth.
RSC: There is a lot of talk on the internet and in the industry that the CD will become extinct.
BL: Well I think in twenty years that’s probably what’s gonna happen. I think right now people still do like CD’s. I love the idea you can get the CD, you can get the booklet, open up the booklet, read the lyrics, look at the credits on who played, who produced, who mixed, who mastered, I’m kind of into that stuff anyway. I like the artwork. I like the sonic quality of the CD. The difference on what you hear on a CD and the difference you hear on an mp3 is remarkable unless its a lossless file like some of the ones their doing now. I’ve got thousands of CD’s in my collection. I put most of them into my itunes. So I got them all on one little hard drive now. And I pick whichever ones I want to take out of town with me when I go on a road trip. That is something the CD manufactures have to deal with.
RSC: Obviously you guys have many songs in your catalog. Was there a song or two that you felt very strongly about that should have been released as a single or fare better than it did?
BL: Yeah you know when we put out our second record they put out first “Reach For The Sky”, then they put out “When I Look Into Your Eyes”. Then they said ok guys Pearl Jam’s our priority go back in and make another record get out of our office, get outta here. We thought that a song called “Hold The Dream” would be a good song to put out that would kind of reestablish ourselves, let people see a side of us that they might not know. The record company said no we’re not doing it, we’re done with you guys for this record go make another record. That was right at the time when MTV was changing and radio was changing. The record company was meeting with some resistance promoting bands of our genre. So they saw it as a challenge that would be difficult and it probably would have been. But had we gotten a song like that into the ears rock side of the industry, I think it would have changed the opinions of a lot of people and the course of Firehouse for the better.
RSC: That was definitely a good song.
BL: And if we go back even further to the first record, I would have changed the order in which they released the singles to have had “Home Is Where The Heart Is” probably as the first single instead of “Don’t Treat Me Bad”. Maybe “Overnight Sensation” something that was heavier and more of a rockin’ song so people would have known the rock side of us first instead of the pop side of us first. The record companies they want to go for the fast dime and go for the throat. I’ve always felt to establish longevity as an artist, you want to give the people what you’re more about as an artist instead of what the market’s calling for. I think if you listen to our first record overall its a heavier record than “Don’t Treat Me Bad” or “Love Of A Lifetime”. Those are songs I’m very fond of and proud of but thats not really the essence of the album. If you take a song like “Home Is Where The Heart Is” or like “Overnight Sensation” its more the sound of the record I think. Let’s take Ozzy Osbourne who was on our label, he didn’t put out many ballads. When he did they were always followed up by something showing the rock side of him. This is more of what Ozzy Osbourne’s about first. We want to introduce you to Ozzy’s new record, this is what its mostly about. Instead of this is ten percent of what Ozzy Osbourne’s records are about we’re gonna give you that first. I think thats a little backwards in the way the record companies did it then. But having said that I’m very thankful for every bit of success we had. But you asked me what songs would I have wanted to have gotten some exposure and I would say those two and change the order of which those songs were released. Because once you release the slow or the lighter side of a band the heavier people not only in the industry but also the fans, their opinions will change and are skewed. If you can put out the rock stuff first you can always go lighter later. Once you put out the light stuff its hard to go heavier with the heavy people because they can’t get it out of their mind that they just listened to you singing a love song.
RSC: With the third album and grunge into full force you still managed a hit with “I Live My Life For You”.
BL: Yeah it was a top forty song at a time when the industry slammed the door shut on bands like us.
RSC: That was quite a feat when looking back on it now.
BL: Yeah I wish the record company really had the courage to promote us at that time, but they coward a little bit. If they were courageous and put a song like “Trying To Make A Living” which is on that album, and made a video and put their foot down with some of these program directors and said “you need to play this”. I think that song would have really taken off, it was relevant then, its relevant today with the economy. It will always be something I think people will be able to relate to, its got a cool groove and its a cool song I believe, then hit them with the ballad. That record companies for you.
RSC: Obviously its no secret you guys had a falling out with your original bassist Perry Richardson, have you guys ever had the chance to clear the air on that or cross paths since.
BL: Yeah well I’m not sure if there was much of a falling out as you may have misunderstood he was headed in a different direction. He wanted to be a country artist. He is now the bassist for Craig Morgan who is a huge country artist on Epic, had several number one hits. He’s still doing great, I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, we’re friends. It was a difficult parting of company because we had to figure out a lot of things, but ultimately it was all for the better. He agrees, we agree and everybody’s happy.
RSC: Its been quite some time since you guys played our neck of the woods in Buffalo, any idea when you will be out this way?
BL: As soon as they call up and say they want us to play Darien Lake (laughs). My bags are packed I got one bag ready to go right now. Man I miss playing Buffalo its been a while, but its not our call we can’t just show up and set up and play as much as we’d like to. It can’t happen soon enough as far as I’m concerned.
Special Thanks to Bill Leverty for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us!!