Q&A with Billy Livesay - touch your heart and quench your soul - released a brand new album with his group The Livesays

"The power of music can culturally, morally, and emotionally influence our society. Not only the way we dress, influencing style, the way we listen to music, Medicine (therapeutic soothing), it has also brought about more socio-cultural change than most people realize. Farm Aid, Live Aid, We Are The World, Concert for Bangladesh; everytime there is a catastrophe anywhere in the world, you can count on world class artists and musicians to step up and lend a hand."

Billy Livesay:

The Rhythm of Love and Dysfunction

Billy Livesay, best known for his work with E Street Band legend Clarence Clemons as his guitarist & vocalist, released a brand new album with his group The Livesays, independently. The majority of The Livesays' new album “The Rhythm of Love and Dysfunction” (September 2020) was recorded in 2018. Tragically, on November 2nd, 2018, the band experienced unimaginable sorrow when their drummer, Eddie Zyne, passed away from a heart attack. Eddie, who began his illustrious career as the drummer in Hall and Oates, was an original co-founding member and integral part of The Livesays. During his 12-year tenure with the beloved “Big Man,” Billy recorded and released "Live in Asbury Park" Volumes I & II at The Stone Pony, the second album which features Springsteen. Billy has shared the stage with so many industry giants, his resume reads like a "Who's Who of Rock n' Roll Hall of Famers." The Livesays have created four full length albums that are both memorable and moving with stories ranging from adolescence to adulthood, from battling addiction to conquering depression, from finding love to losing love ... with lyrics that will surely touch your heart and quench your soul.                                       The Livesays / Photo by Jo Lopez ©2020

Born in Washington DC, Billy was raised in south Florida and graduated from Hialeah High School. After seeing “The Beatles” and “The Rolling Stones”, Billy knew exactly what he wanted to do. After high school at the age of 17 he cut his guitar and singing chops by first touring the country with a soul band and then various rock bands. In the spring of 1998, Billy got the job, playing lead guitar and sharing the singing duties with “E Streeter Clarence Clemons”. The band called “The Temple Of Soul” released 2 albums “Live In Asbury Park, Volume 1” and “Live in Asbury Park, Volume 2” featuring Bruce Springsteen. He played with Clarence until his passing in 2011. A respected member of the music community, Billy devotes his time singing and playing guitar with founding member of “Savoy Brown and Foghat” bassist Tony Stevens, as well as his own band “The Livesays”. Billy has forged a national career which includes: the licensing of 21 songs to an MTV series, and publishing deals with Kid Gloves Music,Transition Music, Fervor Records and Crucial Music.

Interview by Michael Limnios            Special Thanks: Bill James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

When I was preadolescent mesmerized by Elvis Presley and Doo Wop, and then a teen listening to music in the 60’s, the counterculture influenced every aspect of my life. Artists like Santana, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and soul artists like James Brown and Otis Redding influenced everything from fashion to political views. It's a bit different today. Popular artists are still extremely influential but much more diverse. There are so many different forms of music spreading influence and radical ideas to the far reaches of the world. Music is and always will be the one true international language and constant way of bringing people together. As I became a more experienced musician it became apparent to me that I am a product of a lifetime of musical influences.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

The Livesays music is a hybrid of Heartland Rock, Blues and Pop. Our songbook is filled with songs about relationships, whether they are between couples or everyday people involved in everyday walks of life. The inspiration for my songs come from real life experiences. Two words in the title of our latest album sum up the subject matter of most of our songs: "Love and Dysfunction."

I write about life, death, separation, togetherness, codependency, spousal abuse, adultery, finding love, losing love, addiction, and topical issues like civil rights and political turmoil. I believe this is why our fans feel a connection to our music… because they can relate on a personal level.             (Photo: Bill Livesay & Clarence Clemons)

"All the shows I did with Clarence Clemons were a lot of fun. We toured Europe and all over the states. One weekend in particular we played 2 days in a row in the Parking lot of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to sold out crowds. We were recording Clarence’s albums “Live In Asbury Park VOL 1 and 2.” The first nite Bruce Springsteen sat in and it was the experience of a lifetime and he is featured on Vol 2."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve had countless meetings and chance encounters with dozens of famous and influential people. Many have offered advice, but one in particular stands out in my mind as a critical turning point. In the late 70's, the manager of my band "Slyder" was a man named Alan Walden. He was the former manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Widespread Panic, The Outlaws, and the brother of Capricorn record exec Phil Walden. Alan encouraged me to not just be a guitar player but, to go beyond and become a lead singer. So, I owe that to him. Working with Clarence Clemons for 12 years as his guitarist and singer was an honor and a continuous learning experience, particularly when it led to the opportunity to record a live album that happened to feature Bruce Springsteen. Those two legendary performers taught me the importance of keeping an audience engaged not just by putting on a dynamic show but by creating memorable on-stage moments.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, tours and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

All the shows I did with Clarence Clemons were a lot of fun. We toured Europe and all over the states. One weekend in particular we played 2 days in a row in the Parking lot of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to sold out crowds. We were recording Clarence’s albums “Live In Asbury Park VOL 1 and 2.” The first nite Bruce Springsteen sat in and it was the experience of a lifetime and he is featured on Vol 2. The second night, we were on stage near the end of our show getting ready to bring out Jon Bon Jovi and his drummer Tico Torres when the emcee came on stage to inform us that we had to stop the show and clear the venue of the thousands of people that were there to see the performance. Someone had called in a bomb threat. They cleared the venue, brought in dogs, conducted a search, but found no bomb. They let everyone back in and we started playing where we left off. Unfortunately, Jon and Tico left before we started back up.  If there was no bomb scare there’s a good possibility Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres would have also ended up on the record.

"I write about life, death, separation, togetherness, codependency, spousal abuse, adultery, finding love, losing love, addiction, and topical issues like civil rights and political turmoil. I believe this is why our fans feel a connection to our music… because they can relate on a personal level." (Photo: Bill Livesay)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

In the past I think there was a lot more variety on the radio. Today radio specializes in specific genres because there are so many sub categories of music and streaming music stations that specialize. Big corporations that own the stations control the playlist. In the early days the DJs could play what they wanted and would give airtime to unknown artists. Today listeners make their own custom playlist with Spotify or Pandora. My hopes are that live music will bounce back from the virus. My fear is the smaller venues that are the mainstay of musical development that have shuttered and closed down won’t reopen for a long time.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like to see style, gender, race, looks and age have less bearing on an artist's success. It would be nice to see more opportunities for musicians based on actual ability rather than an artist specifically designed by producers and style makers. Would icons like Dylan, Tom Waits, Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen really have a shot today if they were unknown.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Keep fit. In order to maintain longevity as a performer, it's extremely important to take care of yourself by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting enough rest. Stay clear of drugs and alcohol. Stay humble, rehearse, continuously strive to be better, don't rest on one’s laurels. Never take your fans for granted.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The power of music can culturally, morally, and emotionally influence our society. Not only the way we dress, influencing style, the way we listen to music, Medicine (therapeutic soothing), it has also brought about more socio-cultural change than most people realize. Farm Aid, Live Aid, We Are The World, Concert for Bangladesh; everytime there is a catastrophe anywhere in the world, you can count on world class artists and musicians to step up and lend a hand.

They can even have an effect with their political stance. Countless times music has made a change in people's lives. Over the years, I have become more intentional with the messages I create and release through song. I aspire to be a catalyst for positive change through the powerful imagery and messages in my lyrics.

"I would like to see style, gender, race, looks and age have less bearing on an artist's success. It would be nice to see more opportunities for musicians based on actual ability rather than an artist specifically designed by producers and style makers. Would icons like Dylan, Tom Waits, Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen really have a shot today if they were unknown."

(The Livesays / Photo by Michael Key ©2020)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

London sometime in the mid 1960’s. Popular music as we know it today was born. Iconic mainstream singers, actors and musicians were accessible and performing in small venues locally.

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