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Lawrence Gowan was 12 years previous and two years into his keyboard coaching when his dad and mom lastly purchased a household piano. As he sat on the bench and ready to lift the roof on his Canadian residence exterior Toronto, his father requested him to slip.

“He put a riff on about three hours of music,” says Gowan. “I used to be shocked. I had no concept I may play. Seems I used to be an ear-trained musician by nature. I had no concept what notes I used to be taking part in. I may solely make music. It was a rare time in my life.”

It would not be the final.

Three many years later, the vocalist/keyboardist, who had constructed an enormous following in Canada as a solo artist, was sitting in a Hollywood, California front room awaiting the decision on his future. Would he be the latest member of a basic rock band, one which, at its peak, launched 4 consecutive multi-platinum licensed albums (no less than 2 million bought) between 1977 and 1981?

Nevertheless, by 1999, Styx had apparently dropped out after a extremely publicized breakup with Dennis DeYoung. The query was whether or not the band that made its title with hits like “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Your self,” “Renegade” and “The Better of Occasions” may rediscover an viewers for its progressive sounds and highly effective anthems with out its founding member.

Twenty-three years and greater than 1,500 live shows later, Styx continues to reply that query emphatically. Together with guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Younger, Gowan has helped introduce Styx to new generations of followers along with his dynamic voice, classically skilled keyboard taking part in, and high-energy showmanship in his revolving piano.

Gowan spoke with Way of life a couple of rock-and-roll highway journey that takes him again to South Florida with Styx later this month.

You earned an educational diploma (ARCT) in classical piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto earlier than your twentieth birthday. Was the piano as pure to you because it was to your father?

A few of that for positive. I began once I was 10 years previous. They used to provide you this cardboard drop-down keyboard to observe on. I needed to memorize the place my fingers went and be taught to play the piece on the cardboard. Then on the finish of the week I might go observe and at last hear what I used to be engaged on.

Sooner or later my piano instructor requested what sort of piano we had at residence. I instructed him we did not have one. He referred to as my dad and mom and mentioned, “Lawrence is fairly cool for somebody who by no means performs at residence.” My father instructed him that they have been ready to see if he would stick with me. However that is what the household piano lastly received us.

Later I learn that Rick Wakeman [the keyboardist for the band Yes] and Elton John went to the Royal Academy of Music in England. So, I spent two years doing nothing however taking part in the piano, and diving as deep as I may into classical music, on the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. That diploma nonetheless serves me properly. It gave me the musical base and, to at the present time, I’m by no means missing in approach.

Was Styx in your radar if you have been a younger musician?

I used to be in love with the progressive rock bands of the Seventies: Genesis, Sure, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull. What I seen about Styx was that there is a non-UK band right here that is doing prog rock, and so they’re profitable at it.

The distinction I seen with Styx was that that they had a large musical vocabulary. You would hear the prog affect, however additionally they had this nice pop and rock sensibility. So, I admired that.

Because the story goes, you get a name from guitarist Tommy Shaw in 1999. That is two years after you opened as a solo artist for Styx on the Montreal Discussion board. What led to the decision?

In 1997, he had the identical promoter as Styx. He had a prime 10 file on the time in Canada, and was taking part in theaters. Simply me on the piano. The promoter referred to as Styx’s supervisor and mentioned he needed me to open for Styx on the new Discussion board in Montreal.

It went very properly for the general public. After I received off stage, I met the fellows from Styx. Apparently, Tommy Shaw mentioned to me that evening, “We have now to do extra sooner or later.” Speak about prophetic phrases. The following evening, we performed in Quebec Metropolis, after which I did not hear from them.

In 1998, I performed on the opening of Princess Diana’s Memorial at her Althorp Property in England. She had made a music referred to as “Therapeutic Waters” that her household appreciated and so they requested me to carry out it. I labored with the London Symphony. Duran Duran was additionally on the invoice. In rehearsal, Todd Sucherman [drummer for Styx] he reintroduced himself, talked about the present we did in Montreal and we chatted a bit.

Now, it is 1999, and Styx has made the choice to work with somebody new to the band. [because of the backstage drama that had unfolded with Dennis DeYoung]. My title got here up, and Sucherman tells the fellows that he simply noticed me in England on the Princess Di occasion.

So, Tommy Shaw referred to as me. “We actually need you to return again on tour with us,” he mentioned, “however we need to know in the event you’d be excited by being a part of the band.”

I requested him to provide me an hour. I instantly received a duplicate of the nice phantasm [Styx’s classic album from 1977]. I performed the primary two songs, “The Grand Phantasm” and “Fooling Your self,” to see if I may deal with the vocal vary. And I spotted, yeah, this feels good.

I referred to as again and James Younger invited me over to Tommy’s home to see if we may [capture] that quintessential three-part concord of Styx put collectively. The following day, he was on a airplane to Los Angeles.

Again then, Tommy’s home was throughout from the “Hollywood” signal, simply throughout the canyon. It was in all probability one of many 4 or 5 homes closest to that iconic signal. After practising just a few songs, I left the room as they mentioned whether or not I had handed the odor take a look at. I keep in mind trying on the “Hollywood” signal and considering, “That is so movie-like. I ponder if it’s going to have a cheerful ending.”

Did. I’ve been with Styx ever since.

Styx/REO in live performance

When: nineteenth of June

The place: iThink Monetary Amphitheatre, West Palm Seaside

What: Styx co-headline a night of basic rock that features two different bands from the Seventies and ’80s with multi-platinum albums: REO Speedwagon and Loverboy. The “Reside & UnZoomed” summer season tour marks the fifth time REO and Styx have toured collectively since 2000. Final 12 months, REO launched into a post-Covid fortieth anniversary tour to whats up infidelitythe 1980 album that spent 15 weeks on the prime of the Billboard 200 chart. Styx, again in South Florida after opening the renovated Pompano Seaside amphitheater in February, is celebrating 50 years since its formation in 1972.

Tickets: livenation.com

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