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Styx – Lawrence Gowan

This year 2022 will offer many new opportunities. One definite event with be the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary rock band Styx. They first made their profound mark in the music industry with their self-titled debut album released in 1972, and then continued into the next couple of decades with multi-platinum albums like THE GRAND ILLUSION released in 1977, Pieces Of Eight released in 1978, CORNERSTONE released in 1979 and PARADISE THEATRE released in 1981. Most recently, these extraordinarily talented world renown musicians are still creating amazing music as exampled with their 17th studio album CRASH OF THE CROWN. They are also bringing their latest concert show to Pompano Beach at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater on February 19th.
Catching up with Keyboardist/Vocalist Lawrence Gowan while still touring in 2021, he revealed some details about their new LP CRASH OF THE CROWN, the tour that he and Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Tommy Shaw, Lead Vocalist/Guitarist James “JY” Young, Bassist Chuck Panozzo, Bassist, Guitarist Ricky Phillips, Drummer Todd Sucherman and Guitarist, Percussionist, Will Evankovich are taking into the new year, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: You have a lot of exciting things going on. You have the new album that came out early in the summer, CRASH OF THE CROWN. What inspired the album?
Lawrence Gowan: Well, that’s kind of a multi layered answer I suppose. We put out an album in 2017 called THE MISSION. Styx were back with our old record company Universal Records and they did a great job promoting that record over a couple years span, and it did well enough that basically we were ready to do another one. We rolled straight into writing and preparing to do another record, but I think just basically the mindset of world events went a lot into the inspiration lyrically anyway, of the record. Musically, the opportunity to continue a little bit further down the progressive path which is the part of Styx that I’ve always been most attracted to, kind of opened us up to you know, making a full album that’s a true 40 minute statement, and not having to focus at all on making hit singles because there’s just no avenue for that for a band like Styx today, but there is very much a clear path to make strong albums, and go back to that as the art form that is was in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s I suppose. So, anyway, those are factors that kind of inspired the record. The curious thing Lori, is that we had all but two of the songs were written prior to the pandemic, and so many people have pointed out and we noticed it too, that the songs seem to reflect so much of the mind set of people throughout 2020 and right up until the present time here in 2021. Some of the struggles and some of the hopeful intentions or thoughts that people had seem to be reflected in these songs, and that’s part of why we really pushed hard to finish the record before we came back on tour.

SFL Music: Is there a theme with songs like “A Monster”, Save Us From Ourselves”, “Hold Back The Darkness”. Was there a theme or does it just look that way like you said?
Gowan: Quite honestly, and you’ve mentioned three songs that fall under that category; I thought when we were writing these songs, I thought you know, these are kind of enigmatic kind of songs that seemed to circle back to a theme of renewal, and then I began to notice it’s not just common renewal. Its renewal after a cataclysmic event, and then that cataclysmic event happened. So, the songs, they took on a deeper residence all the sudden. Two of the songs that I was not part of the writing, but they arrived after the pandemic started, were “Our Wonderful Lives” and “To Those” and I thought well, those two songs really bring home the entire theme to the record that I just outlined, and suddenly it felt like there’s a very cohesive statement and one that as I mentioned, seems to reflect so much of the mindset and the thoughts that are going through a lot of people’s minds.

SFL Music: What would you say inspired those two songs?
Gowan: Tommy and Will Evankovich wrote those two songs. They seem to sum up much of the rest of the record and put a hopeful light on some of the darker aspects of the album where we delve into those subjects. They tended to kind of reset or rebalance that hopeful outcome that people need you know, to kind of balance off the darker aspects of songs like “Save Us From Ourselves” and “A Monster”, “Our Wonderful Lives” and even “Crash Of The Crown”, the title track always seem to bring us back to this hopeful reality that we can overcome and withstand anything if we give it just enough time and enough focus.

SFL Music: What would say inspires you when you write?
Gowan: Honestly, there’s so much in the musical world and so much happens particularly during our live shows that you know, you just want to make more (he laughed). You want to revisit that well so to speak, often because it’s so life affirming. It just enriches your whole existence. So, we always have you know, a lot of new ideas coming down the pipeline if you want to use that analogy, and there’s an endless source of inspiration around you that basically keeps propelling you forward to make more music. So, the inspiration comes from music itself and just life experience.

SFL Music: I did see the lyric video to “Crash Of The Crown”. I love how it was done with the water and the sky. It has all the strong Styx points with the keyboards and the guitar and the harmonizing vocals. It’s awesome!
Gowan: Thank you.

SFL Music: You’re welcome. Are there any new videos coming out in coordination with the album?
Gowan: Yeah, because we’re touring so essentially at a strong pace. We started back on tour in June. The videos that we’ve been doing are these lyric videos. I happen to be a real fan of those because to my mind, they’re an extension of the album experience. It’s that old you know, sing along with the bouncing ball kind of a, that kind of idea, but taken to a much more refined level, I think. And the guys that I’ve been working with on these lyric videos, they’re a couple of younger guys in Toronto that really get how to make them entertaining, so as you follow along the lyrics, It’s not just like a karaoke experience. It’s more like you’re getting deeper inside the album and I enjoy them. Thanks for saying that about “Crash Of The Crown” because I was really pleased with how that one came out.

SFL Music: I thought it was really cool. People can keep their eyes open for something down the road. You are touring a lot. What can fans look forward to with this show?
Gowan: Well, the first thing they should know is that no matter where Styx ever play, people are going to come out and hear the songs that they most expect to hear. There’s never a Styx show where we don’t play “Renegade” or “Come Sail Away” and “Blue Collar Man” and “Mr. Roboto” and “(The) Grand Illusion”, “Too Much Time On My Hands” “Fooling Yourself”. Those songs are in every show because they’re such standards, and they really define the classic rock era from which Styx emerged and their greatest successes. And then what kind of weaves in between those things are a couple of the newer things that we put out as I say, since THE MISSION. We usually do one at least from that album. Then we kind of deafly (he chuckled) weave several of the new things from CRASH OF THE CROWN in through the set in a way that kind of connects them very much to the songs from the legacy of the band. So, for example, I think one of the best treatments of that is, there’s a song on the album called “Sound The Alarm” that Tommy Shaw sings and that dove tails straight into “Crystal Ball”, and I love that part of the show because it kind of bookends that span of time in the band and gives to very connected and yet separated by time points of view. So, that’s basically what we do. We kind of weave the new things in with the old. Chuck Panozzo and I, we do a little duet called “Lost At Sea” and then that transitions seamlessly into “Come Sail Away”. So, we connect the current material with the historical pieces of the band.

SFL Music: That’s very clever. I’m looking forward to seeing that. What would you say inspired you to become a musician? Originally, you are from Scotland and Canada?
Gowan: Yeah, I was born in Glasgow Scotland. Then my parents immigrated to Canada when I was little, and basically the story of what inspired me to want to do this is really identical to millions of musicians around the world my you know, age. I was seven years old and my mum said to me, “oh,” you know, in her Scottish accent. (He imitated) she said “Oh, there’s going to be a group on Ed Sullivan tonight. They’re from Liverpool. Liverpool’s not too far from Glasgow,” and she didn’t know who they were. She just said that they’re called The Beatles. She said,” yeah they’re a musical group.” So, Ed Sullivan was such a galvanizing show back in the ‘60’s obviously, you know, it was that variety show that kind of gave you a great cross section of the culture, and I remember (he laughed) I’m only seven years old, but you know when The Beatles were introduced, I was just kind of half watching for the first two seconds, and then they were about maybe not even a minute into “All My Loving” and I just realized right then, well, whatever this is these guys are doing, I want to do that!
SFL Music: Aw.

Gowan: Well, because it just looked like they were having such a great time and it just completely ignited my interest in music, and it really hasn’t diminished at all since that day.
SFL Music: You guys have done a lot with Rock To The Rescue. Is that going to continue? It looks like it is from what I read.

Gowan: Yes, Rock To The Rescue started after 911. It was a series of two or three years we did these, three years I guess it was, we did these concerts to raise money for the families, the victims of that. Rock To The Rescue is a great way for us to connect to local communities where we’re playing because we go back to these towns and cities and areas you know, often over the course the career of the band. If we have a signed guitar or some other memorabilia etc., we auction that off and the money goes to a worthy local cause and that’s really chosen on a day-to-day basis. So, it’ll still be in full effect. It certainly was last night. It has been for every show this year, so I don’t see any reason why we would stop that.

SFL Music: What would you recommend for an up-and-coming artist to be successful and have the longevity that Styx has?
Gowan: That is such a tough question Lori, and I’m really reluctant to give advice to younger musicians manly because the whole paradigm of the music business if you want to call it that, is so different from when I was growing up and what I went through. What Styx went through. At the same time as an overall statement, I say first and foremost, just fall in love with music first of all. Just do that and kind of use it every day as a way to connect yourself to a much more enriched existence. That’s the most important aspect of it. Then from there you know, if the Gods of rock or whatever it is. If the Gods of hip hop or whatever you’re playing, happen to smile upon you one day, you could potentially turn that into a career, but I would be really hesitant to say follow this path or another because everyone’s path is very different to whether their music receives you know, widespread acclaim or whether it’s just something that’s very personal that it helps you along in your own purity so to speak.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. Is there anything else that fans can look forward to?
Gowan: Well, for next year let see, we’re playing Pompano Beach on the nineteenth. Well, on the 19th of February next year that’ll be just three days away from when Styx will be officially in 50 years of existence (he laughed). So, the fiftieth anniversary of the band is the 22nd of February 2022. That’s from when they signed their first record contract. So, that’s a momentous occasion, and there are several very interesting things along the route next year. We do a residency in Las Vegas for I think its five or six something shows in a row, and that’s coming up. It starts late January, early February, so it will be before we see you guys. So, there’s that, and this will be a big blockbuster summer tour, but the great thing about what we’re bringing to Pompano Beach will be you know, anything with Styx and that’s always a great epic adventure.

SFL Music: Fifty years, that’s amazing! What would you say is the secret to Styx success? Anything in particular?
Gowan: Well yeah, I would say that the band exists because we are the culmination of the efforts of every individual whose ever been part of the band. There have been now with the addition of Will, there’s only ever been 11 people as members of Styx and they’ve all been really you know, gifted musicians and songwriters and performers that as I say, we are the culmination of the efforts of all of them and everyone has been extremely talented. It’s great when you connect the other people of that ilk. There’s a good chance that things will turn out really well. So, it’s been a pretty remarkable team effort in a lot of ways I guess I could say, that’s resulted in that, and a good dose of luck, and a great supply of faithful listeners out there that really kind of just patch the whole thing together to where we can say its half a century in existence.

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