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article imageInterview: Chicago's Keith Howland discusses Chicago summer tour Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jul 15, 2017 in Music
Wantagh - Long-time Chicago guitarist Keith Howland chatted with Digital Journal about Chicago's upcoming concert at Jones Beach in New York.
On their summer tour, he said, "A few nights ago, we had the first show of the second leg of the tour. It was Chicago in Chicago, which is always fun. We had a great crowd and the band played great. We are kicking off another 4.5 weeks."
Chicago will be celebrating the band's 50th anniversary on their "A Legacy of Rock, Horns & Hits" Tour. On July 28, they will be returning to the Jones Beach Theater on Long Island, where they will be sharing the stage with The Doobie Brothers. "I always like playing Jones Beach. It is always a really cool venue to play," he said. "This year is extra special for me, since I have a little band project called Button, with myself, John Cowan and Ed Toth of The Doobies. We all live in Nashville and we made a record and that is going to come out this fall, and we will start doing some live shows."
Regarding their Jones Beach show, he said, "You are going to get basically two concerts in one. The Doobie Brothers will be doing quite a long set, and we come on, and we will be doing two hours of music. We are doing enough to be a concert in itself without The Doobie Brothers. You're going to hear every Chicago song that you would hope to hear, and every Doobie song you would hope to hear. Pack a lunch and be prepared for a long night!"
Howland listed "25 or 6 to 4" as his personal favorite Chicago song to play live. "It has a super long guitar solo in it," he said, with a sweet laugh.
"Music is not just my job. Music is my hobby and who I am, and what I am. I get to do something that I love for a living," he said, about his daily motivation. "We get to play music. You don't work music, you play music, and most people can't say that they get to play at their job," he said. "All the things surrounding the getting to play, the travel and being away from your family and the long bus rides, that's the things we get paid for. The actual performance part of it is fun."
In 2016, Chicago was inducted into the coveted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "It's interesting, and the original guys would say the same thing. It was an amazing experience and it was a huge honor, but the band just keeps doing what it's doing. We keep on performing and playing. I always felt like I was in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, even before the band was inducted. Nothing really has changed much in terms of how it feels, but we seem to be getting stronger. We are seeing bigger audiences, and better crowds, and better reactions. You would think at 50 years, the band would be slowing down but we keep working more and doing better. I'm talking about just in my 22 years with the band, we are better today, than when I first started with the band," he said.
Howland opened up about the digital transformation of the music scene, and how technology has impacted his life as a touring musician. "I'm as guilty as anybody of being glued to my phone. Social media, e-mail and if I go to the bathroom and don't bring my phone with me, I feel lonely. When I first joined the band and we would go on the road, nobody had a cell phone, the Internet was really in its infant stages, the buses had no satellite television, so when you left the hotel you would call your wife, and tell her that you would call her at the next hotel or from the production office. You would get on the bus and everybody would pop in a VHS tape of a movie and the sits would sit around and talking to each other. Now, everybody is on their phones, iPads and computers, scattered around the bus, although we still socialize on our bus quite a bit. It's real different. It used to be such an isolated world out on the road, especially on a tour bus, but now everybody is on the phone, dialed in to home or face-timing," he said.
He continued, "The whole advent of music streaming and virtually everything you release as a record nowadays is immediately on YouTube. People can get it on Apple music for $12 a month, the royalties being paid out are minimal, and making a record these days is more a vehicle to go out and perform live. Making money from recording music is a dead issue, not for all artists, but most artists. It's a little troubling when you think. I went to Starbucks and got a cup of coffee for four dollars. People have a problem paying 99 cents for a song that took months to write, record, mix and master. It's a strange world that we live in now. Everybody expects music to be free for everyone."
On the key to longevity in the music industry, he said, "It basically comes down to the songs, and also the era in which they were recorded. I'm not sure we're going to see bands of this generation lasting for 50 years, and performing on the level of The Doobie Brothers, Chicago and Hall & Oates. I don't think they will call a band from this generation a 'classic band.' There is something about the music created in the 70's, that because of the way the music industry was structured, bands had free license to be as creative as they wanted to be and they had time to really hone their craft and to define themselves. Now, everything is so cookie cutter for the most part, and so perfectly fixed and tuned, that a lot of the imperfections of the recordings of the 70's, is what makes them human and makes them feel as something people want to listen to over and over again. The ability to 'fix all of the imperfections' is removing the soul out of the music. That is why the records from the 70's still hold up, and make people feel something. It's a human visceral experience."
For aspiring young musicians, he said, "Get in a room with other musicians and play together. There is a certain element of this generation of being able to do everything on your laptop, and isolated creation of music by individuals and computers. Back in the day, with Chicago, Robert Lamm might sit in a room, with a piano and a tape recorder and a pad of paper, and write a song, but then he would bring it to the band, and they would get in a room and play together, and that would become the song, with everybody's influences and everybody's personalities. Music is a communication and it's a team sport. The joy I get is every night being on stage with those nine guys and speaking the language of music together. This is always my advice."
To learn more about the rock band Chicago, check out their official homepage.
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