Lawrence Gowan was 12, and two years into his keyboard coaching, when his mother and father lastly bought a household piano. As he sat on the bench and ready to boost the roof on his Canadian dwelling simply outdoors of Toronto, his father requested him to slip over.
“He riffed into about three hours of music,” Gowan says. “I used to be shocked. I had no thought he may play. It seems, he was a pure ear-trained musician. He had no clue what notes he was hitting. He may simply make music. It was a exceptional second in my life.”
It wouldn’t be the final.
Three a long time later, the vocalist/keyboardist, who had developed a powerful following in Canada as a solo artist, discovered himself in a Hollywood, California, lounge awaiting the decision on his future. Would he can be the latest member of a basic rock band— one which, at its peak, launched 4 consecutive albums licensed multiplatinum (not less than 2 million bought) between 1977 and 1981?
By 1999, nonetheless, Styx seemingly had misplaced its manner after a extremely publicized break with Dennis DeYoung. The query was whether or not the band that broke big with hits like “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Your self,” “Renegade” and “The Better of Instances” may rediscover an viewers for its progressive sounds and energy anthems with out its founding member.
Twenty-three years and greater than 1,500 live shows later, Styx continues to reply that query in emphatic vogue. Together with guitarists Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Younger, Gowan has helped to introduce Styx to new generations of followers together with his dynamic vocals, classically educated keyboard enjoying and high-energy showmanship on his spinning piano.
Gowan spoke to Life-style a couple of rock journey that brings him again to South Florida with Styx later this month.
You earned an instructional diploma (ARCT) in classical piano on the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto earlier than turning 20. Did piano come as naturally to you because it did on your dad?
A few of it for positive. I began after I was 10. They used to present you this cardboard foldout of a keyboard for observe. I needed to memorize the place my fingers went and study to play the piece on the cardboard. Then, on the finish of the week, I’d go to observe and eventually hear what it was that I used to be engaged on.
Sooner or later, my piano trainer requested what sort of piano we had at dwelling. I informed her we didn’t have one. She referred to as my mother and father and mentioned, “Lawrence is doing remarkably properly for somebody who by no means performs at dwelling.” My father informed her they have been ready to see if I caught with it. However that’s what lastly acquired us the household piano.
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 enjoying 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 background, and, to at the present time, I’m by no means brief on approach.
Was Styx in your radar as a younger musician?
I used to be enamored with progressive rocks bands of the Seventies—Genesis, Sure, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull. What I seen about Styx was, right here’s a band not from the UK that’s doing progressive rock—and so they’re profitable at it.
The distinction I seen with Styx was that they'd a large musical vocabulary. You can hear the progressive affect, however in addition 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 had opened as a solo act for Styx on the Montreal Discussion board. What led to the decision?
In 1997, I had the identical promoter as Styx. I had a high 10 report on the time in Canada, and I used to be enjoying theaters. Simply me on the piano. The promoter referred to as Styx’s supervisor and mentioned he wished me to open for Styx on the new Montreal Discussion board.
It went rather well with the viewers. After I got here off the stage, I met the fellows from Styx. Humorous sufficient, Tommy Shaw mentioned to me that night time, “We have now to do extra sooner or later.” Speak about prophetic phrases. The next night time, we performed Quebec Metropolis, after which I didn’t hear from them.
In 1998, I performed on the opening for Princess Diana’s Memorial at her Althorp Property in England. I had completed a tune referred to as “Therapeutic Waters” that her household preferred, and so they requested me to carry out it. I labored with the London Symphony. Duran Duran additionally was on the invoice. On the rehearsal, Todd Sucherman [drummer for Styx] re-introduced himself, talked about the present we did in Montreal, and we chatted a bit.
Now, it’s 1999, and Styx has come to the choice to work with any individual new within 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 tour with us once more,” he mentioned, “however we need to know for those who’d be keen on being a part of the band.”
I requested him to present me an hour. I instantly acquired a replica of The Grand 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 noticed, yeah, this feels proper.
I referred to as again, and James Younger invited me to Tommy’s place to see if we may [capture] that quintessential Styx three-part concord collectively. The following day, I used to be on a aircraft to Los Angeles.
Again then, Tommy’s home confronted the “Hollywood” signal, proper throughout the canyon. He was in all probability one of many 4 or 5 homes closest to that iconic signal. After we practiced just a few songs, I walked out of the room whereas they mentioned if I handed the sniff take a look at. I keep in mind staring on the “Hollywood” signal and pondering, “That is so movie-like. I ponder if it is going to have a contented ending?”
It did. I’ve been with Styx ever since.
Styx/REO in Live performance
When: June 19
The place: iThink Monetary Amphitheatre, West Palm Seaside
What: Styx co-headlines a night of basic rock that features two different bands from the Seventies and ’80s with multiplatinum-selling albums—REO Speedwagon and Loverboy. The summer time “Stay & UnZoomed” tour marks the fifth time that REO and Styx have hit the street collectively since 2000. Final 12 months, REO launched into a post-Covid fortieth anniversary tour for Hello Infidelity, the 1980 album that spent 15 weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart. Styx, again in South Florida after opening the revamped Pompano Seaside Amphitheater in February, is celebrating 50 years since forming in 1972.