Tommy DeCarlo’s career path was a straight shot from The Home Depot to the big stage
By Barbara Wallace Hughes
Tommy DeCarlo could be mistaken for Boston's biggest fan - if he weren't the band's lead singer.
How he got the job is a story that sounds almost too unbelievable to be true.
Since he began touring with Boston, DeCarlo - a former credit manager at The Home Depot with no professional singing experience - has been living out his dream.
Sometimes, it still seems surreal.
"Every night is always a reminder of what an awesome opportunity this is," DeCarlo said, in a recent telephone interview.
Growing up in Utica, New York, DeCarlo was an all-around athlete in school; he played basketball, football and baseball, even trying out twice for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Music was nothing but a hobby.
"It was something I did when I wasn't playing sports," DeCarlo said.
Although he joined the elementary school choir and tried out for solos, DeCarlo was never chosen. He was told he had a nice voice, but it was "too soft" to carry in a gymnasium without a public address system.
That is no longer the case.
"If you're going to sing the music of Boston, you're going to have to project," he said.
As a youngster, DeCarlo wanted to emulate Yankee Reggie Jackson's hitting style; in the same way, he wanted to emulate the singing style of his musical idol, Boston lead singer Brad Delp.
"I loved Boston, and I especially loved Brad's voice," DeCarlo said. "I wanted to sing like that. It molded my style of singing, what I heard the most."
After Delp's death in 2007, DeCarlo wrote a song honoring Delp, and when he heard Boston was planning a tribute, sent a link to the band, offering to sing his song at the show. He received a polite response, indicating there were not going to be any additions to the line up.
"It was a very nice reply," DeCarlo said, "and I was just thrilled that I got a response."
Later, however Boston founder Tom Scholz happened to hear DeCarlo's online cover of "Don't Look Back."
He was impressed with the similarity to Delp's voice, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"If there is a tonal comparison to Brad, I have a little bit of that," DeCarlo said. "I wish I had a voice that great."
Scholz invited DeCarlo to sing at the tribute, the event went extremely well, and he's been fronting the band since its 2008 tour.
People who attend a Boston concert "can expect to hear amazing rock and roll music," DeCarlo said, including much of the same music he grew up loving. And, although people can listen on the radio or a recording, "to actually hear it live, it's amazing. I get a charge out of it myself, and I'm in the band."
DeCarlo can't even force himself to choose a single favorite Boston song.
"You can't pick just one. There are plenty," he said, recalling that when he went to Boston concerts in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fans knew every song because there were so many familiar hits.
That, he said, inspires the crowd, which in turn, inspires the band.
"The rise we get out of the crowd is amazing. We have some of the best fans ever," DeCarlo said. "It makes us want to do more."
But a Boston concert isn't just about the music.</p> <p>"When you put the music of Boston with the light show and the big screen -we also have this ridiculously huge gong. I get to hit that a few times."
Said like a man who's still pinching himself to make sure it's all real.