Peace of Mind, Don't Look Back, More Than a Feeling, Foreplay/Long Time, and Amanda are a few of the many classic rock anthems that Boston can lay claim to and will be playing live when the band makes a stop on their current tour to Columbus on August 1st. They will be playing the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fair. I didn't hesitate when I was given the opportunity to interview the newest member of the band, bass player Tracy Ferrie.
The bands publicist, Gail Parenteau, was gracious enough to organize the interview and Tracy was the real deal. During my time with him on the phone I got to know a little more about him, I got a better understanding to the inner workings of Boston and the music they play, and we even got to do a little bit of old fashioned rock ‘n roll discussion.
After Tracy called me and we introduced ourselves, our discussion went something like this:
Me: Tell me about how you got into playing music?
Tracy: I'm from Elkhart, Indiana and it is known as the band instrument capital of the world. There was lots of access there and I got started in my public school. I learned to play the guitar, tuba, standup bass, electric bass, and percussion.
Me: I know that you grew up on classical music, so what were some of the bands that got you into rock ‘n' roll?
Tracy: As a roller skating champion as a kid you perform to classical music. My big brother actually introduced me to bands like Ted Nugent, KISS, Queen, and Boston of course. As I got older I started finding my own tastes like Steely Dan. Then I went to Berkley, where a lot of those people were famous for. I liked jazz influenced pop and gravitated towards that.
Me: Who were some of your influences that got you into playing the bass full time rather than another instrument?
Tracy: I can name some off the top of my head; John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin and John Deacon from Queen. There is one that a lot of people aren't familiar with, a guy named Mars Cowling from the Pat Travers Band. Their album Go for What You Know features some phenomenal bass work. It's one of those things that when you meet somebody else that has heard it and appreciates it; you're kind of in the brotherhood. Then there is Michael Anthony from Van Halen. I've never really been into the virtuoso type of bass players. I always thought if you want that much spotlight, play the piano or the guitar. Why are you playing the bass?
Me: You stated that you were a fan of Boston when you were younger, is there a time that you can pinpoint when you discovered them?
Tracy: Prior to the release of that first record. I was 11 or 12 at the time. Being into roller skating you always had to keep up on new music and that's where I was introduced to that first Boston record. I'll never forget hearing that sound and those songs. Its sound and production was light-years beyond anything that had been recorded before.
Me: Tell me about how the position in Boston came about for you?
Tracy: I have a lot of experience as a studio musician and I played in Stryper. In their later years I recorded a couple of albums with Stryper and we did a cover of "Peace of Mind" with Tom Scholz on it. I believe it's the only record he has played on outside of Boston. We performed it live at a benefit for the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island. Later on he contacted me about playing bass with Boston.
Me: So, what's it like playing in a band with Tom Scholz? I mean, he gives me the impression that he is a perfectionist; he's been known to take many years in between records. Is he a perfectionist and does he expect perfection from the rest of you guys?
Tracy: He does. He expects perfection but more importantly your direction. Everything has to work together in Boston's music; it's not a free for all. Everyone makes mistakes, misses a note, but it's that we are trying our hardest to get to where it needs to be. Specific parts all gel together to form this sort of orchestra of music. We need to all be on the same page and we strive for that.
Me: Ok, now that you guys have been back on the road for a couple weeks, how has the crowd reaction been on this current round of tour dates?
Tracy: It's been overwhelmingly positive and energetic. The crowd hears those songs and this is what they expected to see and hear. One of the most commons comments we get at the meet and greets after the shows is that it "exceeded our expectations". The excitement during "Long Time", people are literally coming out of their skin. It's a great time had by all.
Me: Is the Boston crowd much different than what you experienced as a member of Stryper?
Tracy: Not really. Stryper isn't brand new either and they have a very diverse crowd like Boston. There have been people of all ages at these shows, a lot of fathers and their sons. The longtime fans are saying "I have great memories of this music and you guys brought that back." The kids though, it's refreshing to have teenagers telling you that they aren't really into newer music and that we are their favorite band. Seeing them appreciate what Boston does musically and lyrically, it shows you how timeless this music is.
Me: What has been your favorite Boston song to play live?
Tracy: We do a song from the Walk On record called "Surrender to Me". It's got kind of an 80's flavor to it. Maybe that's why I like it, and then when the whole thing comes together during "Long Time" it leaves no doubt. The crowds become frenzy like.
Me: On August 1st, you guys will be playing the Ohio State Fair with opening act Kansas. Tell me, what are your expectations for when you guys come to Columbus?
Tracy: Everybody knows that Columbus is a rock ‘n roll town. If the reaction is the same to what we've been getting in other cities, we aren't going to kid anyone. The shows we're playing are the real deal.
Me: Obviously it's great for the fans when they get another classic band on the bill, like we will be getting when Kansas opens for you guys. On your side though, is it more difficult to play when the opener is an established act like Kansas? Is there added pressure to perform at a high level?
Tracy: Absolutely there is. People are coming to hear two great bands of that era and are wondering "Who's going to deliver?" People want to know, but at the same time it's an added bonus for everybody getting to sample these two flavors of music.
Me: Boston is a marquee act. Do you prefer playing to larger crowds in arena and amphitheater settings or the more intimate smaller venues?
Tracy: Each one has its own reward. In the intimate ones you can connect with the crowd more and see facial expressions that you wouldn't be able to see with a guy at the top of an arena. So it can translate better in smaller venues. It's a different feeling though. There is a different energy when you are playing a big show and there are ten thousand people singing along to the chorus of "Peace of Mind".
Me: Are there any surprises in the set list this year that should get fans extra excited about August 1st?
Tracy: "Foreplay" is extended and has an almost orchestral element to it. It's great; there really is no dead time between songs. I've played in other bands where there is that awkward pause between songs and you are hoping the singer says something good, but we are just go, go, go.
Me: Are there any plans for new material when you guys get back off the road?
Tracy: I know there is an album in the works. With me being a newcomer and very late notice arrival to the tour that would be a better question for Tom. I know he was working on stuff but it was put on hold. He wanted to take his time on it and wants to wait until after the tour.
Me: Ok, I have one last question, for you as a fan, who put on the best concert that you ever saw?
Tracy: Roger Waters on his Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking tour. I love when theater and rock come together. KISS was one of my all-time favorite bands but Roger Waters topped it all. Eric Clapton was playing guitar on that tour. One half of the show was songs from The Wall and the other half was from his solo album Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. That really is an easy one for me.
With that I thanked him for his time and told him how excited I am for the tour to hit Columbus in a few weeks. I wished him well and he thanked me as well and made sure to say that he is looking forward to their show here also. He seemed to be a very genuine class act and was a true rock ‘n roll gentleman in affording me the opportunity to talk to him. Not all established bands are so generous to their fans. Get ready Columbus; find your way to the fair for the Boston and Kansas show on August 1st, even if you have to Hitch a Ride. Boston's back in the capital city for the first time since 2003. I attended that show at the Schottenstein Center nine years ago and it was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. Tickets are on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets for $30.