STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Eric Bazilian is one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, and one of the busiest. The multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and award-winning songwriter, best known as a member of The Hooters, brings his Cavalcade of Stars to Sellersville Theater on Feb. 20.
Bazilian will be performing with his new ensemble, Ebaz and The Warriors. His bandmates are David Uosikkinen (The Hooters, In the Pocket), Tommy Williams (The Hooters) and Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ). Joining The Warriors will be “stars” Ben Arnold, ZouZou Mansour and Travis Smith from the band Soraia, plus Alexis Cunningham and Nate Rylan.
I spoke to Bazilian by phone when he was in New York City in January to perform 2 shows at Carnegie Hall with Joe Bonamassa. They were the final shows of a mini acoustic tour, on which Bazilian played mandolin, mandola, dobro, banjo, alto sax and recorder.
“It’s pretty different,” said Bazilian about the tour. “Joe Bonamassa’s record producer and tour producer… called me out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to play Carnegie Hall. It was a short-run acoustic tour with a really interesting international band.”
I asked Bazilian how he enjoyed being a sideman.
“…Being a sideman is two-sided,” he said. “On the one hand it’s incredibly stimulating to play in a completely new situation and play along with whatever is happening and add my spice to it. On the other hand it gets a little frustrating because I wanna be the guy shredding on the guitar and singing the songs. So a 3-week run seemed just about perfect.”
For those of you who missed the tour, the Carnegie Hall shows were recorded for a PBS special and a DVD.
Bazilian was looking forward to returning home, if for only 2 days. He would then leave for a week in Los Angeles to produce an album for the English band Buster. That will leave him little more than 2 weeks to prepare for the Sellersville show, when he will finally have the opportunity to shred on the guitar and sing. He is very excited to present his own music.
“I’ve got a whole bunch of new songs,” said Bazilian, who intends to release an album in the near future. “I haven’t released a solo album since 2002 [“A Very Dull Boy,” “Bad Candy”]. Recently I’ve had a really creative run.”
That creative run began with his longtime Hooters bandmate, drummer David Uosikkinen.
“Dave had been coming over and we’d been writing and recording. I’d never really written with him before but… one thing led to another and there was a song [“Call Your Name”]. I sent it to (WXPN disc jockey) Dan Reed and a couple of hours later he played it twice in a row. Helen [Leicht] played it the next morning and the next thing I know I got an e-mail from (WXPN’s Associate General Manager for Programming) Bruce Warren telling me they were gonna make it the Gotta Hear Song of the Week.”
Bazilian describes it as “a Brit-pop/rock song with a burning guitar solo.”
Bazilian, who had been working with Uosikkinen and Williams, also began to collaborate with Donnelly. The quartet became Ebaz and The Warriors.
“I started hanging out with Pete Donnelly and realized I really wanted to play with him as well. So I moved Tommy from bass to guitar and keyboards and Pete’s gonna have to play bass (at the Sellersville show). He’s got a whole bunch of songs to learn, too,” Bazilian laughed.
Bazilian explained the evolution of The Cavalcade of Stars.
“The whole concept of The Cavalcade of Stars started with a collaboration that I’ve had with Alexis Cunningham and Nate Rylan, who we brought in later on.”
This new project, The Sugar Pops, will make their debut at Sellersville.
“I really want to get a launching pad for that because we have a great body of work. (Cunningham is) an amazing artist. And I thought ‘OK, we’ll work that into the set.’ And then I started thinking ‘I’ve been doing all this stuff with Pete.’ He’s gonna be playing bass in my band (so) we’ll do a couple of songs that he and I have written together. And Ben Arnold – I just played lead guitar on his entire new album [“Lost Keys,” 2016] so let’s get Ben up there.
“At the same time I was working with ZouZou and Travis from Soraia and (there’s) a great song that I had done with them, so let’s get them up there. Everything that I’ve been working on with all these enormously talented people… let’s just get them all up and do it.”
Bazilian acknowledged that the concept of this show is similar to that of Uosikkinen’s musical collective In the Pocket, “but where (In the Pocket) is resurrecting songs from the distant past, this is about the future. I see this as a warm up for whatever is coming next.”
He added: “I kind of have to force myself to do my own shows because it’s a lot of work. And every time I get it together, rehearse it and perform I get busy doing other things. So it’s like starting over every time. But it’s always worth it. I love performing. I love playing new songs. And I love having a reason to write them.”