posted on June 20, 2012 00:00
*This is the third installment of a three-part series for the Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express tour, featuring Ted Nugent, Styx and REO Speedwagon.
REO Speedwagon continues to run like a locomotive, perform on a regular basis and keep in touch with its Midwest roots — especially St. Louis, where KSHE 95 was the first station to give the band airtime.
REO Frontman Kevin Cronin talks to InsideSTL about how much of an influence St. Louis had on the band’s career, being labeled as a power ballad band and more as they prepare to tour with fellow Midwest rockers Ted Nugent and Styx for the Midwest Rock 'n' Roll Express tour.
InsideSTL: REO Speedwagon has been labeled as a “Power Ballad” band. How has that influenced how you go about creating new music, or has it?
Kevin Cronin: That's a good question. REO Speedwagon started out as a bar band, kind of a touring rock ‘n’ roll band — and in the early ’80s. We kind of [had] a happy accident that this power ballad thing happened. I had written “Keep on Loving You,” as a piano love ballad, and our guitar player Gary [Richrath] turned his amp up really loud, and started playing along with me... [and I thought] that sounds cool. He was just trying to drown me out I think, but it kind of worked... We just do what we do. I try not to let... any outside influences come in. I just try to do what I do and it comes from my soul... and the music is a reflection of that.
InsideSTL: What influence has your hometown of Chicago, or being from the Midwest in general, had on the band?
KC: Well, my Midwest upbringing is a big part of it... [In the] Midwest [you’re] brought up to take care of business, work hard, stay in school and get a job, but also when the weekend comes, let's have some fun. That's really what REO Speedwagon is all about. Our music promotes those values and so this summer with the Midwest Rock 'n' Roll Express tour, we've got three bands that all came out of Midwest. Playing in St. Louis, St. Louis is the first big city that embraced our music. KSHE is the first radio station that ever played our music on the air... The St. Louis gig is always probably the high point of the tour for us...
InsideSTL: REO Speedwagon once headlined Busch Stadium in St. Louis. What was that experience like?
KC: I'll never forget that show at Busch Stadium. [We came out in an] old 1940s Rolls Royce limousine from the dugout to the stage. It was a long day, and I think Ted Nugent was on that show. By the time we came out, when that limo hit that field... we had 50,000 people going crazy. It was 1979, before we were really that popular all around the world. For us, it was just incredible because we probably went and played a bar in Denver the next week. And I do remember the mentality of the band was that... we were always close to making it, and just trying to break through, times were really tough for us. We could always sit back [and say] if we can do it in St. Louis, we can do it anywhere... and it was a huge part of what gave us the confidence to continue on when times got really tough for us...
InsideSTL: Have you ever regretted choosing REO Speedwagon for the band's name?
KC: I guess. At least I have. Our keyboard player Neal [Doughty] thought of it. It served us well... but personally, I wish we would've probably – I would've liked something a little more creative... but I can’t argue with it... I thought of a great name for a band yesterday. Our drum tech fell off the stage yesterday and broke his shoulder... [and I thought of] Walking Wounded... but [REO Speedwagon] kind of works because when you really think about it, REO was originally a fast, heavy-duty, long-lasting vehicle. We didn't realize it at the time, but that's kind of what our band has become...
InsideSTL: What song is the most difficult to perform live and why?
KC: Most difficult, well, there's a song called “In My Dreams,” which is probably the hardest song to sing I've ever written. [It’s] usually played solo acoustic. [We get] so many requests for it [that on] nights I'm feeling strong vocally, [I'll] sing... It's a big song for us, and the only reason we don't play it more because it's such challenging song...
InsideSTL: You've toured with Styx in the past. What makes the tour coming up this summer different?
KC: We love those guys and they are great band and they bring it... (*Note: technical difficulties and time constraints cut out a good portion of this answer) … Then having Ted along, that added piece that's the thing that's going to take it over the top...
InsideSTL: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
KC: The band is feeling strong, we’ve got a brand new stage set and a revamped set list... We’re ready to rock and looking forward to having a really good time this summer. St. Louis is as good as it gets...
Get tickets and more info about The Midwest Rock-n-Roll Express with REO Speedwagon, Styx & Ted Nugent by clicking HERE.
INETERVIEW: Ted Nugent
INTERVIEW: Ricky Phillips of Styx