'O Starry Night:' Petersen ready for big pop event
The music will flow freely Dec. 10, when six big-name pop acts come to Oakland for 100.7 Star (WBZZ-FM) radio's “O Starry Night” concert.
The show at the Petersen Events Center, sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Honda dealers, is headlined by vintage boy band the Backstreet Boys, who are on a 20th anniversary tour, and includes Avril Lavigne, Gavin DeGraw, The Fray, Five for Fighting and Plain White T's.
Although the concert is named the Christmas-y “O Starry Night,” the music will be mostly pop, likely with some Yuletide songs thrown in here and there.
The Grammy Award-nominated Backstreet Boys have sold in excess of 130 million albums worldwide in two decades of making pop music, making them the best-selling boy band in history.
Band member Brian Littrell recently told the U.K. media, “It's a marathon — you have to pace yourself. Having 20 years in the business is kind of unheard of.”
And he had this advice, in Cosmopolitan, for today's new boy bands: “Don't burn out too quick. Don't work yourselves too hard where you hate each other, and you want to split up. Your fans don't want that.”
In its 20 years, the band has been nominated for seven Grammys, performed at the largest indoor show ever recorded at the Georgia Dome during 2000's Millenium Tour and released seven consecutive albums in the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200. Earlier this year, the band was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Backstreet Boys released its eighth full-length studio album, “In a World Like This,” in July. It's their first with founding member Kevin Richardson since 2005's “Never Gone.” They're touring this year and next to support the new album, after two years on tour with fellow boy band New Kids on the Block.
After Richardson announced his return to the fold in early 2012, the group's five members headed to the United Kingdom to spend three weeks living and writing together with producer Martin Terefe (Jason Mraz, Train).
“It was one of the best bonding experiences we've ever had,” says member Howie Dorough, on the band's website. “We focused on the music. We had the opportunity to hone in on where we wanted to go creatively, and we got to know each other on a new level with Kevin back. The group has a different dynamic with him. The sound feels complete and fully rounded.”
He says the band is stronger than ever and has grown more and more with every album.
“This is everything we were always meant to be,” Dorough says.
— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
The title of The Fray's upcoming album — “Helios,” the ancient Greek god of the sun — describes the band members' contented, optimistic place in life and their attitude, Joe King says.
King, vocalist and guitarist, says that “Helios” — which is set for release from Epic Records on Jan. 14 and includes the hit single “Love Don't Die” — reflects The Fray's sunny, happy-go-lucky place in their careers.
“It's a record that reflects just being at a beautiful place in life,” says King, who formed The Fray in 2002 along with vocalist and pianist Isaac Slade. “We're all happy as a band. ... It's up-tempo, feel-good — almost spaghetti-westernish.”
Band members wrote all of the songs on “Helios.” Although the record maintains some familiar Fray melancholy, King says, some fans may hear this sunny, new stuff and think, “Whoa, this is The Fray?”
“Writing sad songs has been easier for me, but this record has a lot more light to it,” he says. “But there's still some Fray drama in there, in the second half of the record.
Slade and King joined with drummer Ben Wysocki and guitarist Dave Welsh more than a decade ago in the Denver area. The Fray band members started writing songs and doing many local and regional gigs, and got a lot of local airplay for the hit “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Fans led a radio-driven campaign to get the band a record contract, which happened with Epic Records in 2004. The band members signed the contract onstage at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colo., as a hat tip to their grassroots base that led them to fame.
Probably The Fray's most famous hit is “How to Save a Life,” a Top 5 hit inspired by Slade's experience as a mentor to a crack-addicted teen and the relationships the addict lost in his downward spiral. King says that the band still gets many messages from fans who relate to the song, and singing it never gets old. In his family of songs, King calls “How to Save a Life” his “Little Johnny.”
“I'm also proud of Betty and Suzy, but Johnny comes up a lot,” King says. “It definitely catapulted the fan base for us.”
King still hears “How to Save a Life,” which has appeared on several television shows all over the place.
“I'm trying to grocery shop, the song's on, and I'm a little distracted,” he says.
King and The Fray bandmates have heard from fans ranging from those who used “How to Save a Life” as a wedding love song, to those who used it for consolation after the death of a loved one.
“I have a whole bag of stories that we've heard … that are incredible, diverse and touching in different ways,” King says. “That's the beauty of it — the interpretation of music is so different. To one person, it's joyful and it's a love song and its intimate … to another, it's consoling.”
King recalls a touching moment in 2007, when he saw footage of two high-school students performing “How to Save a Life” at a talent show, which brought King a “full circle” moment, he says. He saw his younger, aspiring self in those kids.
“It just struck me: That was me … and now I'm the artist that they're covering,” King says. “It really sunk in that I'm an artist and maybe don't have to go back to work at Starbucks.”
— Kellie B. Gormly
Though Avril Lavigne, a Canadian pop diva, has sold some 35 million albums worldwide, her new album is simply self-titled, as if it's a debut record. “Avril Lavigne,” which came out Nov. 5, is the singer's fifth studio album, after the debut “Let Go” in 2002, “Under My Skin” in 2004, “The Best Damn Thing” in 2007 and “Goodbye Lullaby” in 2011. Lavigne's biggest hits include “Girlfriend,” “My Happy Ending,” “I'm With You” and “What the Hell.” Earlier this year, Lavigne married Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. Her charity, the Avril Lavigne Foundation, helps young people with serious illnesses and disabilities.
Gavin DeGraw, a New York-bred musician and singer-songwriter, is known for hits including “Chariot,” “Follow Through,” “In Love With a Girl” and “Not Over You.” DeGraw became famous in 2003, when his “I Don't Want to Be” was chosen as the theme song for the teen drama “One Tree Hill,” which he has guest-starred on a few times. DeGraw released his debut album, “Chariot,” that year, and it went platinum. His latest album — “Make a Move,” which came out Oct. 15 — includes the hit single “Best I Ever Had.” For the new album, DeGraw teamed with A-list producers, including Butch Walker and Ryan Tedder.
Plain White T's
High-school friendships led to the formation of Plain White T's in 1997, shortly after graduation. The band has had three platinum hits: the Grammy-nominated “Hey There Delilah,” “1, 2, 3, 4” and “Rhythm of Love.”
Now on a U.S. tour, the Chicago-based quintet's newest album, “American Nights,” was recorded over the summer and will be released early in 2014. It will include “Should've Gone to Bed,” sung by Tom Higgenson, and “The GivingTree,” sung by guitarist Tim Lopez.
Five for Fighting
Over a career spanning more than a decade, John Ondrasik has produced timeless songs with true staying power.
Five for Fighting, the stage name for singer-songwriter Ondrasik, has been on the national music scene since 2000 when his song “Superman (It's Not Easy)” debuted. His next hit, “100 Years” followed three years later. Both songs remain in frequent rotation on radio waves and continue to resonate with fans.
Five for Fighting's sixth album, “Bookmarks,” released in September, features the inspirational, “What If,” which asks listeners, “What if you were me, and what if I were you?”
Ondrasik, the son of a piano teacher, also has a great love of hockey, pulling inspiration for his stage name from the NHL's five-minute fighting penalty. He's written for Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Kings website; performed at NFL, NHL and NASCAR events; and appeared on ESPN's “SportsCenter.”