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INTERVIEW: TONY LEWIS FROM THE OUTFIELD (08.23.18)

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Tony Lewis has lived a charmed life.   For over 30 years, he has been making his childhood dreams a reality by making incredible music that uplifts and inspires everyone around him.  From early Outfield classics such as "Your Love" and "Say It Isn't So" to his latest solo release, Out of the Darkness, Tony's music is timeless and resonates with his fans in personal way that few artists ever get to experience.  And after wrapping up this year's successful Retro Futura Tour (with ABC, Belinda Carlisle, Modern English, Limahl of Kajagoogoo, and Anabella of Bow Wow Wow), Tony is excited about the possibilities that await him as the next phase of his amazing career unfolds before his eyes.  As an artist, he is re-energized, reinvigorated, and back living his childhood dream.  If we could all be so lucky.   

 

So sit back, relax, and enjoy Hunnypot's exclusive interview with the multi-talented Tony Lewis.

 

 

 

 

Matthew Belter:  For those who don't know Tony Lewis, he is the voice behind the 80s megaband, The Outfield.  Their smash hit, “Your Love”, peaked at number six on the US charts and had well over 1,000 covers and remixes since it was released in 1985. It's considered by many to be the quintessential song of that era.  Welcome to Hunnypot Tony.

Tony Lewis:  Thank you, what a nice introduction.

Matthew Belter:  Let’s get this train rolling - Tell our listeners how you got started in music?

Tony Lewis:  Well, basically I found ... Well, someone, a friend of my sister's, her brother had a guitar, an acoustic guitar, and he went to throw it in the dust bin. And he couldn't even play the guitar, and he bought an electric guitar, he and his mates’ sort of got together and played electric guitars, and I said, "Don't throw that guitar away, can I have it?" And I took it home, and I just sort of just messed around with the strings and played to an old mono Dansette record player and played along to records.  I was like 14-15 at the time, and yeah, I've been doing it ever since.

Matthew Belter:  It's amazing that something as simple and meaningful as that can spark an amazing career in music.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, I suppose it's just sometimes you just discover you could do something, and you practice and practice and practice, and wanna get good at it, and it could be anything. It could be from laying bricks, or kicking a football, or playing a guitar. If you practice enough, and you're focused enough, and you're dedicated, you love what you're doing, more than often you'd probably get successful or at least make a living.

Matthew Belter:  What was it like performing on stage for the very first time?

Tony Lewis:  On stage for the very first time, I must've been in a school band with Alan the drummer, who was the drummer from The Outfield and who is the Baseball Boys as well, and two other guys, and yeah, I was like 15. And it was nerve-cracking, but you never forget that feeling, that excitement, when you're on stage in front of people, it never leaves you.

Matthew Belter:  Who are some of your early influences that help shape the singer and songwriter you are today?

Tony Lewis:  I think it goes right back to The Beatles, The Kings, The Stones, The Who, just like I mean growing up and listening to 60s, 70s, the Glam rock stuff, T. Rex, Slade, Bowie, right up to some of the megabands from the 80s - Journey, The Cars, Boston, ZZ Top, and Springsteen. I mean so many ... brought up in a decade where there was so many influences and so many great melodies around that you couldn't help but capture it.

Matthew Belter:  Your debut solo album, Out of the Darkness, was released on 29th with Madison Records. Congratulations on what turned out to be an incredible release. I listened to it countless times and absolutely love it.

Tony Lewis:  Thank you, have you got any favorites?

Matthew Belter:  I thought “Hear and Now” was phenomenal. “Into the Light” really took me back to the familiar sound of The Outfield. And then the other one that I really liked was “All Alone”. I connected with that one.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, a lot of people are picking up on that song, “All Alone”. 

Matthew Belter:  Yeah, it's great, and for all of us who have followed you over the years, to get new music like this is amazing. And the quality of your music makes it all the better. Your talent shines, being able to play multiple instruments, producing, things like that. But today, a lot of bands from that era have released music that maybe hasn't been as good as it should have (or could have) been. And this album is just fire in my opinion, well done.

Tony Lewis:  Thank you, thank you, that’s quite a compliment.

Matthew Belter:  You seemed to be on an extended hiatus for a while, what inspired you to jump back into the music scene?

Tony Lewis:  Well, I lost John in July of 2014.  I'd sort of lost the passion for music, I didn't like listening to music, I couldn't even pick up a guitar for about year. And I went out for a beer one night with my wife, and she said, "Why don't you just get back and do what you do best? You love recording, you like singing, you need to get back out there, you need do what you do best." And I had some backing tracks already recorded. But I was struggling lyrically to make it all work. I think the first time I put together “Going Out Tonight Looking For Fight”. And she said, "Well, people are not gonna really warm to them sort of lyrics. Do you want me to give you a hand? What do you wanna write about?" And she's very good at telling a story. And the lyrics, her lyrics seemed to fit the backing tracks, I made them fit. I brought up melodies form and structured them, how I've sort of learned to structure them and produce, learning tricks of the trade from all the producers we work with.

Matthew Belter:  It seems like you wrote, recorded, and produced the entire album.  You also played most of the instruments, is that true?

Tony Lewis:   Yeah, I did, I just wanted to see if I could do it on my own, I worked with Alan, The Outfield drummer, we're still good friends. I'm into drums myself and I programmed drums on Outfield albums, so I knew what I wanted to do with the drum kits and stuff, and I just started riffing tracks on my own, and I've always been interested in the guitar and drums as well, and I played a bit of keyboard. And I just sort of put them together quite quickly.  And once the vibe was there, adding the words to them, I don't know, it just seemed to sort of come to life, each one was easy to record, and it was no rush, and it was no pressure, and it's probably the easiest album I've ever recorded.

Matthew Belter:  Help our listeners understand what it's like to have this type of creative freedom versus perhaps some of the other Outfield albums you worked on.

Tony Lewis:  It's just that when you got an indie label, you got less people interfering with your art, with how you want a song to sound, and how you want it to be recorded, or where you want it to be recorded. It's all about having creative control.  And if you're on a major label, chances are you're probably gonna get someone else who's gonna come in and change the melody, change the words. And that's when things start getting problematic. But I was given total creative control on this album. So I would say anyone out there who's thinking about getting a record deal on an indie label, go for it, because you've got absolutely nothing to lose. Especially with social media being so huge now, you can get your music out there, you can do it without any interference, and total creative control.  There's a lot of artists, even major artists, that still rely on a producer. And I'm not opposed to using a producer in the future, I mean there are some great producers out there, but I just wanted to see if I could do it on my own.

Matthew Belter:  What's your favorite track on the album?

Tony Lewis:  I like “Loving You”, because that song just takes me to another place.  It's a beautiful song, and it's inspired our first granddaughter, 'cause we had a first grandchild a few years ago. And that's what inspired us to write, and it was the first song we wrote together.

Matthew Belter:  The Retro Futura Tour (also known as the Regeneration Tour in a past life), featured some of the most amazing artists from the 80s. This year's lineup included bands such as ABC, Belinda Carlisle from The Go-Go's, Modern English, Limahl of Kajagoogoo, and Annabella of Bow Wow, and of course the incredible Mr. Tony Lewis. What's it like being part of a tour like this?

Tony Lewis:  It was good fun. I shared a dressing room with Limahl, and he was quite funny, we got along. All the bands on the tour got on very, very well, there was no conflict. There was no competition, and it was the first sort of tour that I've been on for 14 years, it was the first time I played live. So I was very apprehensive whether I could hit those high notes again live. And I also wondered how I was gonna get perceived by the fans as well.  So, it was all quite a learning curve. And as I got into it, after sort of the second week, I was really enjoying it. If you don't like traveling, you don't like the tour bus, and you don't like the whole part of touring, you're wasting your time being there, because the whole part of it is just magical, it's like a circus.

Matthew Belter:   What was your most memorable experience from the tour that you can recall?

Tony Lewis:  Wow. There were so many. There were so many. I mean The Mountain Winery gig, that was like amazing, the amphitheater. I mean the last gig we did was on Lake Michigan, it was on an Indian burial ground, there was a lot of history there. And every venue had a story with it. But I'd say in general, I mean if there was one that really stands out is the one we played in Los Angeles, and it was an old hideout of one the gangsters. Al Capone had a hideout where the theater was. And the décor and the age of the building was just like mind-blowing, absolutely mind-blowing, I've never been in a building like that before in my life.

Matthew Belter:  I covered your show in Costa Mesa a few weeks ago, and I must tell you, your performance was amazing.

Tony Lewis:   Thank you.

Matthew Belter:  We’re you added to the bill later in the game?

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, what it was, Randy, my manager said that the Retro Futura Tour wanted to speak with me because Nick Heyward for medical reasons, pulled out of the tour.  He said, “Do you wanna do it?”  And it was like ... it was the third slot in five acts, and I said, "Well, yeah, I'd love to." And that’s how it all came to be.

Matthew Belter:  Help me understand how you transitioned from The Baseball Boys to The Outfield?

Tony Lewis:  Well, originally the reason that The Baseball Boys came about was that John had put on a demo tape (we used to drop in demo tape to all record companies). And he put on the cassette tape The Baseball Boys, 'cause he'd seen a film called The Warriors, and there was a street gang called The Baseball Boys.  There was no connection to the sport, we're not mad on baseball, we don't really understand it. And that's how it came about.  And when we got a record deal, someone from the record company said, "You can't use a name like The Baseball Boys, 'cause it's a national sport, how about The Outfield, 'cause it's three people in the outfield part of the baseball pitch." And we said, "Okay, we'll go with that."

Matthew Belter:  Wow, and it's funny because anyone who has followed The Outfield knows there’s a solid baseball theme - albums like Play Deep, Diamond Days, Extra Innings, Replay, etc.   

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, that was our management team trying to be clever, trying to keep the baseball theme.  And we just went with it, not really knowing that the expectation of us knowing the sport was there, we don't. But I've been to about three or four baseball games.  We love the occasion and the theater of it all, but we don't understand it.

Matthew Belter:  As a successful and multi-faceted musician, what would be the one piece of advice you might offer up to others looking to go down a path like yours?

Tony Lewis:  I would say just be determined, be focused, keep practicing, believe in yourself, enjoy what you're doing, and let it come from the heart, what you're doing. Because if you're doing something that you feel that you should be doing, well, then ... or if you're trying to do it just to make money, chances are you're gonna be disappointed, because it takes a lot dedication, and a lot of practicing and sacrifice as well. And a lot of us musicians, if we have been totally honest, are pretty self-centered and selfish, it's all about me, that's why I fight with my wife all the time. And you just have to be one-eyed and just keep going for it, just keep following your dream.

Matthew Belter:  Looking back in the rear-view mirror, is there anything that you might do differently based upon the experiences you had throughout your musical career?

Tony Lewis:  I haven't regretted anything to be honest, I have had a lot of great times. I always think about ... I mean that first show at Chastain Park in Atlanta, getting up on that stage, and I'm just used to sharing the stage with John over 40 years, that was kind of hard. That was quite bitter sweet for me. I wish he was still here.  But coming around this time around, I don't know.  The older I’m getting, the more I’m enjoying it. And I've got no regrets, and I understand what you mean, 'cause I was able to sort of really soak it all up and then really digest it all and really enjoy. And I've had my wife with me for the first time for the whole tour, and it was great, I didn't wanna come home to be honest with you. I was really getting into the tour, I really had the tour bug.

 

Matthew Belter:  Next up we have a few rapid-fire questions for you, ready? 

Tony Lewis:  Okay.

Matthew Belter:   Futbol:   Arsenal or West Ham United?

Tony Lewis: West Ham.

Matthew Belter:  Legendary Vocalists:  David Bowie or Freddie Mercury?

Tony Lewis:  How could you choose between those two?

Matthew Belter:  You got to choose one.

Tony Lewis:  I'd say Bowie.

Matthew Belter:  Outfield Songs: “Your Love” or “Since You've Been Gone”? 

Tony Lewis:  “Your Love”.

Matthew BelterBassists:  John Entwistle or Chris Squire?

Tony Lewis:  Oh, wow. John Entwistle.

Matthew Belter:  Major American Cities:  Los Angeles or New York City?

Tony Lewis:  I'm gonna be in trouble for saying it, but New York City.

Matthew Belter:  Influential Bands:  The Beatles or T. Rex?

Tony Lewis:  Oh, no, T. Rex is my favorite band, I'd like to say Beatles.

 

Matthew Belter:  Well… That’s all the time we have today.  On behalf of Hunnypot Radio and all our listeners, I wanted to thank you for taking time today to join us in Hot Tub. As always, you have a standing invite to join us on our bimonthly radio show at The Mint next time you are in Los Angeles.  

Tony Lewis:  Thank you Matthew, what a great interview. Yeah, when we're in town, I'd love to look you up.

Matthew Belter:  Let’s make that happen Tony.   

Tony Lewis:  We'll do Matthew. Thanks again.

 

For more information on Tony Lewis and his latest release, "Out of the Darkness", click HERE

 

Matthew Belter

Editor - Long Beach

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