Little River Band Thursday in Beaver Creek
Vail CO, Colorado
The Little River Band has seen change, and lots of it. For a band with a history that dates back more 30 years, it’s hard to believe that today’s Little River Band doesn’t have one single original member. Yet their sound really hasn’t changed much over the years, which may explain why they continue to sell albums and tour the country. They’ll perform in Beaver Creek Thursday.
When American bass player and vocalist Wayne Nelson joined the Australian band in 1980, it was in state of chaos; members were quitting and joining and fighting over which direction the band should take. Nevertheless, Nelson knew he was a part of something special and stuck it out with the band, which has racked up 13 Top 40 hits and sold more than 25 million records through the years.
Wayne took some time to talk to us about what keeps the Little River Band going after all these years and the lessons he’s learned during that time.
1. Vail Daily: You guys usually tour about 100 days out of the year. Have recent economic setbacks affected your schedule at all?
Wayne Nelson: You know, people say ‘Hey, come up to po’ dunk and put on this show and we can give you $2,000,” and it’s like I can’t even get there for that, let alone pay the band, pay the bills, etc. etc. I’ve been saying this for years: A lot of people think that music and art and newspapers, they just fall from the sky. There it is in my driveway, there it is on my computer, go make some more … but like I say, it does speak volumes for the live show and the staying power of the songs and the band. We’re only down say 20 percent from last year … and I’d say that we’re lucky that we’re only down 20 percent.
2. VD: Do you think that the live show is keeping acts like yours alive?
WN: Buying a CD and whatever is kind of a cold thing. If you’re really a music lover, you’re gonna find a way to get your music somehow. Some people are going, ‘hey honey, here they come and check out the memories we’ve got attached to the band.’ They’d rather come and see the live thing than hear another recorded version of those songs. Create a new memory if you will.
3. VD: Knowing that you have a built-in fan base many places that you tour, how do you reach out to newer, younger people who may not be familiar with your music?
WN: There is a following, you’re right. Let’s put it this way: The bank account is fuller in some markets than in others. But that’s just the nature of the game. Everybody has areas where they’re big and areas where they’re not as well known … We’ve done new material that we’re very proud of. We’ve lifted the hood, if you will, on the tunes ” if people want to listen to the greatest hits and listen to the way the song was recorded in 1977, God bless ya. Get your 8-track out and crank it up. There’s people that weren’t even born until the ’80s. We’re not gonna turn them on with old sounds and old arrangements so we’ve turned the live show into more of a live event with some surprises.
4. VD: What’s been one of the biggest changes in the band’s music in the past couple of years?
WN: You know what, I don’t think there’s a change in the approach to the music. The band was about life, I think that’s why people keep relating to it. We weren’t talking about cars or parking lots or whatever, we were talking about people’s lives … we’re still telling stories and I think that’s our approach.
5. VD: The thing I find most curious about the Little River Band is that none of the original members are in the band today, but it consistently does well on tours and album sales, how is that possible?
WN: It really is fascinating and from the inside of it ” I mean I’m as close to an original member as there is, I’ve been with them for 30 years. But you’re absolutely right, I’m not part of the original vocal blend. But people didn’t leave wholesale, they left one at a time and they started leaving in the first year that the band was together … the only thing I can say is that there’s staying power with the songs and we never let one person bring down the concept of the band.
6. VD: You joined the band five years after it started and immediately sang lead vocals on three of the band’s biggest hits of all time. How did that feel?
WN: I felt, and still do when I look back on it, very blessed to be in the right place at the right time, there’s no question. The very first time I ever sang lead on anything in a studio is ‘Night Owls’ and it becomes a top five … It was like ‘wow, this is beyond lucky and I’m not going to let this get away.’
7. VD: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your time with the band?
WN: Take nothing for granted. Don’t take one day for granted with anybody that you care about. You can say it when you’re younger, but you think you’re bullet proof and then something comes along and just knocks you to your knees.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or email@example.com.