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George DeCola – beyond before – q&a

1. Where were you born and when did you discover music?
I was born in Utica, N.Y. which is right in the middle of the state approximately 45 miles west of Syracuse, N.Y. right on Interstate-90.  I lived there until I was 31 and then I moved to Richmond, VA with my new bride.   I’ve been here since 2001 and I really love living in Richmond, VA.

I’ve been singing since I was really young, elementary school.  My father (Ernest) is an excellent musician, plays bass, lead guitar, keys and sings very well.  So we would harmonize while picking up the table after dinner and sing “Goin to the Chapel” in three part harmony with my sister who was 2 years younger than I.  So I would say we all got that gift from God.

Even though my father was a really good musician he never insisted I play and didn’t teach me how to play.  He tried a couple of times and showed me a few chords on the guitar when I was say 10 years old, but I was really more into playing baseball at the time.  I would plunk out “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the piano and my mom taught me “Heart and Soul” but nothing worth mentioning. 

 2. Musically who or what inspired you to play and who do you admire as a musician?
My first concert was in the summer of 1977 at the NY State Faire, when I was about 7 years old.  My parents, especially my father being a musician, loved music and dragged my sister and I to see the Association (Cherish, Windy, Never My Love, Along Comes Mary amongst many other great songs).  I really had no idea what a concert was, neither did I care at 7 years old.  Until this time the majority of the music I was exposed to was  what my father played and he would sit around with his friends who he played in bands with and play The Beatles, Beach Boys, Everly Bros, Doobie Bros, Buddy Holly, America, Bread, and many other songs of that era which I still hold dear to my heart.  But I hadn’t really tuned into the bands of my era.  But in winter of 1987, when I was 16, I went to my first rock concert and of course I had to bring my sister along who was only 14 year old.  We saw REO Speedwagon with Richard Marx opening for them.  It really turned my head as far as what a huge ordeal this music is.  My high school friend, who went with us to the concert, bought me the “Hi-infidelity” album by REO and I was hooked, I wanted to be Kevin Cronin.  But it took a few more years and some normal life experiences to inspire me to actually learn an instrument.

 I taught myself to play when I was 20 years old, because my girlfriend at the time dumped me and I wanted to write a song about it.  Since I’m a huge REO fan and they wrote some great ballads, I figured it would have to be a ballad.  So I learned all the chords, major and minor keys, I figured you need to know all the basic chords to write a song, and then I wrote it.  It’s called “Where Has Real Love Gone.”  It’s all minor chords except one, really dreary and gloomy; it even modulates which I thought was a big deal at the time, being my first song and all.  As far as songs go I don’t think it’s one of my better songs, but it has its place in my past and helped me get over that circumstance in my life.  From there I just started learning more and more on my own.  I started figuring out songs from REO, Journey, Frampton, Richard Marx, Genesis and more.  If I got stuck on a chord my father would help me figure that one out.  After about a year of playing the piano I picked up the guitar and taught myself that as well, I figured if Kevin Cronin played both I could play both.  I continued to write, nothing worth talking about yet in my short musical career.

Next my father and I started a duo, I wasn’t very good, but my dad carried me until I got better which was pretty fast because we would just do downstairs and practice together anytime we wanted, since I still lived at home.  Then a bass player joined (Kenny Locke) and we called the band KEG (Kenny, Ernie and George - KEG), shortly after that we added a drummer (Brian Yero) and we had my first band.  We were together about 5 years.  We changed the name to Legend when a new bass player joined (Joe Barr) and continued to play around Central NY.  We had a little success but nothing would equal what we did next.

My father always wanted to do a Beatle Tribute band.  My father played Paul, a guy down the street played Ringo (Steve Falvo), and another guy from Syracuse was going to play John or George (Adrian).  They couldn’t seem to find the forth guy.  See the Beatles were the reason they started playing music and the Beatles were not my inspiration so I didn’t feel it was a good fit for me but told them I would run sound for them, etc.  But after a bunch of months went by they couldn’t find anyone so I said I would do it.  Shortly after that the guy from Syracuse (Adrian) bowed out; which made my dad call an old friend (Mike Suprenant), he used to work with and played with in several bands too.  He agreed to play John Lennon, so I ended up playing George Harrison.  As we learned the material it was a big challenge for me because I had to learn a bunch of leads and I’m not a lead guitar player but I managed the best I could.  In the process of it all we decided that we would wear costumes, wigs, buy their equipment and put together a slide show to tell the history of the Beatles to educate my generation on what an impact they had on the beginning of rock music.  This project lasted about 5 years, until I moved to Virginia to finish my education.  We called the band “Abbey Road” really because I really liked the second side of the album, where they ran all the songs together into one lump of songs and the harmony and music was just really inspiring.  Our Beatle Tribute Band “Abbey Road” played hundreds and hundreds of gigs, all different places, big outdoor concerts, small intimate cafes, in front of thousands and thousands of people.  That ended in 2001 when I moved to Richmond, Virginia, they continued with a couple of other musicians but the original three said it wasn’t the same without me.  And after about a year without me Abbey Road as we knew it was over.  The remaining three guys played for another 5 years together they tweaked the name a little and called the band “Abbey Road the History of Rock & Roll” and they played all number one hits from rock music’s Billboard Charts.

I really admire The Beatles for paving the way for musicians.  They stretched the limits of music in general for the generations to come.  They said things in songs people were not allowed to say at the time like, “I’d love to turn you on” in “A Day In A Life.” This was June, 1967 and people didn’t say these things on TV, radio or in public, so they really opened up a can of worms constantly in their music, interviews and life.  I think without them rock music would be different, it probably would have taken a lot longer to get where we are today with music.

Other musicians or groups I love to listen to are; Journey (Steve Perry), Billy Joel, The Eagles, Styx, Supertramp, Survivor, Queen, Everly Bros, Beach Boys, Paul Simon, Yes, Rush, Boston, Air Supply, Barry Manilow, Classical (Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin), Bread, Van Halen (Sammy, best Van Halen), Chicago, Christian Music, ELP, Huey Lewis and The News, James Taylor, Kansas, Kenny Loggins, Mariah Cary, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Patsy Cline, Heart, Stevie Wonder and others.  I think that gives you a sample of what I like.  I like a wide variety of artists and songs.  I not a fan of rap, hip-hop, heavy metal, or hard-hard rock music, it all seems like noise to me after a while.  I’m not a big fan of country music, I think the harmony is fantastic and the soloists are awesome, I’ll listen to some country, but country is not my favorite.  I’ve been to Fan Fare in Nashville (if you’re a country fan you need to get to this it’s superfantastic).

3. Do you have any formal training???  If so, where did you study and who have you studied under?

No formal or informal training at all.  I just picked up stuff from people I played with.  My father taught me a lot after I learned to play the basics, my uncle Bruce (guitar) taught me bar chords, the bass player in Legend, Joe Barr (studied piano), taught me some leads on the piano, and I’ve really learned a lot from Kinetic Element about the intricacies of music, different time signatures, amongst other things, I thank them for opening my mind to different music especially Mike Visaggio.

4. How did you arrive at your current instrument?
Kevin Cronin was my inspiration to learn, he played the guitar and keys, hence I learned.  I can also play the bass and drums (just the basics).  There were many guitars and a pianos (keys) around my house ready to play any time I wanted to pick them up.  When I was 13-15 years old my father and I added an addition on the house which doubled the size of our house and he added a music room/recording studio which is 24 feet by 24 feet, so anything I wanted to do with music was available at anytime.  The room is about 90% sound proof, so sometimes I would start recording a song late at night 11pm-12midnight until 2 or 3am in the morning.  No one woke up and I would do the whole song drums, bass, guitar, keys and vocals.  It was really nice having all that equipment to use anytime you want.  I miss that, being so far away from home now and not having a place to go what and when ever you want.

5. When you write/play what are you trying to do or say with your music?
When I play I want people to enjoy the song the way I enjoy the song.  I try and pick covers that people love that I love as well, so this is a win-win for both of us.  There are some songs that are over played that people still love to hear, so I’ve kept playing them for the audience.  It’s my pleasure to sing those songs especially when the audience sings along, it kind of pumps you up a bit.  I just love to sing and play music any song really.

It’s hard to write songs today because there are so many songs that have already been written about every topic you can imagine, so it’s hard to find something new to write about.

But when I write, I try to make all my songs different.  When I sit down to write I’ll pick a different key I haven’t used yet for a new song.  When I wrote a song for my wife, it became our wedding song (surprise to my wife at the time), I had never used the same chord progression for the chorus and verse before with just changing the melody line for each.  So I try to do something different with each song, because I don’t want all my songs to sound the same.  I also try to write lyrics that are different, just trying to be different is hard because there are so many avenues in music have already been explored.  But I try and say something in a new way or put chords together in a new way in order to make it different.

The last component would be writing a song. I try and write a song I would like and I think people would like to listen to because what’s the point of writing a song if no one really cares about the song.  I understand the personal satisfaction and the emotional connection to a song, but I would love people to enjoy something I wrote.  Like an author or a comedian.  An author writes a book they think people would like to read and a comedian writes a joke that 90% of the people have to get or it’s not funny.  If it’s just funny to him what’s the point of the joke or book or song.  So when I write a song, not only do I want true inspiration to hit, because those are the best songs, I do keep the audience in mind while writing.

6. What other interests outside of music do you have or had?
I’ve had two loves besides my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and my wife, I love to sing and I love to play baseball.  I played baseball in college for 1 year I hit .320, played shortstop and second base.  The reason I only played one year is that I was a science major (biology) and my grades suffered.  This is the spring of 1989, my professors didn’t care that I was playing baseball.  I remember telling my coach that I had to be late to a game and he said I’ll write you a pass you can make it up over the summer.  I said I can’t make these labs up over the summer.   So I had to make a decision what am I going to college for?  I look back and think I should have played because you only get one shot at being young, your only 20 years old one time in your life.  But “it lead me here to this,” a wife I love, two kids I can’t live without, who am I to question the plan.

I really enjoy most sports played football and ran cross-country in high school.  I’ve taken karate for 2 years when I was 18-20 years old.  I’m an avid runner, I’ve run 10 marathons, bicycling, cross-country and downhill skied, boxed in my teens, weight train, rock climbing and whatever anyone puts in my way I’ll try once.

I lead worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Midlothian, VA.  I love playing in the praise band and will always have a part in one until I cannot do it anymore.

7. What do you consider your greatest accomplishments?
In life, it would be trying to stay on the path of God, leading my family in that direction because it’s a hard road, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”  (Matthew 7:14)  I haven’t accomplished this yet but I hope I’m headed in the right direction.

In music, it would have to be “The Beatle Tribute – Abbey Road.”  This was special, playing with my dad and again thousands of people came to hear us.  A couple times were extra special. 

One was the first time we played Hanna Park, which is Utica’s park around city hall, I can’t tell you how many people were there sitting in their chairs waiting to hear us, a sea of people and they had fireworks after our performance that they were set to go off at a certain time.  We were close to the end of the show and right when we started the song “The End”, the piano chucking the chords out and Paul singing “and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make,” it seemed like it couldn’t have been scripted any better, just as that line started the fireworks went off.  I cannot tell you, the feeling that came over me at that moment it was really special.  We play there a few times after that and tried to duplicate it but it just wasn’t the same.

Another time was we played another fireworks show, you see where we live in Central NY, and you only get a maximum of 12 week of summer, so we have to make the most of it.  Utica, NY receives 100 inches of snow a year, so we really cherish summertime where I’m from.  So we were done playing that gig and just about to go change I was shutting off the PA and stage gear.  A few kids came up to me about 10-14 years old and asked for an autograph on one of our programs we handed out at our shows.  I’m thinking in my head, come on, I’m just a guy that’s got to go to work tomorrow, then my second thought is these are kids.  So I take their pen and the program and I’m just about to sign it and I see the other three guys in the band have already signed it.  That was a pretty cool moment, being asked for an autograph for the first time after playing a show.

The last thing is but I didn’t get to do this one was being asked to host the BeatleFest in NYC area in 2002 one year after I moved to VA.  So that was really hard to take because we tried to get that gig for the 3 previous years.  We play the battle of the bands at BeatleFest 2 years in a row, wearing our costumes and made it in the final three the first year and were DQ because they said we did a medley which was approved by the festival organizers.  We did the last three sections of Abbey Road “Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End”.  And we rocked the house.  So being asked was very special because the previous bands to host the BeatleFest’s were mostly made of up ex-Beatle Mania members from the Broadway show.  So I thought that was really cool to be asked.


8. What are your musical goals?
Well, I would love to hear one of my songs on the radio whether I sing it someone else sings it I really don’t care.  So that would be my top goal.

A realistic goal with the band I’m in and our abilities would be to play around Richmond, VA and have people know who we are, gather a following where people want to come hear us where ever we play and play the nice festivals around and possible open for a couple big acts that come to town at the Capital Theater, KingsFest or Innsbrook or where ever.

9. Any words of advice to anyone, about anything?
To young people, find something you love to do because 8 hours is a long day and find a job close to that love.  Then get your PhD, because when you’re my age your PhD will be equal to my BS today.

I was a nurse’s aide for 6½ years while I went to college.  I took care of an elderly man who said to me “George, if you don’t have a dream, you’re dead.”  That one has stuck with me, since that time.

One of my big saying is “anything worth doing is HARD” whether it’s raising kids, staying married, running a marathon or staying on the path of God.  It’s difficult.

The last one is; if you think the world just came about randomly please do some research.  The world is so complex and we have finite minds, so how can we possible comprehend the universe.  We can’t even find harmony on earth, so look to God and Christ for the answers of life.


10. If you could have lunch with three people, living or dead who would they be?  Why?
Babe Ruth, because he’s the greatest baseball player who ever lived.  Hitting-714 home runs, .342 batting average, 2062 walks, 2174 runs, 2213 RBI’s, he was a monster at the plate, no one has these numbers then or today.  Pitching-94wins, 2.28 ERA, over 5 seasons mostly, just was amazing.  The most home runs hit by a player at that time was Roger Connor with 138.  The manager of the Yankees said “what are they going to think when we take the best pitcher in baseball and put him in the outfield.”  He could do it all.

Beethoven, just to ask him how he wrote that stuff without being able to hear?  That’s a gift from GOD.


Jesus Christ enough said.

11. If you were stranded on a deserted island what 5 albums would you take with you?
REO’s - Greatest Hits
The Beatles - Abbey Road
I Can Only Imagine (Compilation)

12. If you could play another instrument what would it be?  Why?
I don’t really want to play another instrument, but I wish I could play lead on the piano or guitar like Mike Visaggio, or Todd Russell, that would be great.  I’m a frustrated guitar player and keyboard player.  I’ve tried; I’ve practiced trying to play leads even something simple like Hotel California I just can’t play it without messing up a part.  So I am happy that God gave me the ability to play the different instruments I can play, I’m just thankful I am who I am.

13. What is your favorite song? 

Every Love Song (Ever Written Is About You)


14. Favorite singer? 

Steve Perry


15. Favorite drummer? 

Neal Peart


16. Favorite keyboardist? 

Billy Joel


17. Favorite guitarist? 

Nuno Bettencourt


18. Favorite Bassist?

Geddy Lee and Len DuPilka


19. If you were to have any superpower what would it be?

Healing Powers, Fly, Incredible Strength


20. Favorite food? 

Filet mignon


21. Favorite drink? 

Fuzzy Navel


22. Favorite movie? 

Star Wars (A New Hope, but all of them really)


23. Favorite actor/actress? 

Dennis Quade (played a lot of sports guys)-Elisabeth Shue (she’s adorable)


24. Favorite color? 

Blue


25. Favorite car? 

1965 Mustang Convertible


26. Favorite place to vacation? 

Middle Settlement Lake, Adirondacks, New York


27. Motivational phase that you love? 

“Anything worth doing is hard”