Soulive finds ‘good balance’ to be instrumental; plays Aspen
June 16, 2010
ASPEN – At its core, Soulive is an instrumental jazz trio, but in the 11 years they’ve been performing together, they’ve collaborated with plenty of big-name singers. There was the time Stevie Wonder attended a 2005 show at L.A.’s House of Blues. “That was pretty unexpected,” said the band’s guitarist, Eric Krasno, during a phone interview Monday. “He came and sat with us and played the harmonica. That was a great surprise.”On the tour before that, the band opened for the Rolling Stones, “the original rock stars,” as Krasno described them. “It was cool to hang out with them; they didn’t have very big egos,” he said. “They were very respectful and dug the music. I feel very fortunate to have met and worked with people like that.”Dave Matthews, Chaka Kahn, John Mayer. The list goes on. But even though the funky, soulful trio – Alan Evans on drums and his brother Neal Evans on Hammond B3 organ and bass keys round out the group – has worked with plenty of vocalists over the years, they’ve remained an instrument-only trio.
Their next release, called “Rubber Soulive,” is a Beatles tribute record. They’ve been playing special sets of entirely Beatles tunes at sold-out shows in Boston and New Orleans during Jazzfest. The album, which will be released this fall under the group’s Royal Family Records, was recorded at Alan’s Play On Brother Studios in Massachusetts. “It’s something we wanted to do for a while, since we’re all big fans of the Beatles catalog, but it happened spontaneously,” Krasno said.While driving back to the studio in Massachusetts, the boys were listening to some remastered Beatles tunes. “I said, what if we just stay in the studio for a few days and do that,” Krasno said.Over the course of three days, the trio listened to the English rockers for hours, made a list of songs and then started playing and working on arranging the songs. “I feel like a lot of times, that’s the best,” he said. “When it’s fresh and you can tell it’s brand-new. When you’re having fun doing it, it’ll translate best that way.”The band has added a handful of Beatles songs to it s regular repertoire, Krasno said. “Lately when we’ve been doing trio shows, we’ve been combing old stuff – a little from each album – and at least three or four Beatles songs,” he said. “If anyone has any requests, we’ll take them. But we’ll probably play ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ from ‘Abbey Road.’ We’ll do those two for sure.”
Royal Family Records, which they launched in 2009, has so far released the Soulive album “Up Here” and plans to release “Rubber Soulive” in a few months. Krasno also released his solo record “Reminisce” in April. Neal is also making a solo record, Krasno said, and the label will also sign emerging talent and develop them on tour with Soulive. The first artist to join up is soul singer Nigel Hall, who will release an EP soon and join the band on the road down the line.”It’s great because we have our own studios and we’re able to get creative without having someone telling us what we can or can’t do,” Krasno said. “It’s been successful considering we don’t have all the resources major labels have. “But the thing is those things don’t matter as much anymore. It’s all about promoting yourself online with YouTube videos and such. It’s a different game now and a lot of it can be done by having dedicated, talented people around you.”Along with his solo ventures and work with Soulive, Krasno has also been busy producing music for other artists, including 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and some new R&B artists. Before Krasno met the Evans brothers, he’d always pictured himself a producer, he said. “When I met these guys and started playing with them, I changed my whole path, in a good way,” he said. “I love playing, but the travel and touring does get to me. It’s nice to have the option to work in the studio. I like doing both – it’s a good balance.”