Jim Peterik is a rock legend. Beginning with Ides of March and their classic “Vehicle” through the countless classics he created with Survivor, Pride of Lions, and World Stage, not to mention the plethora of hits he’s penned for other artists, Peterik has written some of the most memorable songs of the last 5 decades. He is now releasing Tigress – Women Who Rock The World, the next step in his World Stage concept. Tigress sees Jim writing songs for some of the most amazing female voices in rock. To celebrate this release I not only spent some time with Jim, but also chatted with 2 of the women featured on Tigress, Chloe Lowery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Janet Gardner (Vixen),
Please press the PLAY Icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Jim Peterik –
On how the concept for Tigress came to be – I’m on the phone with Serafino Perugino, the head of Frontiers, and he was saying, “Maestro, it’s time for another World Stage album”, and I go, “I just did one with Toby (Hitchcock)”, I love Toby. Then thinking on my feet, I said, “How about a World Stage for all females?” He thought for a while, and he tucked away his macho side and said, “Sounds good”. He drew up the contract, and now I was on the line for finding the right ladies. That was a lot of fun, actually. I first went for a couple of my heroes or heroines that weren’t able to do it, I really love Ann Wilson, but she was unavailable, Steve Nicks was not available. I started looking for equal talent, but maybe that aren’t quite as famous or on the rise, capture them before they’ve really broken through or in that mid-area of their life. Like Janet Gardner, who was just so much fun to work with. So inspiring. I was a big fan of hers when she was with Vixen, talk about a strong, strong voice. I’m pretty good at being the tofu in the room where I kind of absorbed the flavors of people, and I’ll tell you what, Janet really inspired me and I loved Vixen. I started writing a song and I demoed it with Cathy Richardson, it was called “Lazerus Heart”, and I sent it to Janet and she said, “Man, have you been reading my diary? That’s exactly the way I feel. I just keep rising. If I get my heart broken”, she said, “I don’t let it get me down”. We all go through a lot of stuff and you just gotta be that rising Lazarus, so she really got inspired and I sent her to the track and you can hear the results…killer, if I do say so. I can talk about it because I didn’t sing it. It was really a great thing. 1:10
On if he had to research the vocalist before supplying the song – That’s a big question. Most of the singers I was knowledgeable about all their styles, especially the women that were from this town, like Cathy Richardson, who I discovered really. I kind of discovered her when she was 18, and her dad was pumping gas, he owned a gas station, and as he filled up my XKE, which was a nightmare car, but that’s another story. He said, “You know, my daughter sings” and I go, “Oh shit”, every daughter sings. But I was nice and took his card and I didn’t do anything about it, and Linda Mench, the premier music attorney in town who tragically was killed in a hit and run about a month ago, that’s a story for another day. But she said, “You know that Cathy Richardson, you know that you met her dad, you should really listen to her”. So this very scared 18-year, 19-year-old came to my house, still in this exact room, and she came up in and sat down there and took out her guitar and proceeded to blow me away. I produced her first album Moon, Not Banana and we’ve been fast friends. Now, of course, she’s racked up so many accomplishments Love Janis, he was Janis Joplin on Broadway, and of course, Jefferson Starship now, and so much in between, solo albums, and I love her, and she actually, I think for three and a half songs on the album, three solo and a half duet with Kimi Hayes, has another great Chicago artist. So when I could work one-on-one in person in the studio, I would. Otherwise, it was files. The real trick is to make it sound like you’re in one room. Larry (Millas), who you met today, Larry I’ve known since third grade. He was the leader of the Ides of March, and it still is. The original four, Ides of March are still together. He made this sound like we’re all in one room just with the techniques of micing and ambiance, and you would never say we’re in different hemispheres a lot of times. 4:16
On learning to work remotely – It was really kind of Christmas every time I got a vocal back, it really was. A couple of times, I won’t mention names, I sent them back to the microphone and go, “You can do better than this. I’ve heard you and you’re holding back”. A lot of the girls didn’t know what I wanted really. Someone like Kate French, she’s a heavy metal singer, and she’s got all that gravel and that wouldn’t have worked for this record, I said, “Can you sing normal?” She said, “I haven’t for years. But for you…” It turns out she’s got a wonderful voice all the way upstairs, and it took a little bit of taming the tiger, a taming the tigress, but she really, really delivered on two songs and now she wants to do an album in that voice. The main video, of course, is “Prom Night In Pontiac” and (Chloe Lowery) is just killer, and on the next release is the lyric video on “A Capella” with Chez Kane, she’s amazing. 7:20
On working with Chez Kane and making videos – It didn’t take much. She expected to redo it a few times. I got the master take, I said, “You’re done”. She said, “Really?” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. She was very flattered, but that was like the second take she sang in her studio. Now I’m waiting for “Tigress”, that’s gonna be a lyric video. The lyric videos are hitting a new plateau of almost looking like videos because all the girls were asked to film themselves in front of a black backdrop, and instead of just being some little goofy cartoon or something, it’s them actually playing and sometimes I get in there. You notice I got in the video for “Prom Night”, that was Larry’s idea. But I had a ball making this record. 9:17
On finding the right song for the right singer – Well, that’s kind of always been my specialty. I’m musical tofu, I absorb the flavors around me as I said. I’ve been doing that all my career, which was kind of the problem with the Ides of March because we put out something like “Vehicle” in 1970 and then we go country rock. Who are they? It’s all the Ides of March, but sometimes my songwriter influences are so broad, so it’s perfect for a project like this where the continuity is in the vocalist, and the songs can be very diverse, and of course, you know, I did tailor the song to the singer, and it seemed to work. 11:14
On finding the right musicians for the record – Well, Jennifer Batten was my number one go-to, she did an album with me and Toby Hitchcock, and it was just a great experience. She loved working with me and I loved working with her. But she’s also this massive switchboard of talent, and she hooked me up with so many of the gals, a lot of the musicians, drummers, not so much singers as the female parts of the band. So that was a good choice since she’s all over this record. If I needed a little extra spice, I’d give the sun to Jennifer and she would start shredding and it would become a new song. Like “Full Moon Crazy”, It was good, but when she got a hold of it, it became great. I got a World Stage show coming up on January 15th, and I got quite a few of the gals from this record, not as many as I would have liked because of scheduling, but I wanted to get Janet very badly, but she’s busy. But Batten is coming out and she’s gonna be out there shredding like nobody’s business. Cathy Richardson is going to be a part of that show. Of course, males too. For the first time, I got Mark Stein from Vanilla Fudge as one of my guests and “Tough Enough” Kim Wilson, blowing some harp and playing his blues. Chicago’s own The Ides of March, we’re always on the bill for a World Stage show. How many years? 57 years together, I guess we should know ourselves by now. 12:26
On upcoming plans and the stories behind “Vehicle” and “Eye of the Tiger” – I would very happily do Tigress 2, but in between, we’re gonna do a Pride of Lions record, and we’re still promoting the Ides of March Play On record because it got short shrift being released during the covid. That’s a great album Fred Mollin, he of Jimmy Webb fame, produced all the Jimmy Webb albums from ’74 to the present day, and he produced the record. We became friends in Nashville. Nashville is kinda like my second home because it’s, as you know, such a music city. I don’t know if you’ve read I played the Grand Ole Opry on Friday night, but that was a big thrill. I got up there and the place was filled. It was at The Grand Ole Opry, the new one, which has been there now for about 20 years, but they still have a piece of the old Ryman stage, that’s where you stand. I made sure I stood there and get that vibe from there, and I had the best band in life. In Nashville, you swing a cat and you get an amazing musician or a star. So we started with “Vehicle”, I told the story behind it. How I tried to win back my girlfriend who was not dating me, but just wanted me for rides and no kiss, no nothing, just a handshake, “Thanks, Jim”. I started getting a little resentful and I started to think, “All I am is your vehicle, baby”, and sure enough it became a number one record. I told that story, people love hearing it, but the real punch line is 49 years later, I’m still married to that girl, I got her back. Then I tell the story of “Eye of the Tiger” and how Stallone calls me, but I think it’s a prank call, and my wife says, “You better calm back, I think that’s Stallone”. I called them and he says, “I got this new movie called “Rocky III” and I don’t wanna use the “Gonna Fly Now” song. I want something with a pulse, something for the kids. Can you help me out?” I said, “Oh yeah. And the rest of history”. 14:59
On what it is about lions and tigers that grabs his imagination – I was thinking about that today. I think it’s power. I think it’s sex. These are sexy animals, man, they might kill you, but what a way to go. They’re beautiful, beautiful animals, and iconic. They photograph really well. Pride of Lions, I had that name in my back pocket for decades and finally had the opportunity, and it’s just a great name, and lion, Pride of Lions is strong, that’s really strong. And I don’t know the cat any royalties, which is really great. 18:21
On upcoming plans – Well, we’re all just on tenterhooks hoping for the best as far as the covid. But for Ides, a lot of the dates that were canceled were siphoning off to the last quarter of this year and into the next year. So we have quite a few Ides of March shows, which is great, and we have a cruise in the Fall, and if everything goes well, we’ll be rocking all year, but you can’t predict everything. Now, I think it’s going in the right direction. I’m going to Italy with my wife at the end of this month for a week, over a week, and I’m performing with Mindi Abair, who you hear on the record, on sax. She and her husband have a wine tour company, is doing really well. He’s a wine distributor, and of course, she’s this gorgeous sax player, singer, she’s signing on “Brave is Beautiful” along with Leslie Hunt, and she sat in with Ides of March about two weeks ago on stage. Anyway, she’s a dear friend. So we’re going to visit Tuscany in Italy, and it’s kind of a working vacation is gonna be great. 19:23
Please Press the PLAY Icon below to hear Chloe Lowery –
On how she became involved in the project – It’s funny enough, my very good friend, Joel Hoekstra, who I have literally known since I’m 15 years old, we both were in Big Brother and the Holding Company at different times, but we kind of became aware of each other at the time, and then since then, obviously he’s in TSO and I reported tracks on his records. He just emailed me during the pandemic and was like, “Hey, I’m working with this guy, you might know him, and he’s looking for some awesome female vocalists. I shared some of the work that I did with you, and he’s very excited to work with you, would you be willing to put your voice down on maybe one or two songs?” I was like, “Sure, why not?” Especially during the pandemic, there wasn’t much going on anyway, so I was always happy to collaborate with people during that time, so literally, that’s kind of it. Just working with that whole team of people has just been really wonderful. :39
On if she knew Jim Peterik before this project – I knew the name, I know his credits. I didn’t know much more about him. I didn’t know that he had put out records and whatnot, but Joel kinda gave me a little bit of background just saying, “This guy is kind of prolific and he writes all the time, and he works all the time, just a really good guy to know”, and I know he’s on Frontiers, which a ton of my TSO bandmates are on that label, and I’ve kind of seen the whole thing happen. That’s kind of the extent of what I knew, but now, knowing his whole history and speaking with him several times, I haven’t got to meet him in person, obviously because of the pandemic and whatnot, but hopefully, one day our paths will cross, and I’ll get to meet him in real life. 1:34
On how her 2 tracks were presented to her – He had the songs. I think he had the record mapped out. I think he probably did his own personal research and finding whose voices and what instrumentalist worked best with what songs, and he sent me those. Obviously, he was like, “Hey, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it, but here are the songs”. And I was like, “Yeah, they’re awesome”. There was a male vocal guide on it, and I just put my flavor on it and away we went. 2:38
On if she saw similarities between Jim Peterik and the late Paul O’Neil – I did. One of the biggest things that I appreciate about TSO is the storytelling aspect, I love that. I think Jim has a real flare, especially “Prom Night In Pontiac”, just telling the story of the two kids and running away and being in love. I think the storylines are the similarity between the two, and I think that’s special. I think a lot of these days in music we kind of miss the storytelling aspect. So to see it being put out there is great. 3:33
On if she got to meet anyone else involved with the record – It’s been pretty solitary, I have to say. I think with the pandemic, and this was done when we were pretty much still in the thick of it, I can’t even remember how long ago I actually recorded, but I recorded here at my Brooklyn studio, I am a recording studio in my home. I’ve only heard the two tracks that I’ve done, but I do know Rosa Laricchiuta (TSO) is on the record, there’s a couple of other instrumentalists, the bass player, Ashley Reeve, from Cher who I’ve met because my friend Jodi Katz tours with Cher, so I’ve met her before. The other names I’m a little familiar with, but I can’t wait to hear the record in its entirety, and from what I’ve heard from everybody that has heard the entire thing, it’s just monster musicianship all around. 4:25
On preparing for the 2021 TSO tour – I couldn’t be more excited. I think we’re all just so excited to be back on the road and to spend time with each other, but then also to see the fans. We see people that have believed in TSO for as many years as they have. It will be a different tour just given that we’re still kind of navigating through this covid world. It’s gonna be a little interesting not having the meet and greets and the signing lines and things like that, but I’m sure TSO has some things at their sleeves for the way that we can still connect with the fans on a more personal basis. As for performing, I’ve had the opportunity to record a lot during the pandemic and do a couple of shows here and there, but to finally be back on the road, I really just couldn’t be more excited. I feel very lucky just to have the opportunity, because not having it surely felt really strange. 5:39
On if she’s working on a follow-up to her debut record The In-Between – Yes, I am definitely in the works for a follow-up. Music is gonna be coming out very, very soon, and I personally took a little time in between (records). During the pandemic, it was a strange time. I’ve been writing consistently throughout, it was just kind of figuring out the right time to put out music and just kind of navigating through the climate and just seeing when is a good time to put something out where people want to receive new music. Because I think we all were just kind in a strange place, so I think now fully coming out of it, I think in the next couple of months, it’s a good time to start releasing things, so be on the lookout. I’m coming back out. 6:49
Please press the PLAY Icon below to hear Janet Gardner –
On whether she knew Jim prior to Tigress – We’ve sort of traveled in similar circles, but I’ve never actually met him in person still. Of course, I knew of him and there’s a band called Scrap Metal, with the Nelson brothers and Mark Slaughter, tons of great artists from back in the day, and he played a few shows with them, and I played a few shows with him never the same time. So, of course, I heard a lot about what he was up to and he’s an amazing talent, a songwriter extraordinaire. I knew of him forever and he’s written some of my favorite songs of all time.
On how she became involved – His partner reached out through our website, my husband and my website and just asked if I would be interested. It was like, “Yeah, send over the song”. So he sent over the song and I made it through about a verse and a chorus and I was like, “I’m in, I’m so in”. Cathy Richardson (Jefferson Starship) sang on the demo so there was an extremely high bar set. So that made me a little nervous. I was like, “I hope I can bring what he has in mind to the song”. So I was nervous about it but very excited.
On her thoughts when she first heard “Lazarus Heart” – I felt connected to it right away and that was the most important thing. I could see myself in it. When I went to sing it, I tried to just remember where the melody went, things like that, but I tried to kind of forget about what was already there and put myself in it, which is hard to do because she nailed it completely. I sort of took the essence of the song and the lyrics and where the melody went and tried to make my own.
On having to work remotely due to the pandemic – It’s an unfortunate covid thing. I would have loved to have been there with him, working it out as we go. Who knows how it would have been different or if it had been off all had we done it like that. I kind of become used to being by myself when I record and I’ve become really comfortable with that because sometimes, I’ll try things that maybe I wouldn’t try if someone else was in the room in case there’s an epic fail. So it’s good and bad both. I think getting immediate feedback is great sometimes but I like the way that this worked out because I was felt very free performing it.
On the possibility of working with Jim in the future – (He’s a) mega-talented writer. Of course, I will be open to that. Justin (James) and I have an incredibly special connection and relationship writing-wise. So, we haven’t really felt the need to go outside of our own little comfort zone and bring anybody in, but we would definitely be open to that at some point. Jim would be amazing to work with. Not only is he super talented but he’s just a great guy. Someone like that who could have an attitude like, “Well I’m Jim Peterik”, not at all. (He’s) open to anyone else’s ideas and thoughts and just a super guy. We’ve not talked about it but yeah I would be open to that and Justin would too.
On the Gardner/James record Synergy – Synergy was great because it was during the pandemic so we could really get immersed in the creative stuff because there was nothing else to do. So we would go down in the basement working constantly. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise in a way. Now, of course, we want to get out and play some more and everything has been very touch-and-go. You book stuff and you don’t know whether it’s going to come off or not. Stuff gets canceled people covid. We were able to make the 80’s In The Sand thing work, we all got negative tests 48 hours before the plane took off. Then we had to be tested again to come back home, thank God we all passed that too, so it came off great. That’s what we’re dealing with is the uncertainty of whether we’re going to be able to make the show or not? Somebody could test positive for Covid, somebody could get a breakthrough Covid infection, even though we’re all vaccinated. We’re booked to go to the UK to do Hard, Rock Hell in March again. Hopefully, we do it and we have some acoustic shows. We started doing acoustic shows a little bit more that was never really are one thing. But once we sat down and kind of rearranged things and pick songs that we thought would work well acoustically, we’re actually kind of enjoying that. So we’re booking more of those and private events and things like that. We’re going to try to get out and play a few shows. We have a lot going on in our lives. So we’re not, “Hey, we’re going to hit the road for three months”. It’s never going to be that. We want to get out a little bit more and play some full band shows, some acoustic shows, and whatever comes up.