After fronting Styx for more than two decades, former lead vocalist Dennis DeYoung is bringing both solo hits such as “Desert Moon” and Styx staples such as “Come Sail Away”, “Babe” and “Lady” to Casino New Brunswick Saturday night.
“They made a conscious decision that they did not want me in the band any longer,” he says. “It was never within my power to really do anything about it; it wasn’t my choice even though I had given my life to that band.”
So while Styx fans might be discouraged by the fact that a Styx reunion is highly unlikely, Dennis can take solace in the fact that he has had numerous opportunities with his solo career that he might not have otherwise experienced within the confines of a band.
Aside from being an acclaimed singer, Dennis also found his way to Broadway in 1993, picking up a role in the 25th anniversary production of Jesus Christ Superstar almost by accident.
“My brother-in-law was associated to the production and continued relentlessly pursuing me to take a role in the production,” he laughs.
His Broadway experience would eventually lead him to record a Broadway album for Atlantic Records in 1994 but he insists that both of these experiences were a matter of being in the right place at the right time, rather than calculated career moves.
“The worlds of Broadway and being a rock star are very different and rather separate. Truthfully, rock stars have the greatest job in the world,” he says without a hint of irony. “Everybody wants it and everything compared to being a rock star is a comedown in comparison. There is nothing you can do on the theatrical stage that could compare to being in a rock band.”
As wonderful as being a rock star is, Dennis says the music business has changed so dramatically over the past decade with music downloading and the Internet wresting control from the major music labels, he feels very fortunate to have built his career when he did.
“The music business has been dismantled and forever changed and it makes guys like me extremely grateful to have lived when we lived. The ’70s and ’80s were a great time to be a musician and you know what, those days are never coming back.
“The ability for musicians to have real careers has evaporated,” Dennis says bluntly. And while he is quick to admit there are many bands or artists living comfortably off their music careers, Dennis says the younger generations of music fans has not been taught to value music the way fans did 15 and 20 years ago.
“You can never value something you get for free the same way you would if you had to pay for it,” he says. “And the consequence to kids sitting in their dorm rooms downloading music for free is that the music business machinery, as ugly as it is, can’t move forward and sign new bands and make more music available.”
While Dennis is fortunate in that his career has flourished as a solo artist, Canadian audiences have been more open to embracing his solo work more than our American neighbours. And there is a very simple reason for this as far as Dennis is concerned:
“I have a feeling in my heart that Canadians are just smarter,” he says. “You guys must floss more or something because any time I am talking with a Canadian, you seem to be a bright bunch of people.”
To add fuel to his “Canadians are smarter theory,” Dennis points out that one of his singles (“Rain”) from his 2007 record One Hundred Years From Now originally started gaining airplay and charting in Quebec before the song’s popularity spread to Ontario and Eastern Canada.
“I can’t really explain why the song caught on up there but it is just something that you have to run with while you have the momentum.”
Furthering Canadians love affair with the 63-year old Dennis, both he and Roger Hodgson served as mentors to Canadian Idol and Star Academie hopefuls in 2006. And though some musicians are quick to dismiss those television shows as nothing more than glorified popularity contests, Dennis has no issue with people using reality television as their potential “breakthrough” medium.
“It is just entertainment!” he says. “If someone can sing, makes it on the show and that in turn helps them not have to suffer through six years of misery, I don’t see the harm in it. I think far too many people want to be elitist and dismiss those shows as somehow not being a ‘legit’ way to get into the business.”
Though Dennis’s touring life these days is a mere shadow of decades past (he estimates that he plays in the vicinity of 40 to 60 shows a year), he is rather content with where life has brought him and where it may take him yet.
“It would be really hard to beat the life I have led. I am a very lucky guy. Thanks to my Canadian fans, I have a recent triple platinum DVD and a platinum CD, both of which I never thought could happen as a solo artist. I spent the bulk of my life with people loving the name Styx, not my name. The success being afforded to me as a solo artist is just remarkable.”
Article published in November 24, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript