Orleans has been on the road and they are on their way to Portsmouth, Ohio, this September! Orleans will be the featured headliner on September 1st, at 9:00 PM as a part of the annual River Days celebration. Lance Hoppen and John Hall caught up with me to discuss their tour and what it’s like to have a career that’s “Still the One” after forty years!
Q: Orleans has been making music for over forty years. What are some things you feel contribute to that success and longevity?
JOHN: Persistence, belief in our music, and our audience. Also the desire to carry on for those members we have lost.
LANCE: In our early years, Orleans had that “fire in the belly” that propelled us to our early successes. Without hits like “Dance With Me” and then the blockbuster “Still the One”, followed up with “Love Takes Time”, we would not have been able to continue. Based on that foundation, the world at large allowed and enabled us to continue as a touring and recording band for the next four decades. It was never easy but it was at least made possible by the support our fan base, to whom we are forever grateful.
Q: You’ve been doing some touring this year and one of your stops is Portsmouth, Ohio, on September 1st. Tell me some differences between playing a gig now versus forty years ago.
JOHN: In the 70s, the economics of the record and touring business were totally different. We had busses and trucks, a large crew. Back then the sound and recording equipment were primitive compared to today’s digital mixing boards and laser light shows. We have always fallen back on the strength of our musicianship and songs.
LANCE: The original quartet had magic to it – a raw exuberance and spontaneity, coupled with acclaimed musicianship and songwriting – that made gigs back then a wild, satisfying ride. As we moved upward in the public eye and were “groomed” by management, some of that was lost in favor of a more polished presentation. Having moved through several incarnations of the band (always with 2-3 original members at the helm) and having lost both Wells Kelly and Larry Hoppen to untimely deaths, there are aspects we will never reclaim. Still, the current roster of John Hall and myself (Lance Hoppen), along with longstanding mainstay members Lane Hoppen, Charlie Morgan and Fly Amero, carries on admirably in the best traditions of Orleans.
Q: The Portsmouth, Ohio, show is a part of the annual Portsmouth River Days celebration. How do shows such as these (outdoor, festival-style) differ from your indoor shows?
JOHN: Festival shows are looser and more family oriented, often more spontaneous. Indoor concerts tend to be restricted time wise, due to the cost of the venue. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about rain on an indoor show.
LANCE: Nature can be with you or against you. In a best case scenario, a beautiful day or evening can make an outdoor show all the better, while rain or excessive heat can make it miserable for both band and audience. With any luck, the River Days show will enjoy a perfect day!
Q: You guys have toured with the likes of Jackson Browne and Chicago. On the 2013 Sail Rock Tour, you toured with Christopher Cross, Player, Firefall, Gary Wright, Robbie Dupree, John Ford Coley and Al Stewart. Who is one of your favorite musical influences with which you have had the pleasure of performing?
JOHN: Bonnie Raitt.
LANCE: I agree with John that Bonnie is among the finest artists we’ve ever worked with. I was and am also a huge Jackson Browne fan so the summer ’76 tour opening to him stands out. The many dates we did with Little Feat back in the 70s are also among my favorite memories (to the extent I can remember anything :-).
Q: Audiences know “Dance With Me” and “Still the One”. What’s it like to hear thousands of people sing your songs?
JOHN: Amazing, gratifying. The power of music and song cross time and cultural differences, and we attach whatever meaning they have in our life experience to them.
LANCE: There’s a unique grin that comes from hearing 500 Tokyo natives sing along to “Dance With Me”. 🙂
Q: A personal favorite of mine is “Time Passes On”. Can you tell me a little more about this song?
JOHN: My ex-wife and I wrote this song. We were thinking of the end of a relationship, the death of a close friend. As the album was being finished, Lance asked if we could dedicate the song to him and his soon to be ex-girlfriend. As it turns out, they have been getting together happily all these years later.
LANCE: Right. If you look at the liner notes on the back cover of the “Let There Be Music” album, you’ll see the dedication to Dru. We broke up during the tracking sessions of that album. Many years and several marriages later, we rekindled that relationship and now, 42 years in, we are best of old friends and, sometimes, more.
This song has also be used at many moments of “Rites of Passage”, including the memorial service for my late brother, the “radio voice” of Orleans, Larry Hoppen.
Q: How has technology changed the way your music reaches new audience?
JOHN: Digital technology has been a blessing and a curse. It has put record companies and recording studios out of business but also made it possible to make a record in your bedroom. Streaming audio services have cut artist and writer’s royalties almost to nothing, but there are so many channels now to get a band’s music heard. I worry most about young musicians who may have talent and inspiration, but will have to run a long, unpaid gauntlet to get known well enough to make a living.
LANCE: In the “old days” we all, as a society, were exposed to the same playlist, emanating from the major radio stations. On one station, one could hear The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel, The Supremes, Neil Sedaka, etc. Such exposure gave us a commonality of experience as the “soundtrack of our lives.” These days, music markets are cut up in increasingly more targeted and defined demographics to the point that some artists can be hugely successful in their own genre and, at the same time, completely unknown beyond it.
Q: Who are some current bands/artists of which you are a fan?
JOHN: Lake Street Dive, California Honeydrops, Tedeschi-Trucks Band
LANCE: I have to confess I’m not as up on what’s current as I might be, but I have to agree with John about Lake Street Dive. So refreshing! And I’d invite you to check out Alyssa Bonagura and Ruby Stewart (Rod’s daughter), aka The Sisterhood Band.
Q: Guys, I think that’s all for now! Anything else you would like to add?
LANCE: Anyone interested in more info on Orleans – history, tour dates, music and video, etc – can find us at www.OrleansOnline.com. See you all in Portsmouth on Sept 1st !
Featured Contributor: Rebecca Davis
Writer: Amanda Knight