O.A.R. Saxophone lead rocker on a surprising career
Last year, the group had a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.
By JOHN BENSON
There's little debate whether or not Liberty Township native and O.A.R. (Of a Revolution) saxophonist Jerry DePizzo will attend his upcoming 10-year high school reunion.
"Yeah, I gotta go," laughed DePizzo, a 1997 Liberty High School graduate. "I gotta go while the band is still doing well and I have bragging rights. Ten years from now, I don't know."
He quipped, "So I better go before I'm on a reality show with Gary Coleman."
Fifteen-minutes-of-fame is something DePizzo and his O.A.R. bandmates don't have to worry about, considering so far they've sold over a million albums in their decade-long career.
Still, it's been a long and somewhat improbable journey for this self-coined "island vibe roots rock" act that started out playing Ohio State University frat parties in the mid-'90s.
Specifically for DePizzo, the notion of jumping from a member of the Liberty High School Band, in which he played both saxophone and drums, to, well, rock star, confounds him to this day.
"To be honest with you, I never thought saxophone would be the thing I'd make a career out of and have success with," DePizzo said. "I was probably just as surprised as anybody that I'm in the position I'm in right now. And I've loved every second of it."
Not the usual
Aside from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons and perhaps Eddie Money, who from time to time pulled out the sax for added effect, the woodwind instrument hasn't fully been embraced by rock 'n' roll players.
It's for this reason that DePizzo feels his contribution to O.A.R.'s sound is similar to that of a trump card.
"I think it's about as close to the human voice as far as being able to express emotion and energy and power," DePizzo said. "I think if you're an accomplished player, the sky is the limit for you. I think it's something unique. It also provides another solo instrument and counter melody."
Fans of O.A.R. will be happy to hear the band has roughly 30 songs written for its next album, which is currently untitled and will be a follow-up to 2005's "Stories of a Stranger."
Already getting stage time are new songs "Something Coming Over," "The Fallout" and "Living in the End." DePizzo said the band hopes to have the next album out by the end of this year.
In the meantime, it's back to work for O.A.R., which averages roughly 200 shows annually.
You see, falling under the jam band umbrella, the quintet understands its lifeblood is the concert stage.
So far the momentum seems to be behind the band, which continually plays to larger audiences upon every tour. You can see O.A.R. Saturday at Pittsburgh's A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh.
It was exactly a year ago that the band enjoyed a milestone appearance, selling out the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City.
"When you're growing up or starting to do this or even when we were in it for a couple of years, that's just something that's on a pedestal and is something you don't think you can really accomplish," DePizzo said.
"It was a really special moment and quite an accomplishment of a career and it's just one of those days you'll never forget. I'll never forget."
O.A.R. is hoping to repeat its Madison Square Garden success with an appearance next week in the Big Apple. As for the future of the band and how long it'll last, DePizzo is optimistic there will plenty of more milestone gigs between now and then.
In fact, he may even be able to attend his 20-year Liberty High School reunion.
"I don't think we're at the end of our career, I think we're in the middle of it," DePizzo said.
"At least I hope we have a lot of years left in us. I just think this is one momentous occasion on a long career."