Former Live frontman Kowalczyk goes it alone

By John Benson

Roughly 20 years have passed since singer Ed Kowalczyk wrote the lyrics for Live’s 1994 hit “I Alone.” Today that’s exactly where the singer-songwriter finds himself, having split from the modern-rock band in 2009.

Now the 42-year-old artist is celebrating the release of his second solo full-length effort “The Flood and the Mercy,” which includes guest appearances by singer Rachael Yamagata and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. Specifically standing out for Kowalczyk is the lead single, “Seven,” a midtempo acoustic rocker that combines religious imagery with mystic overtones not unlike his Live-era material.

“Seven is definitely the song I wanted to put out first,” Kowalczyk said. “It starts out with this almost massive attack, kind of you don’t really know what’s coming and then moves into this amazing swell of acoustic guitars and an organ and electric in there. But it remains this kind of groove that really gets under your skin and pulls you in. I don’t think I’ve ever sounded that way, although the songwriting has a lot of trademark things I’m known for.”

The album marks a quick turnaround for Kowalczyk, who last year released the EP “The Garden.” Other tracks that showcase Kowalczyk in new light are “Bottle of Anything” and “Holy Water Tears,” which find the singer embracing the baritone aspect of his voice.

While most artists would be touring a new album, Kowalczyk decided to mix things up by booking the “I Alone Acoustic Tour,” which finds the singer returning to Northeast Ohio for a Friday date at the Kent Stage. Aside from playing “Seven,” the erstwhile Live singer will be playing plenty of the band’s radio hits including “I Alone,” “Selling the Drama,” “Lightning Crashes” and “The Dolphin’s Cry.”

It’s hard to believe next year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Live’s eight-times platinum “Throwing Copper” album, which not only put the group on the map but also raised expectations of greatness.

“Next year I’ll be playing the record top to bottom, and I’ve never done that,” Kowalczyk said. “It’s been an amazing ride and that period was so transformative in every way that I value the experiences. I developed a relationship in those days with fans that has lasted. That’s pretty incredible. And fans are digging my new acoustic tour, and they love the solo album, so it’s just been amazing.”

Naturally this leads the conversation into whether or not Live would ever reunite. Heck, if members of The Eagles and Van Halen buried the hatchet, why can’t Kowalczyk and his former schoolmates?

“When I look at this point in my life as a solo artist with the deep contentment in what I’m doing and excitement I don’t see any artistic or any other reason for it,” Kowalczyk said. “I wouldn’t close doors to any sort of celebration of the original band at some point, but at the moment things are just so incredible that I’m just going with this flow right now.”

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