Left-Over - 10 Questions Interview
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Jack Pollock, our founder, guitarist, and backing vocalist, is our major songwriting contributor for the group. His catalyst for songwriting dates back to when he picked up a guitar for the first time at age 15 and tried to learn his first three chords. He arranged them in different patterns and wrote a song and has been doing it ever since, of course with a greater breadth and complexity of nontraditional chords and sequences. Throughout his decades of songwriting, he has been inspired by geopolitical and social events, and of course, the song “Learning to Breathe” was inspired by his fiancé, Renee, who succumbed to her battle with cancer in his arms. Jack’s appreciation of life through his own successful battle with lung and brain cancer against overwhelming odds in 2018 drives his more recent compositions and renewed enthusiasm. When he presents us his templates, we all add our personal touches in the form of enhanced and layered vocal harmonies and instrumentation. Our drummer and backing vocalist, Brian Freund, was professionally trained in the swing genre, so his rhythms and fills are fairly atypical and almost unpredictable to most percussionists. I [Scott Willens, Lead Vocalist] co-wrote “Home” and “Little Left” two decades ago with a fellow graduate student at North Carolina State University, Dr. Trevor Yip-Hoi, but I don’t have nearly the creative output of Jack.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Jack and I have both performed with different cover bands, Phoenix Rising and Til September, in front of Raven’s Stadium for about 20,000 people. I also got to sing backing vocals for Neal McCoy to his song “The Shake” at The Longbranch in Raleigh in 2000.
What has been the high point of your music path?
I think we would all agree that recording our “Empty Shell” CD would be the high point. Jack also performed in an opening act with Left-Over 1.0 for blues legend Johnny Winter, and also 80s great Loverboy in 2004. I have had a few high points, but would like to think that the best is still yet to come. These would include playing Pippin in a community theater production in Norwich, CT, in 1998, being a Military Idol finalist in 2005, and performing in the Army Birthday Ball show in 2006.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
It varies. For Jack, sometimes it starts with a riff or a chord pattern, and other times with lyrics or a melody. I usually write a poem based on a concept or story and build music around it.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Getting paid fairly for your efforts. In relation to the relatively negligible performance time aside, you practice individually and together for hours on end, promote, pack up your gear, drive to and from, set up and tear down, deal with the agency and venues, and that’s just scratching the surface. Streaming sites afford the opportunity of a vastly expanded potential audience but offer a pittance for your heart and soul.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
The Left-Over band consensus would be The Eagles, hands down.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
It’s been a while since our last outdoor shows in September of 2020. Our rehearsals were weekly, when possible, two to three hours on a Thursday night, in my basement. We would try to work through half of a show’s worth of material, and our shows are usually three hours. We would also try to add a half dozen new cover songs every few months to keep the set lists fresh. When I say cover songs, I don’t mean the overplayed set lists you would hear on any given night in a club. Instead, these are challenging, unique, and no less memorable favorites like “I Can’t Hold Back” by Survivor, “Double Vision” by Foreigner, “Synchronicity II” by The Police, “Those Shoes” by The Eagles, “Keep the Faith” by Bon Jovi, “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood, “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates, “I Remember You” by Skid Row, and “Subdivisions” and “Spirit of Radio” by Rush. For a full night’s show, we play about four or five covers to every original, and we don’t tell folks which are our originals. The greatest compliment is to see people dancing and singing along to the catchy refrains of our originals they may have never even heard before, as though these were classic covers that they just can’t recall when and where they heard them. We take our practices and shows very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s lots of jokes and discussion of topics of the day. After rehearsal, we usually go to the Double T Diner and continue those jokes and musings there.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Of the songs on the Empty Shell CD, “Learning to Breathe” was the greatest challenge for Jack to write because saying goodbye to a soulmate is so difficult. “Home” was the greatest challenge to record because of all the vocal and instrumental intricacies, including a 12-string.
What's coming up in the future?
Some of that remains to be seen concerning COVID-19. We’re in a continuing Maryland lockdown, not a Texas reopening, so we’re anxiously waiting with bated breath for a rejuvenation. Our next single to record will be "Society's Thumb," in continuation of the theme of some of our contemporary socially-enlightening originals, such as "Empty Shell,” "Shame on You," and "The Deplorables." Jack has a treasure trove of musical material, literally hundreds of songs in various stages of completion. Some will be on the new CD, along with “We the People” and “Society’s Thumb.” We will no doubt have some completely new collaborative material. Before the curtain of COVID-19 came crashing down, we had planned a benefit concert for Freedom Alliance and Tunnel 2 Towers with about a dozen Maryland original bands, both legacy and new, with overwhelming support, so we hope to restart that initiative when the curtain goes back up. We’d like nothing more than to focus on our originals only, but the reality of the Baltimore music scene is that there could be more mutual support and altruism. We have a great opportunity to reinvigorate the music scene here the way Seattle did in the 1990s, but it must be cooperative effort.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
The Empty Shell CD is available on all the major music media platforms and free on YouTube Empty Shell - YouTube, as is our new single, “We the People” We The People - YouTube. Of course, we have the traditional Facebook page Left-Over | Facebook, with links to our regular website and music.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share our music and experiences with you and your readers.
Acclaimed rockers Left-Over rose to critical acclaim in 2018 with their debut album Empty Shell, which featured such standout, socially-enlightening originals such as "Empty Shell, "Shame on You," and "The Deplorables."
Comprising five seasoned members, including two U.S. Military Veterans*, the Baltimore-based band is passionate about the topics they explore through their songwriting including their new single “We The People,” which they say is a “plea for unity” and “reminds us that we are one nation, under God.”
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