Laying it on the line8/18/2015
Starship will perform on the Bud Light Stage on the last day of the Iowa State Fair, Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. Lead singer Mickey Thomas visited with Cityview by phone from his home in Palm Desert, California recently.
CV: What has the band been doing as of late?
MT: Last weekend I was up in northern California, I had shows in Truckee, California and at this beautiful winery in a little town called Hanley California, and right before that we were in Laughlin, Nevada. So we’re just kinda jumping all over the place. This weekend we’re going back up to northern California again tomorrow, to San Andrea and San Franciso, and then we’ll be heading your way.
CV: Starship released the album “Loveless Fascination” in 2013, your first album in several years. How is releasing an album now different than it was in the ’80s?
MT: Oh gosh. It’s very different for us. Recording and making new records has drastically changed. It’s more of a downloadable world. And back in our heyday, you know, we were making records that people were eagerly awaiting and anticipating the release of a new Jefferson Starship or Starship album, so as soon as you would release it there was a certain amount of people who were going to run out and get it right away. Now it’s not like that. We kind of have to spend more time working it and trying to make people more aware of the fact that we have a new album out. We don’t get the radio exposure that we used to in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s tough for classic rock bands to get any new material on the radio these days, so that’s a challenge. So you’ve got to go through more gradually working it, social media, going to stations and then hopefully maybe you get a song placed in a movie or a TV ad or something like that so you get exposure.
CV: Or in a stage play, for instance. (“We Built This City” is used in the musical “Rock of Ages.”)
MT: Yeah, exactly. So really, making a record for us now is really almost more of a promotional tool to use to get some excitement and hype around our live shows and live performances; it really works out for us. We will have the new album with us.
CV: You’ve been in the industry from the days of vinyl to downloads. How has the latter affected the industry?
MT: It’s changed it. People talk about the record business, per se, but it’s really not a much of a record business anymore, not the way we think of it in the classic sense of the word. Newer artists still sell a lot of — I can’t even say CDs anymore — but the majority of it, as you know, is all downloads, cyberworld and stuff like that. It’s a different world as far as the music business, and it’s basically more of a younger artist’s world when it comes to that, new music and new albums and downloads and stuff.
CV: Where did you find Stephanie Calvert, your female vocalist?
MT: We found Stephanie in Las Vegas, Nevada; it’s been almost eight years now she’s been with us. For awhile we performed without a female vocalist in the band, and then we decided that really, it was better to have a female vocalist in the band just from the history of the band and the way there has always been a strong female presence in the band. So we decided we should have a female vocalist again. Once we made that decision, Stephanie was actually the first person that we auditioned. She walked in the room, and we knew that we need not look any further. She just made a huge impression on us right off the bat.
CV: Were you looking to match Grace Slick’s style or go did you want to go in a completely different direction?
MT: Not necessarily to match Grace’s style, just to have a strong female presence in the band. As it turns out, Stephanie does do a fantastic job of — some people like to call it — “channeling Grace Slick.” She puts her own stamp on it. She really brings a lot of personality to the songs, which is something that Grace Slick did as well — a very strong stage persona — and Stephanie has that. She does a great job on not only “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which we performed together in “Set the Night to Music” from the Starship era, but we also go back to a musical tribute to the entire history of the band, and she does “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” and just kills it.
CV: Do you hone your set list for certain audiences or demographics now?
MT: Not really. I try to change it up a little bit just to keep it fresh and interesting. I mean, obviously there are certain songs that are going to be in the show every night that people would be very disappointed if they weren’t like “We Built This City” or “Sara” or “Jane” or “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” so there are things that are always in the show. Then we have other spots in the show that are interchangeable. Maybe one night we might do “It’s Not Enough,” and the next night we might do “No Way Out.” One night we might do “Lay It On the Line,” and the next night might be “It’s Not Over (Til It’s Over)” in that same spot. I always do “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” in the show.
CV: That’s been awhile ago.
MT: Almost 40 years, with the Elvin Bishop Band in 1976. It resurfaced last year in the soundtrack of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It was a fun movie.
CV: What can the Iowa State Fair crowd expect?
MT: We try to touch all bases and try to do at least one song from every album I’ve had a part in creating with Jefferson Starship or Starship. So that means we’re going to do “Jane” and “Find Your Way Back” and probably “No Way Out” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” “Sara” … we’ll probably come up with at least one surprise.
CV: What are the band’s plans as it looks to the future?
MT: Right now we’re just going to finish touring this year, and then we’ve got a really exciting event kicking off early 2016. We’re to be doing something called the ’80s Cruise in the Caribbean in January with Huey Lewis, Richard Marx, Kool and the Gang, Starship, Flock of Seagulls. A lot of the original DJs from MTV are going to be on the cruise, so we’re really looking forward to that and maybe another album in 2016. I’d like to do that as well. CV