Written by: Tony Vincent
I grew up in Albuquerque, NM. Not exactly a burgeoning city for music and bands, but that didn’t matter to me as a young boy. My father had a pretty impressive vinyl collection, and after hearing my first Beatles record, I suddenly knew that music was going to be a major part of my life. I completely immersed myself in those records throughout my elementary school years.
I started singing at about the same time I learned to talk, and spent my childhood surrounding myself with as many performing opportunities as I could. It didn’t matter if it was community theater, “battle of the bands” gigs or youth choir— I simply wanted to become a better musician and performer, so I made the conscious decision to exhaust every outlet available to me.
In an effort to focus my love of music into a more specific discipline, I started private drum lessons at the age of 7. But when I was 12, my world was rocked when a friend of mine brought a Prophet-5 over to my house. I was immediately captivated by the world of sound creation, sound manipulation and music production, and my focus quickly shifted to synths and programming, which is still where I draw my inspiration as a songwriter. That being said, live performance has always been what truly moves me. There is just nothing quite like the exchange a performer has with an audience, and the gratification that comes from sharing an unforgettable experience with them is incredible and humbling. I have been blessed to have had some extraordinary experiences on stage— some solo, some with incredibly talented artists.
One of the biggest earmarks of my career (at least in my mind) actually happened after I had already experienced a successful major-label record deal(EMI/CMG) and significant radio play. I moved to New York in 1997 to further pursue my music career, but instead I unexpectedly found myself on Broadway, performing in RENT. It was an amazing introduction into professional theater, and I moved on to open Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in the role of Judas Iscariot. I remember Andrew flying his entire staff over from London for opening night (Superstar is particularly special to him because it was his first musical to open on Broadway, back in 1971). It was an unbelievable experience to open such a high-profile and well-known show, and also to be cast in one of the most iconic roles ever created in the genre of rock musical theater. It was an absolutely epic night. Rumor has it that the opening night party cost more than $750,000!
Another experience that I could never have imagined also came through the theater world. While I was writing and recording for my second record deal (this time with Epic/Sony), I had the opportunity to work with the band Queen, as the star of their massive rock musical We Will Rock You in London’s West End in 2002. I became fast friends with Brian May and Roger Taylor, due to their very hands-on relationship with the production process. Despite the show receiving horrid reviews, Queen went against the grain and basically gave the finger to critics by promoting the show themselves— using the cast in many of their live concerts over the year and a half following the show’s opening. This gave me the unbelievable opportunity to front the band itself at Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, live from Buckingham Palace, singing one of the most iconic rock anthems of all time, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. That night I shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Ozzy Osborne, Phil Collins, Tony Bennett and one of my biggest musical influences, Sir Paul McCartney, which was absolutely surreal. Being that it was televised live to over 200 million people, it was one of the most high-pressure performances that I’ve ever had— blessed but stressful!
Being one of Cee Lo Green’s final few contestants on season 2 of NBC’s The Voice gave my career a significant boost, but to be honest, that experience paled in comparison to working with Green Day on their Broadway show American Idiot. I was given the freedom to create the darkest character I’ve ever played from the ground up— without a script and without much direction. I played the role of St. Jimmy— the evil alter-ego of Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia character. It was an absolute thrill to sing such powerful music every night, but for me the true high point was working on the cast album with Billie Joe Armstrong. He’s such a talented artist and musician, and is incredibly specific and disciplined in the studio. I learned so much from both him and his engineer Chris Dugan. Chatting about gear and production tricks with them was amazing, and the experience of creating music with them will forever be burned into my memory. That’s about as good as it gets.
I don’t know what future experiences could possibly trump these moments in my career, but that really doesn’t matter to me. My hope is simply to continue to work in this crazy world of music, production and performance until I’m good and ready to leave it!