The Little River Band is ready for a cool change.
After months on lockdown, the soft rock quintet is finally getting back on the road, touring non-stop through Thanksgiving, including a stop at Schenectady’s Frog Alley Brewing Co. on Friday.
“There’s nothing like being able to get back on the bus and go work,” said Wayne Nelson, vocalist and bassist for the band. He’s spent more than four decades with the band, which began in Australia in the 1970s but found a fan base in the United States, with hit songs like “Reminiscing,” “Lonesome Loser” and “Cool Change.”
Nelson grew up singing with his parents in church and local theater companies. By the time he was in high school, he joined a garage band and was hooked.
“I was addicted and I just kept stepping from one thing to the next. Years later, [I] went to Los Angeles and ended up meeting Little River Band,” Nelson said.
That was in 1980 after he’d toured with Jim Messina, who opened for Little River Band. Even as a newcomer, Nelson got to work with some of the biggest names in the music industry. “Time Exposure,” the first record he worked on with the band, was produced by the late George Martin, The Beatles’ producer.
“He’s just a legend in the music business and we had the honor of doing that record with him and on top of that, it was the first time I had ever sung lead vocal on a song in the studio and that song went to Top 5 in the U.S. It was an amazing time for me and for the band to be able to work with him,” Nelson said.
He sang lead on both “The Night Owls” and “Take It Easy On Me,” some of the best-known songs by Little River Band.
In the ensuing years, as the band continued to tour and produce new music, the lineup changed considerably. The original band members left and were replaced, and the turnover right was fairly high.
“The interesting thing is Little River Band was an assembled band . . . but they immediately started to replace people and I was the eighth bass player that had either toured or recorded with them. That continued, so once I joined then they fired a guitar player, then they fired a lead singer, then another guy walked out, and then another guy walked out so by about three or four years in, I had seen the revolving door turn many times already and every time it happened, the process was the same. We hoped we found somebody that was a singer but we were really looking for a great musician to bring something new to the band . . . I’ve seen all of those changes and been a part of so many of them that it just becomes second nature,” Nelson said.
The good thing about the changing lineup, Nelson said, is that he can look back at each era and appreciate them for different reasons.
“Now I’ve got another great bunch of musicians that we just keep making new music and the catalog of music just keeps growing. I think of everything I’ve gone through with the band, that’s the thing I’m most proud of is [we] keep making music and [finding] a way to make it good and keep people happy,” Nelson said.
During the pandemic, the band couldn’t get together, let alone tour. Instead, the members, including Chris Marion, Rich Herring, Ryan Ricks and Colin Whinnery, focused on songwriting.
“We weathered the storm that way. Luckily, we were right on the verge of releasing a live record when the pandemic hit. We finished that, we put it out and we had something to talk about in the interim, which was a damn good live record with an orchestra that we recorded the year prior. So we were able to put something out that bridged the gap,” Nelson said, referring to “Black Tie.”
They also recorded a few forthcoming singles and they’ll be releasing them later this year, which marks a change from how the band used to release music.
“This is a brand new way for us to do things. Again, part of it we learned in the pandemic. We were all forced to go to our own studios and work on things and instead of an engineer finding you a good vocal sound, I had to find one here by myself and dial things in. So it was kind of fun to learn it and be a little more independent,” Nelson said.
Over the last year, he also worked on a series called “Little Rivers Run Rough,” about “surviving the music business,” as he puts it. Through videos and podcasts, Nelson spoke with Al Bertani, a friend from high school with whom he used to perform. The series, which is available through littleriversrunrough.net, tracks Nelson’s career as well as the changes and challenges of the music industry.
Since the pandemic started to wane in the United States later this spring, Nelson and the band have gotten back together and things are looking a bit more like business as usual.
“It [feels] real good. People are happy too. We’ve done a few shows now where places are able to open their capacity again and people are just hungry to get out and enjoy again,” Nelson said.
When asked what songs the band is always asked to play, Nelson said there are about 10 hits that seem to be everyone’s favorites.
“For the most part, most people come to hear their favorite two or three but those two or three are different for everybody that’s sitting in the crowd,” Nelson said. “You just do the job and present them all with equal love.”
Little River Band will perform at 7 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are $49 for general admission.
Wild Adriatic will also perform on Friday.
Then, on Saturday, Air Supply will take the stage. The soft rock duo founded by Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock started performing together in 1975 and are well known for hits like “All Out of Love,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Making Love out of Nothing at all” and “Lost in Love.”
For tickets and more information visit frogalleybrewing.com.
More from The Daily Gazette: