We try to get it right every show. We practice like crazy all of us. One thing I try to do is sit with my guitar and play along to the recordings of their live shows before a show to get in the headspace accurately. For the rest of the band, we do have our stage presence that each of us “wears.” That includes period correct clothes, guitars and so on. Our singer goes barefoot like Ronnie did. He wears the Neil Young t-shirt like Ronnie did. So we try to bring the flavour of the original 70’s band in the look but we are not look-a-likes because I don’t think we need to be. Skynyrd was known for the music and that’s what we focus on. We do try to bring passion to live shows and put on a memorable show – rather than just play our best.
3- Do you ever struggle with doing stuff that is not your own.
Good question! The answer is ‘yes’ but not in the way you might think. It’s a challenge to play other people’s music sure, but over time you get a handle on it, if you practice and commit to learning it.
From the guitar stand point Skynyrd was always a ’guitarists’ band first and foremost. In reality, there were four, monster guitarists over the 1970s – 77 period we cover,: Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Ed King and the fabulous Steve Gaines. Each had his own style and ‘personality’, and the key is to take on that personality during the songs and solos. So you have to be them – not yourself. If that makes sense. People don’t want to hear you; you have to restrain your style almost entirely. That takes a certain discipline I guess.
This band plays Skynyrd like the recordings which means no improvising! I think that is one thing that sets us apart. I have seen other Skynyrd tributes that take liberties – they add parts to the music, or change signature solos. But if you come to a Symply Skynyrd show, you will never hear that. The entire band – vocals, keys, drums and bass all strive to preserve the original details in the songs, arrangements and the melodies. Skynyrd fans often personally thank us for capturing the details of the recordings.
Where it gets really interesting is, Skynyrd was always a three-guitar band live and Symply Skynyrd is a two-guitar band by choice. So with us, myself and the other Symply Skynyrd guitarist, Laurence Fontaine, we each split up our guitar duties of three distinct guitar personalities. Laurence and I have to be all of those people, at different times, and sometimes in one song! As an example, in T for Texas, I will play Gary Rossington’s parts – with this style, nuances and tone and then have to shift quickly to Steve Gaines, and do his slide style – all in split second. The trick is to do justice to both and its not always easy! But we love it.
4- How do you handle being constantly on the road?
Well, we all get along. That helps. The band, including keyboardist Russ Morrow, bassist Ernie Pegutter and drummer Don Guillet and the rest of us have become good friends. Also, we are fortunate to be in demand but also to have choice in where and how often we play. Last year we did almost 50 shows I think, and this year we scaled back so we can be more focused on bringing the best of the show to right audiences. We do love the excitement of a new venue and have become road warriors but by no means are we covering the miles of a full-time touring band. We’d love to do shows in Quebec and the east coast though. Have guitar, will travel!
What is one item you can’t travel without.
Besides wet naps, Travellers cheques and my pocket bible and oh, yes… guitars, I would say my slide. No slide, no Freebird!
5- What do the members do when they aren’t covering Skynyrd? Are you in other bands?
Most veteran players are often in several bands and we are no exception. Most of us are in other bands or projects at some point or another. I guess the passion for music just can’t be contained to one band? When you put in so much time on the instrument, so much money into the equipment you want to make the most of it! None of us are in another tribute however. Symply Skynyrd is the only tribute at this time.
Where can we catch you next?
This summer in the east, we are playing Cornwall Ribfest July 25 and Warkworth Musicfest, July 26. In the west, we’re playing Port Dover Friday the 13th of September. We also play select bars from London, ON to GTA. Fans can always catch up with us and festival or bar shows on Facebook under “Symply Skynyrd Canada” or www.symplyskynyrd.com