Pop punk identity Tony Lovato has seen a lot over the journey. His career as a musician has been marked by plenty of noted ups and infamous downs. This week, Lovato touches down in Australia for a series of acoustic performances and workshops. Killyourstereo.com sat down with the MEST frontman/guitarist to discuss all things music; as a profession, a lifestyle and a business.
Having had ups and downs throughout your career personally, how much do you think this will now help you better guide aspiring musicians at these upcoming workshops? Essentially you’ve seen both the good and bad of the industry first-hand?
Well, I always think you have to experience something to really understand it. But having gone through a lot I can at least give my knowledge that may help when certain situations arise. But in reality, how many times in your life have you been told not to do something because of the potential outcome and not did it? More than likely you did it and suffered the consequences. That’s how you learn.
Some critics might argue mentoring young musicians requires a ‘lead by example’ approach. Is the message about acknowledging you can make mistakes along the way, but rectify them or is it simply about counseling aspiring talent to avoid similar situations you’ve encountered?
Lead by example? What am I? Teaching a fucking church choir? It’s the music industry, the entertainment business. All I’m trying to teach aspiring artists and musicians is to be true to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right [then] don’t do it. It’s your career at the end of the day.
Well, in terms of your career, what’s been the biggest change as a musician now? Is it a case of with age comes greater maturity and perspective?
I think with age every situation in life is looked at with more maturity and a better perspective. A greater appreciation for the matter at hand. So that definitely plays into being a musician and also how the business has changed so much over the past 15 years.
What about your current lifestyle? What’s the balance like in regards to managing music, family and outside commitments?
It’s hard. But you must make time for it all. I’ve always been this way. Where I loved being home and doing family stuff, and then, at the same time, loved touring the world [and] drinking until 4 am and sleeping in different hotels every night. For instance, the other night my parents watched my son overnight for me. So my girlfriend and I could have some time alone and do adult stuff. Needless to say we partook in some fun, happy stuff and did our adult night. It was great. And I was like, ‘Man, I miss these types of nights.’ Then the next night, my wife, son and I and my [friend’s] wife went to go see their six-year old daughter River in the Wizard of Oz play in town. As I’m sitting there with my son on my lap watching River on stage – who I’ve been close to since she was born – I’m having this rad moment of family time. Thinking how I am a father now, which I’ve always wanted to be and watching this little girl on stage that I adore and is so happy we are in the crowd. Then thinking how the night before was literally the exact opposite (laughs). Ya just gotta make time for it all.
You mentioned music as a business before. What are the main areas of music, as an industry and profession, that still needs improving today?
Hard question to answer. I mean it will always be a “business” that’s just the way it is. I think it’s more about the fans supporting the artists that needs improving. Not buying records is destroying the business. It’s making bands not able to tour and to continue making records. I think labels [are] realising how and where to spend their marketing money better and supporting their artist for more than two records is something that could be worked on [too].
What are you most proud of when you reflect on your career as a musician?
I think the longevity. I’m definitely not a millionaire but I’ve managed to be in this business for 16 years now. And I love it.
What is your biggest regret?
Don’t have one.
What has been your quintessential Spinal Tap moment in the career?
Well, I was in Pennsylvania once at this venue that was massive. The building itself was massive and we literally got lost and couldn’t find the stage. There were arrows on the ground that you were supposed to follow but then they went every which way. It was pretty fuckin’ funny.
For some sitting on the fence, what should they expect from your performances and workshops?
What to expect… the shows are always a good time. Hence why MEST built a career through touring and workshops.. well I’m just here to help you any which way I can. I personally have always liked gaining my knowledge on life and anything through someone with a lot of different experiences.
Thanks for the interview, Tony.
*Main photo credit: Michael Mullenix Photography.
Catch Tony Lovato performing live and on his workshops this August. Details here.