Tommy DeCarlo of Boston: The ClassicRockHistory.Com Interview

Tommy DeCarlo of Boston Interview

Tommy DeCarlo of Boston. Photo courtesy of Frontiers Records/Credit: Tim Orchard

Since taking over as vocalist of Boston in the wake of Brad Delp’s death, Tommy DeCarlo has done his best to preach the good word of arena rock in the modern era.

Hailing from the bustling Upstate, NY, heavy rock scene, DeCarlo began his accent in the ’90s as an able songwriter with a huge voice. But it wasn’t until 2007, when legendary vocalist Brad Delp passed, that DeCarlo received his first shot at stardom with arena rock staples Boston.

In the 15 years since, DeCarlo has done his part, carrying a heavy load in an inspiring fashion. Indeed, fans worldwide have continued to experience the music of Boston through the soaring vocalist’s exploits, but DeCarlo didn’t stop there. Several years into his tenure with Boston, DeCarlo formed his namesake band, DeCarlo, which released its long-awaited debut record, Lightning Strikes Twice, in 2020 to dizzying results.

That fanfare carried DeCarlo to shore via a wave of applause, and it seems that DeCarlo’s record company, Frontiers Records, was listening in, tabbing DeCarlo to record a solo affair, Dancing in the Moonlight. And while DeCarlo took a break from songwriting on this latest record, fear not, his vocals are in fine form, barnstorming listener’s earholes across the entirety of the album.

In support of Dancing in the Moonlight, Tommy DeCarlo dialed in with to run through his approach as a vocalist, performing live with Boston, his musings on the idea of rock being dead, and a whole lot more.

Tell me about your latest record, Dancing in the Moonlight.

That came about maybe a little over a year ago when Frontiers Records reached out to me about new music. They wanted to do a follow-up from my album with DeCarlo, Lightning Strikes Twice, and needless to say, I was flattered by that opportunity. But it was a little different than my first release through Frontiers, given that most of the writing for this new album was done over email. Frontiers is based in Italy, and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, so the wonder of technology helped us combine forces to get this album together.

How gratifying has it been to be so well received as a solo artist after being a member of Boston for so long?

For me, it’s very gratifying. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that Tom Scholz gave me, inviting me to the Brad Delp tribute show in 2007. Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been that long, but I’ve had several tours with Boston ever since, all of which have been amazing. But being able to go out and do something on my own meant something to me. I think that a lot of people tend to lean on their time with Boston, but I never wanted to be that guy. I wanted to do something on my own and be known for something I could claim as mine.

Who are your biggest influences as a vocalist?

My earliest influences go back to the late great Brad Delp from Boston. I’ve never been shy about saying that guys like Brad and everyone from that era influenced me. But the great thing about this record was that I didn’t have to draw too much inspiration other than get behind the microphone and sing to the amazing tracks that Frontiers put together. But having said that, that in and of itself was a challenge because singing an entire album’s worth of music is never easy. But it was fun and really inspiring to know that the songs were written for me.

What tracks from the new record are your favorites, and why?

I’m very proud of all of them, but the title track was very special to me because Frontiers allowed me to name the album. And that title was chosen because I specifically felt that “Dancing in the Moonlight” was such a well-written track. I love the melodic feel; it gave me the freedom to get creative with my voice and stretch it out a little bit.

What were some of the most significant differences in putting Dancing in the Moonlight together compared to DeCarlo’s Lightning Strikes Twice?

Well, with Lightning Strikes Twice, it took an enormous amount of my time because that was done in my home studio. And with that, there was the challenge of coming up with a song idea and then building off that. So many tracks didn’t make that album, and the ones that did need to be fine-tuned, which took a long time. So, that was challenging, but the fact that I worked with some great musicians made all the difference. But with Dancing in the Moonlight, Frontiers basically wrapped it up in a nice package for me, so all I had to do was sing what they gave me. I guess it was nice not to have to climb that mountain again, so hats off to Frontiers for doing the legwork for me.

Why is it important to you to help keep AOR-style music alive?

Well, I gotta tell you, Andrew, I think it’s important to a lot of people because people still want to hear that music. But the sad part about that is that the melodic hard rock you heard on the radio in the ’70s and ’80s is not what you hear anymore. Instead, if you want to listen to this music, you’ve got to search for it. But there’s still a huge audience; it’s just a matter of getting out there and playing live shows for the younger generation to see and hear. I love the idea of this music being handed down to new generations, and I see it all the time at shows when kids come to see us with their parents. I think it’s a wonderful genre of music that is somewhat getting lost in time, so I do what I can to ensure we pass it down as I can.

What would you say to the assertion that rock music is dead in the modern age?

If we’re going by what we hear when we turn on the radio, I’d have to agree with them. Like I said, this music is something you have to look for, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. But when I was growing up, you’d see classic rock bands on morning television, but now, even things like that are a rarity. The days of Aerosmith or Journey being on shows like that seem to be gone, and that’s a sad thing. So, it is what it is, but I won’t go as far as calling it “dead,” and I think millions of people out there feel the same way. I still believe there’s a strong following for this music, and people are still calling for it. That’s what I love about Frontiers; they’re doing their part to keep this music alive for all of us.

What does your solo work allow you to do that perhaps Boston doesn’t?

Boston is pretty simple: I sing and play some keyboards on tour. Thinking about it, my role in Boston is similar to what I do with Frontiers in that Tom Scholz does all the work. [Laughs]. But Tom is great; he puts together a great group of musicians and then gets us out there performing that music. But what I’ve always admired about Tom Scholz is that he took Boston’s music live and was steadily able to recreate what people heard on those records.

That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about Boston, and performing with Boston, that we can recreate what’s on those records. Obviously, I’d love to get out there and perform these solo songs live because there’s a level of creativity here that I don’t have with Boston. But that would take getting a proper band together and rehearsing, and I suppose we need to find out if the interest in the record warrants that.

What’s your approach as a live performer?

What I’ve always loved is getting out there and performing live music. I’m a big fan of giving music to the fans the same way they heard it on the record. I may be alone in there, but I’ve never liked it when you see your favorite band perform a song you love, and then they throw a weird twist. Because it’s your favorite song, and you’ve been waiting for it, I think it can be tough to hear some odd version. To me, that’s disappointing. I mean, it can be fun to hear it that way, but I’ve always believed in delivering the songs the way fans heard them on the radio.

What are your thoughts on your contemporaries using backing tracks in the live setting?

Well, I can tell you that Boston has never used backing tracks of any sort. Several bands don’t, but it seems like it’s becoming the industry standard now for live performances, doesn’t it? But here’s the problem, when you don’t do that, you’re trying to fool people, but all you’re doing is cheating. It’s a matter of hard work and commitment to being on your game, which is why many bands rely on that to sound polished. One thing I’ve learned over the years in this industry – and again, I stress that Boston has never played with backing tracks – is that several bands out there have no problem with cheating the system. And I think that it’s even more common than we realize.

How do you keep your voice in shape?

One thing I’ve learned over the years with performing live, be it with Boston or any other band, is to preserve your voice and not overuse it. You know, Steve Perry, the great singer for Journey, once said that people would be upset with him at meet-and-greets because he wouldn’t say much, or he’d end them early. And he said, “People have no idea I have to preserve my voice for the next show. So, I might let these 20 or 30 people down, but that’s only because I have to be there for 30,000 people the next night.” So, I’ve learned that preserving your voice is huge. A lot of prep goes into it, and you have to limit your talking, which always surprises people.

What’s next for you in all lanes, Tommy?

We had the release party for Dancing in the Moonlight on December 8th here in my home state of North Carolina, which was a blast. And so far, we’ve had a wonderful response to the record, and it seems that people are really looking forward to it, and I certainly am, too. So other than that, Frontiers is working hard to get singles out there. We’ll see about performing the album live—one step at a time.

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