BILLY SHEEHAN Explains Decision To Enlist WHITESNAKE's MICHELE LUPPI To Assist With Lead Vocals During MR. BIG Tour

April 6, 2024

In a new interview with Robert Edwards of Talkin' Bout Rock, MR. BIG bassist Billy Sheehan spoke about the band's decision to enlist Michele Luppi (WHITESNAKE) to assist with the lead vocals during MR. BIG's U.K. tour while singer Eric Martin was dealing with an unspecified voice issue. Billy said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It's tough when you get.. I mean, that's kind of why it's a farewell tour. We could limp over the finish line or run over the finish line, and right now we're planning to run over the finish line. But it's tough. Vocals are tough. We have a tight, tough schedule. So, this gentleman plays in one of the Italian MR. BIG tribute bands. He's got a great voice and [he's] a wonderful guy. So he just comes in… As you get older, not all singers can hit those high notes anymore. And that's not every song or everything like that, but a little help from my friends comes in on the lead vocals. I still do my part as I do. Paul [Gilbert, guitar] and our drummer, Nick [D'Virgilio], is a great singer — really just a really excellent singer."

He continued: "One great thing about [late MR. BIG drummer] Pat Torpey, God rest his soul, was that he was a lead singer also and at a really high range, so we were worried we could never find somebody like that, but we found Nick, and on top of being an amazing drummer, he does Pat's parts perfectly, and they're quite difficult; there's a lot of nuance and finesse, things you need to know."

Elaborating on why it was necessary to bring Luppi into the picture, Billy said: "We're not faking anything, and we never have and never will. But the vocal cords are a little tiny, two little flaps of skin there, and done right, with correct training, you can be Tony Bennett and sing into your 90s. But a lot of singers, to hit a higher note, they just push harder. You can only do that for so long. I was very lucky to get vocal lessons from a [vocal coach] named Ron Anderson. And he was the number one guy… When Bono blows his voice out, they fly Ron Anderson in to fix him. He's the guy. Ozzy [Osbourne], Janet Jackson — his list of singers that he works with is an A list of all the best singers there are, everybody. And I went to him for quite a while and really increased my range, my accuracy, everything. I sang my whole life, but I never — like I played bass my whole life. I don't know what I'm doing, but I play it. Same thing with my singing — I sang my whole life. I didn't know what I was doing. But getting some instruction from Mr. Anderson was just amazing. What a difference it makes. But everybody's different, everybody approaches it a different way, and we're doing our best to keep everything real. So we brought somebody in. We didn't have him behind a curtain. There he is. He's helping the singer sing."

MR. BIG played its first concert with Luppi on March 22 at KK's Steel Mill in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. Fan-filmed video of the show can be seen below.

MR. BIG's ongoing last worldwide tour is aptly titled "The BIG Finish". Since the band's original drummer and co-founder Pat Torpey lost his battle with Parkinson's disease in 2018, the band now feels it's time to mark the end of this chapter of their legacy. The first leg kicked off in Japan and Southeast Asia in July and August 2023, where the band performed for hundreds of thousands of loyal fans at 11 sold-out shows including Budokan in Tokyo, Japan. Joining MR. BIG on drums for this special final world tour is longtime friend of the band Nick D'Virgilio (SPOCK'S BEARD, BIG BIG TRAIN),stepping in for Torpey.

MR. BIG's final tour sees the band performing the entirety of its breakthrough platinum-selling 1991 album "Lean Into It" from start to finish as a featured highlight of the live setlist.

MR. BIG recently entered the studio to record a new studio album to coincide with the last shows of the band's farewell tour.

As a session musician and touring artist, Nick has worked with many different kinds of artists and bands, from TEARS FOR FEARS, Sheryl Crow and Kevin Gilbert to Peter Gabriel and Eric Burdon and the ANIMALS. In 1996, Nick took Phil Collins's place in GENESIS and played on their "Calling All Stations" album. He has also carved out a major presence in the progressive rock world with his bands, SPOCK'S BEARD and BIG BIG TRAIN.

Before joining the Sweetwater team, Nick spent almost five years touring with Cirque Du Soleil's "Totem" as drummer, vocalist, and assistant bandleader.

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