BILLY SHEEHAN: MR. BIG Is 'Talking About' Writing New Music
April 15, 2023
In a new interview with Robert Edwards of the Talkin' Bout Rock rock music talk show, Billy Sheehan spoke about MR. BIG's upcoming farewell tour, dubbed "The BIG Finish". Since the group's original drummer and co-founder, Pat Torpey, lost his battle with Parkinson's disease in 2018, Sheehan and his bandmates now feels it's time to mark the end of this chapter of their legacy.
The first leg will take the band to Japan and Southeast Asia in July and August, while shows in South America, Europe, and the U.S. will launch in early 2024 and will be announced soon.
Regarding MR. BIG's decision to reunite for a new set of tour dates, Sheehan said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We went out and did shows after Pat passed away — God rest his soul — because they were already booked. And we thought, 'Let's just do them and see how it goes.' And Matt Starr [who filled in for Pat] did a great job — he's a great drummer, a great singer — but he's a tenor; we need an alto. I'm a tenor — a tenor or a baritone — and Paul [Gilbert, MR. BIG guitarist] is around the same range as myself. We need that alto voice for the three-part harmony, and Matt can sing great, but it just wasn't his range. And prior to that, Pat was with us; he just wasn't playing drums, 'cause he couldn't, due to the Parkinson's debilitation — he just couldn't do it. And so we went out with Matt. And it was good, but we were looking at each other onstage, and, like… I don't know… The guys in MR. BIG, we're really tight, and Pat was my closest musical friend, I think, that I've had in my career — a very, very dear friend of mine. So it was tough. So we just let it lay for a few years. And then we had a few offers to play that we turned down. And then finally a few offers came in [where we were just, like], 'It might be time, but we're gonna need a great drummer.' Not a good drummer — a great drummer, and somebody that does the kind of things that Pat did. It was a finesse, nuance — all these things going on that you normally wouldn't even notice, but you'd notice when they were missing. So Nick D'Virgilio from SPOCK'S BEARD is gonna take over the drum spot for this farewell… It's kind of a farewell, tribute to Pat Torpey kind of tour. A lot of bands do a farewell tour, and then they go back and do another farewell tour and another farewell tour. We said, 'Let's really make it a farewell.'"
Asked about the possibility of new music from MR. BIG, the bassist said: "They're talking about it. We talked about writing a couple of things and getting together. We're gonna do some rehearsals before the show, and it'll probably turn into a little bit of a writing thing. I know Eric [Martin, MR. BIG singer] and Paul are prolific writers. I write a lot as well. And yeah, we hope to. It's not set in stone yet, but we hope to have some new stuff as well. And again, it's gonna be a farewell tour, so it'll be kind of a way of putting a period at the end of the sentence, saying 'thank you' to amazing fans. We just had a hundred million views of 'To Be With You' on YouTube, which is pretty darn good. We're very grateful."
When D'Virgilio's addition to MR. BIG was first announced last month, Sheehan said in a statement: "We found a wonderful drummer in Nick, and he's got a great voice too. Nick has a vocal range similar to Pat's, and he'll be able to do the parts Pat did with a similar finesse. It's a big relief because MR. BIG has always been heavy on the harmonies. When the band began, we really relied on each other. We knew each guy would do exactly what he needed to do vocally and to do it righteously, on key, and in time. It's difficult to find a drummer who sings in that range, but Nick has the voice we really need onstage."
Gilbert concurred, saying: "Nick gets close to the spirit of Pat Torpey. Billy, Eric, and I have been really happy with the music we've already shared back and forth. I'm impressed with Nick's level of musical adaptability and breadth of skill. He and I have done some recording together, and I was blown away with his groove, and how he just played what fit the song. If the song requires him to be more progressive and stand out, he will stand out. But if the song requires him to groove, he will groove. That's actually a rare thing, and it really fits in with what we do in MR. BIG."
Eric added: "I love the fact that Nick was a fan of Pat Torpey and wants to keep our BIG sound intact. When I first saw his audition demo video of the 'Lean Into It' song 'Lucky This Time', Nick was playing drums with those signature Pat snare hits and singing harmonies spot on to what Pat used to do. It gave me goosebumps!! I am so thrilled to have this man who will be filling some mighty BIG shoes join us on our last tour."
MR. BIG's upcoming tour will see the band performing its breakthrough platinum-selling 1991 album "Lean Into It" from start to finish as a featured highlight of the live setlist.
Martin remains eternally grateful for the never-ending success of "To Be With You", but he maintans that the essence of MR. BIG goes much, much deeper than that.
"That song helped put the stamps in our passports," Martin said, "but we really nailed it on "Lean Into It". I'm still in awe of how Billy and Paul play on that album, because they're such brilliant players. I used to call them the dynamic duo. And Pat Torpey was an underrated drummer, in my opinion. I mean, just listen to his tone! 'Lean Into It' is totally indicative of who we are as a band."
Explained Sheehan, "'Lean Into It' was put together much like a movie, with an opening scene that lets us get into the dialogue and find out what the story is. And then you get the love scene, the car chase, and the punchline ending. I think it's a perfectly sequenced album." Observed Gilbert, "Some people thought we had brought in professional background singers to do all those harmonies on 'Lean Into It', but no, it's really us. We always felt like we had something to prove whenever we went on the road and did all that singing ourselves, just to show everyone that we really could do it."
Just like the consummate performers they are, MR. BIG still want to reach into your dreams. "I hope the people who come see our shows get to feel what it's like when musicians get together and really play and sing the songs they wrote," offered Sheehan. "We want the audience to be one with us, and feel our evening together was a magical and beautiful event." Theorized Gilbert, "Music is like time travel. You can hear something that takes you right back to 1992, and it reminds you exactly of what was happening back then. On this tour, I want to give people the opportunity to time travel like that and go, 'These guys are on fire!' Good music is timeless."
Concluded Martin, "I love playing with these guys. And if I'm being honest, I don't want it to ever end. I'm the guy who just knows we still have that special spark together, and I always want to keep the torch burning. But if it really is the end, then I want us all to have a happy ending together. We're a great live band. I want everybody to come out and see us, because we want to blow you away and have you all think as you're leaving, 'MR. BIG really is the real thing.'"
In May 2020, Sheehan gave an interview to the "Music Mania" podcast in which he claimed that a "mastering problem" with MR. BIG's latest album, "Defying Gravity", which came out six years ago, made the LP "unlistenable.
"Defying Gravity" was released via Wowow Entertainment, Inc. in Japan and Frontiers Music Srl in most of the rest of the world.
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