Catching Up with John Tesh: Scaling New Heights

Posted on 2012-07-20.

It is never too late to make your dreams come true. John Tesh is living proof of this adage. From Entertainment Tonight host to Grammy Nominated recording artist, Tesh has re-invented himself. In May, Tesh sat down with the Examiner’s Kevin Yeanoplos to discuss his career shift to music and his new perspective on life. (Kevin Yeanoplos)-There are many different ways to describe the apex of attainment – “the dance,” “the big show,” “the main stage,” “prime time” – to name a few. But no matter how you gage getting ahold of the “brass ring,” it really just gets down to one thing – you’ve made it, you’ve really made it.

For the “laurel resters,” it signals the end of the creative line – time to be lazy and enjoy the spoils. But for certain exceptional people – the multitalented John Tesh for instance – it signals a rebirth…a new creative challenge…a fresh start.

Tesh’s freshest foray? The Grammy nominated, Gold-selling, Emmy winning performer recently announced the launch of his new online radio station, KTesh Los Angeles. Geared toward Southern California listeners, KTeshLA is a Christian adult contemporary music and talk station featuring Tesh’s long-running nationally syndicated radio show Intelligence For Your Life.

Broadcasting uplifting music from today’s hottest Christian artists from Casting Crowns to Toby Mac and Jars of Clay, the channel also offers positive insights about health and wellness, relationships, and finances, among others.

And given that the former Entertainment Tonight anchor has been priming for his summer John Tesh: Big Band Live! Tour that kicks off on May 9 in support of his recently released album and DVD by the same name, 2012 has been anything but a coffee break for the accomplished musician.

The new album was recorded at Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood where Frank Sinatra recorded many of his most enduring sides and features new arrangements of nine standards, including “Blue Skies,” “In The Mood,” and “The Way You Look Tonight” as well as three re-imagined Tesh originals, “Barcelona,” “Spanish Steps” and “Give Me Forever.”

In spite of his feverish new year, Tesh was still kind enough to chat with Examiner recently about the new record, the tour and well, his intelligence for life.

With an already fulfilling and diverse career under his belt, Tesh could have simply floated down the lazy musical river. But that’s just not in the energetic performer’s genes.

Tesh described the inspiration for the exciting new big band project. “Tim Landers – (my) best friend, my bass player for twenty-five years – we were trying to figure out what to do for our Christmas tour last year.”

“And he said, ‘Why don’t we go back and get our roots?’ I said, ‘Well, what are those?’ And he said, ‘Well, when you used to play jazz piano in the clubs and play the big band stuff.’ These were the songs that my parents grew up with.”

“He said, ‘Why don’t we try this for Christmas?’ And we did. We did the Christmas tour and after that, the response was so good that we thought, ‘Why don’t we turn this into a PBS special and see how that goes?’”

“You can never tell how people are gonna react to this stuff. We did a little bit of research ‘cause we’re always on tour. We’re always doing four or five shows a month. And the audiences really reacted. Even the young kids were getting into it.”

The overwhelming response to Tesh’s jazz, big band and swing music shouldn’t surprise us. It is after all music that shaped the world from the early to mid-20th Century. And with all that the country’s been through in the last few years, the affirmative reaction has to be in part due to a genuine need for good music. Tesh agrees.

“Yeah, I do. When we spend so much time listening to MP3 players and you get that real compressed, non-dynamic sound and somebody shows up for a concert – whether they were dragged or they won a ticket or something – all of a sudden, you hear a baritone sax and a piccolo trumpet and Dave’s trombone lashing out these melodies, it’s like ‘Whoa!’ And the air gets moved around differently. It’s the reason why this music was dance music for so many years.”

“I have to tell you a quick story. Saturday was my mother-in-law’s eighty-third birthday. So my wife (Connie Sellecca) said, ‘Hey, she’s in a retirement home.’ So we invited everybody from the retirement home over to our house. And the one thing that we forgot was that there were so many people that were going to be bringing walkers (laughing).”

“For the last two days, I’ve been on my knees trying to rub the scratches out of the floor. Everybody had walkers and they were dancing. She said, ‘I want you to play these big band tunes.’ And that’s what we did in our living room.”

“People who were eighty, ninety, a hundred years old. They didn’t know what they had for breakfast and they all remembered the lyrics and the tunes. That’s the reason why these songs were credited with saving lives from World War II, you know? They’ll be around forever. (Michael) Bublé has really proven that you can take it to a younger audience too.”

There’s no question that the audience enjoys listening to the music. And not surprisingly, Tesh enjoys playing it just as much – not to mention watching the fans get down to the up tempo tunes.
“It was pretty funny ‘cause I learned this from Sting. Twenty years ago, I was covering one of his sound checks for Entertainment Tonight and he had a camera mounted on the stage behind the drums and it was pointed at the audience. And I said, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Ah, you found my secret.’ The reason he did that was because he wanted to see how the audience was reacting to certain songs.”

“And so I started doing it and it was fascinating. We watched the video and the video showed the audience. Some of the really simple songs, I don’t really dig, people are holding hands, making out, you know.”

“On some of the other songs, people are going to the bathroom and you don’t always pick that up while you’re on stage playing the piano. So that’s the method I’ve always used to figure out what songs to play, how long to play them, what position to put them in. It’s really what informed us as to how joyous the reaction to the big band songs was.”

Read more about Tesh’s experiences in the recording studio, and how he’s giving back to those in need HERE Then get your tickets to see the John Tesh Big Band live at Fraze on Friday, July 27th. Hear all of the big band tunes you love and more!