Saturday, January 21, 2012

John Foster: Picking Up Soul Vibrations

I imagine one of the hardest questions for John Foster to try to answer is, "What is your favorite kind of music?"  The versatility in his career shows that not being nailed down to one style is just fine with him.

What are some of your biggest influences musically while growing up in Oklahoma City? 
John at 17
I actually grew up in a mid size Southern Oklahoma town, Ardmore, during my formative years.  Besides the Beatles being the main influence, I was heavy into AM classic pop and rock--Anything from John Denver, Barry Manilow, Eagles, Boston, Kansas, the "one hit wonders": "Brandy(You're A Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass, "Alone Again(Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan.  When I got into high school, I got deep into classic hard rock: Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, Foghat, etc.  This was the genre when I began to develop as a lead guitar player.
While other artists get pigeonholed with one particular style or another, you've managed to jump in whatever the need may be....whether it's country, pop, surf, soul, rock, gospel, etc. Do you attribute this to your many music influences growing up?
Absolutely.  I am a fan of ALL MUSIC.  I cannot and never have been able to be anything but all over the board as far as being a music fan. 

John with Bruce Johnston

You spent some time in The Beach Boys' touring band. Tell me about how this came about. 
Divine Intervention.  I did a one night club gig in Nashville with fellow "Okie", Michael Summers.  Greg Jennings of Restless Heart was also on the gig.  A few months later, Greg was touring somewhere in the Midwest and met Bruce Johnston.   As they were visiting, Bruce told Greg that they were looking for a guitar player with a high falsetto who might be able to cover the original Brian Wilson parts.  When Greg got back to Nashville, he phoned my friend Michael--who in turn phoned me and suggested that I call Greg about the opportunity.  I called Greg, and he immediately gave me Bruce's phone number and really encouraged me to call Bruce right away.  So...the following day, I phoned Bruce's number.  He answered, and I quickly told him who I was and that Greg Jennings suggested I called him.  Without a blink, Bruce said, "Sing 'I Get Around' in the original key".  I put the phone down, grabbed my guitar, and sang about 30 seconds of the song from the top.  I picked up the phone and said, "Hello...are you still there?".  Bruce said, "Sing 'In My Room' in B".  I immediately sang a verse and the bridge.  After I got back on the phone, he said that the Beach Boys were going to do a State Fair in Illinois within a few weeks, and would I come meet the band and sing with them backstage.  So, I drove a few hours, did just that...and that was my audition process.

Foster, Dean Torrence, Bruce Johnston and Mike Love

How crazy was it knowing you were doing Brian Wilson's falsetto parts live? 
Surreal.  Some shows, I couldn't let myself conceive that I was singing with the Beach Boys.  It was too heady to wrap my brain around because the first record album I owned and wore out was, The Beach Boys In Concert!.  Now, I was on stage with Mike Love and Bruce!

Did you have some favorites to play during the Beach Boys sets? 

Opening with "California Girls" was always a rush.  The crowd was so happy and into it.  I would have to say that my favorites were "Good Vibrations", "I Get Around", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "In My Room", "Hawaii", "Darlin'", "All Summer Long", and "Do It Again".

You covered "God Only Knows" on your Right Out Of My Soul project which really is a fresh arrangement of the classic. Did Bruce or Mike Love hear your cover? 
Thank you.  I played it for Bruce, and he was very kind and complimentary.

Charlie Daniels had you on staff for several years as a writer with his CDB Music Publishing company.  How did this help shape your songwriting skills? 
I think it did help; in the sense that because I was being paid, I could abandon myself to writing all of the time.  I would often wake up in the middle of the night, go down to the publishing office, let myself in, and work on songs.  And I was constantly arranging the songs for the demo process.  This was invaluable to my producing/arranging skills.

You're really able to give back some assistance with demo work and song mentoring from your career experience.  Tell me about the satisfaction of helping others achieve their music goals. 
Because I'm so passionate about life and music, being able to help others move forward in their music--whether it's singing, playing, composing, arranging, etc.--it really confirms that I am walking in my calling. This is a tough business, and I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in "the biz". Helping others just makes all of the heartbreak worth it. 

with The ConSoulers
You tap into your soul music side with The ConSoulers in Nashville.  All of you are professional songwriter and session guys. How did this come about? 
Divine Intervention.  Tim Buppert, who I also play with in FAB (Nashville Beatles tribute band), gave me a call about 3 years ago.  He asked if I wanted to be part of this soul band that would do a few gigs at the Elm Hill Marina for $100 a piece, per gig.  Because the marina is only 3 minutes from my house, I took it immediately.  I just thought it would be another thrown together thing for a few dollars.  I knew Tim was great.  I had no idea how talented Steve Williams or Don Barrett were.  I didn't even know Steve or Don--though they only lived minutes from my house.  They inquired about a sax player.  I put the call in to Randy Leago, who I've known for years.  We rehearsed maybe twice, then played the first gig.  What I really had no idea of was what an amazing chemistry The ConSoulers would have.  I would not have guessed this would become what it has in a million years.  I like to call it, "The Power of Showing Up". 
with FAB

I was told of you hearing The ConSoulers' cover of Johnnie Taylor's "Gotta Get The Groove Back" coming out the sound system on a cruise recently.
I was playing on the Delbert Blues Cruise with Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie.  We had just finished our set.  As I was getting my gear off the stage, I heard the PA blasting "Gotta Get The Groove Back", which is a ConSoulers song written by our bass player, Don Barrett, and his longtime friend, Johnny Barranco.  I couldn't believe my ears!  I went back to the soundboard and asked to see the compilation CD being played by the house mixer and there it was.  I still don't know how it ended up on the compilation.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

Where can people order your music and keep track of when you're out playing? 
They can listen to soundbites and order music from I-Tunes.  Right Out Of My Soul and The Lost Nashville Chronicles, which is more of a country/Nashville record.  People can friend me on Facebook to keep track of where and when I'll be out gigging. Just Google "John Foster Facebook Nashville" to find me.

The ConSoulers