Five for Fighting will return to Deer Valley
Ondrasik will perform with string quartet
August 22, 2017
John Ondrasik, the heart and soul of Five for Fighting, which is known for the hits "Superman (It's Not Easy)," "100 Years" and "The Riddle," is no stranger to Park City.
He would come up every year for the Echos of Hope charity event that was presented by his friend Luc Robitaille, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings.
"Luc has a place in Park City, and I would come up every year and coach some hockey," Ondrasik said during a telephone call to his home in Los Angeles. "But since I was a kid, my family would come up to ski. We spent many Christmases there, and we'd stay at Canyons, Deer Valley and Park City."
Ondrasik will bring Five for Fighting back to town for a St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Deer Valley.
The last time Ondrasik performed a Big Stars show was 2014, and he can't wait to come back.
"Deer Valley is one of my top five venues," he said.
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The scenic backdrop is the perfect place for this year's concert, which is different than what Ondrasik usually does.
"A few years ago I started doing symphony shows, which was really cool for me because doing so brought a new element to my music," he said. "I have a lot of songs that have amazing arrangements by world-class composers that really didn't fit in a rock-band set. So, with these symphony shows, I was able to reach deeper into my catalog and provide a different experience for the audience."
The symphony shows worked so well, Ondrasik wanted to take that experience to smaller, intimate venues.
"I started some quartet shows with me on piano and guitar with a string quartet," he said. "While Deer Valley isn't a small venue, per se, that's what I'm bringing to Park City."
The format fits the sentimentality of Ondrasik's songs, which manage to tug at the heart, without becoming melodramatic.
"It's hard, at least for me, to write sentimental music that isn't cheesy," he said with a laugh. "So I guess my best answer about how to do that, but probably not a good one, is
I'm a child of the '70s singer-songwriters era.
"I grew up listening to — Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Elton John, Billy Joel — and they wrote songs that had a sentimentality and a point of view that has stood the test of time.
So, that's what I've always tried to do."
Ondrasik feels the sentiments of his songs are something everyone deals with and feels every day.
"I think people are familiar with what the music is about," he said. "That might be why people relate to 'Superman,' '100 Years' or 'The Riddle.'"
The songwriter also feels it helps that hens' not rock-star kind of guy.
"I feel like a normal neighbor who write songs and shares the same experiences as everyone else does. As much as I'd love to stand up and scream like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, bands I love, my voice would last only one song."
Five for Fighting's songs have not only become hits on the radio, they have also been heard on TV and in films including "August Rush."
Ondrasik is currently working on some songs for "Code Black," which will be on CBS this fall, and he is doing some production work that includes working on Broadway.
Through those projects, the songwriter has gotten to know many inspiring people.
"It's interesting because I couldn't write 'Superman' today, because I realized the past 15 years that it is pretty easy to be me," he said with a laugh. "When I wrote that song, I was a struggling young songwriter who wanted to be heard, but through 'Superman' I met some amazing people. I've met autistic children who could never have a conversation with you, but could sing the song back to you."
He's also met people in the military, heroes, families and Gold-Star moms.
"I've met people who have faced incredible challenges that have happy endings, and some that don't," he said. "There are heroic, everyday people that we never hear about, and that's given me such a breadth of experience with humanity."
Those meetings have led Ondrasik to work with charities such as Autism Speakers, the Fisher House Foundation, Save the Children and Operation Homefront.
"The nice thing about music is that it's a very powerful and emotional tool," he said. "You can use it in ways to help causes and people. By that, I mean not just to raise money, but to also raise awareness."
Ondrasik referred to his friend Augie Nieto, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Nieto is the co-founder of Augie's Quest, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cure for the disease.
"I met him 10 years ago, and he's become a mentor to me," Ondrasik said. "It's a honor for me to be part of his army."
Speaking of an army, the singer has created a series of compilation CDs that are given to the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
"The CDs we did for the troops was a great experience because a lot of these rock stars — Billy Joel, Melissa Etheridge and others — gave me songs for that project," Ondrasik said. "It was heartwarming to see these superstars come in and contribute."
During the past 16 years, Ondrasik has found new inspiration for his songs.
"If you listen to the "Two Lights" record, pretty much every song is about my kids," he said. "As a songwriter, before you have children, your music is a little more selfish, but when you have kids, your world view changes. It's not about you, it's more about them, their future and the world around them. You become a little more aware of social and cultural things. And that affects your songwriting."
Ondrasik's children have also helped him in is music career.
"It's such a narcissistic business, and you can get so wrapped up in charts and record sales," he said. "But when you come home, whether you have a No. 1 song or a record that flopped, your kids will look at you the same way. That gives you a grounded nature, which is crucial for long-term survival in the business."
Ondrasik's daughter will accompany him to Park City.
"She'll be selling merchandise, because she need to earn money so she can buy her car," he said with a laugh..
The Park City Institute will present Five for Fighting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Deer Valley Resort. Tickets range from $44 to $79. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.
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