Kris Lager hopes to uplift the spirits of his audience
For 15 years, singer, songwriter and guitarist Kris Lager has taken his namesake band across the country to play anywhere he could.
Within that time, Lager has changed his musical goals.
"Initially it was the guitar, the music, obviously, and the larger-than-life persona of being a musician and the freedom that came with that idea," Lager said during a break from filming a music video for his new song "Shimmy" in Omaha, Nebraska. "As I matured, music became more of an opportunity for me to lift people’s spirits as well as my own.
"It still has freedom for me," he said. "But I get to travel around and play music. I think it’s a beautiful thing that has afforded me the luxury of making a living."
Park City will get a taste of the Kris Lager Band when it plays at O.P. Rockwell on Thursday, Feb. 18. The band will also play at the Hog Wallow Pub in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17.
Lager hopes his music will lift the spirit of his Utah audiences.
"It starts with me," he said. "If I can lift my own spirits, that will translate to other people."
To do so, Lager makes sure his songs are full of positivity.
"It’s important for me to have the intention of overcoming adversity and squashing negativity and hatred and promoting unity and love," he said. "I get behind the philosophy that we’re more alike than we are different. And together, when we congregate to dance, sing and clap, it’s a spiritual experience for me. This is my own electric church."
That idea wasn’t always important to the guitarist.
"It’s just come into fruition the past four to five years and I feel it’s from the people who support me," he said. "I remember when someone told me that they followed me, and that really opened up my eyes. I’m sure they probably meant that they check out my Facebook page, but the way I thought about it was that I’m leading them somehow."
Then a couple of years ago, someone gave Lager Philip Toshio Sudo’s book, "Zen Guitar."
"It talks about the Holy Trinity of Music, which is yourself, the people creating music with you and the audience," he said. "I think those are the three aspects of live music and I’m on a constant endeavor to be aware of those aspects at all times. Because once you become self aware and aware of your bandmates and the audience, the music becomes so much richer, so much deeper."
Some of the songs the band will play in Utah are culled from "Heavy Soul and Boogie Trance," the band’s latest album.
"It is an autobiographical album and I look at it as a snapshot of who I was at that time, which was three years ago," Lager said.
The songs were recorded in the Bay Area and produced by Kelly Finnigan and Ian McDonald, the keyboardist and guitarist of the psychedelic soul band, The Monophonics.
"They did a great job capturing our vibe and recorded on all of this old-school analog stuff," Lager said. "To me, the album sounds straight out of the 1960s." The songs are about Lager’s journey.
"You get a lot of me coming to terms with fatherhood and trying to become a better individual," he said.
Currently, Lager is working on some new songs, including "Shimmy."
"I’m always writing songs, and I’m feeling super inspired," he said. "I’m sure if I make the time, I could write a song a day."
Some of these songs will be included on the Kris Lager Band’s new album that the band will start recording in a few months.
The album will be produced by seven-time Grammy Award-winner Steve Thompson, who has worked with John Lennon, Guns N’ Roses, Madonna and Wu-Tang Clan.
"I’m writing an amazing amount of songs to get ready," Lager said.
He wrote "Shimmy" especially for the video shoot he was doing.
"I was approached by a production company to do the video, and instead of picking one song that was already done, I decided to write a new one," he said.
The song popped out during the last leg of the band’s last tour.
"I was driving from Steamboat Springs to Boulder, Colorado, and I wrote this song in my head," Lager said. "It’s a dance song and I came with a dance to go along with it."
Throughout his career, the bandleader has learned that the music business has a lot to do with connecting with people.
"If you’re going to be successful in music, you need to identify with and care about people," he said. "I grew up as a kind of loner and I wasn’t really social. In fact, I also didn’t used to look at my audience when I played guitar.
"I was a huge Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix fan and would just come out and lay down some serious guitar work all night," he said. "Singing was something that I did, but now, I’ve totally become more aware of how powerful music is." That actually was a surprise to Lager.
"I didn’t realize how much affect I had on people and I’ve become more aware of how interconnected we are," he said. "I’m glad I fell in love with music because it is powerful and can lift me up and I want to share it with the world.
"I’m constantly trying to improve my technique as a guitar player and a singer and that’s hard because there are so many aspects," Lager said. "I can practice my soloing or my rhythm playing or my slide guitar and work with alternate tunings. But I can also practice my lyricism, my singing and tone. There’s no way I could ever get bored and it’s a fun challenge for me."
The Kris Lager Band will play O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St., on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.oprockwell.com . For more information about the Kris Lager Band, visitwww.krislagerband.com or http://www.facebook.com/krislagerband .
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The Park City community will honor the late Joy Tlou with a memorial celebration at City Park.