Tony Oros lives up to his Cover Dog title
Park City singer, guitarist, entertainer and author Tony Oros’ list of songs he knows is impressive.
He’s about 10 shy of 600, which includes everyone from Abba to Frank Zappa, and he’s learning new ones all the time.
"I have entertainer ADD," Oros said during an interview with The Park Record at Atticus Coffee Books and Teahouse. "I need to keep adding songs in order to keep my nights interesting, as well as for the people I work with and the people who come see me play."
Oros, who also co-runs Park City Productions that features a stable of cover bands, plays solo and acoustic covers at Prime Steakhouse, Sundays at 6:30 p.m. He will begin playing Mondays in July, and also performs the occasional Taco Tuesdays at Windy Ridge Cafe at 5 p.m.
"We are in the process of changing our name from Park City Productions to Mountain West Entertainment because we’re getting sued by Vail," Oros said with a laugh.
While Oros, also known locally as the "Cover Dog," does have some whimsical hits on his list, such as Men At Work’s "Down Under," he gives every song he performs the attention it deserves.
"I know musicians who treat their shows like a job, like they’re punching in and out a time clock," he said. "That’s not why we get into music.
"Whether it’s ambiance or requests, I try to have at least one song from an artist that I can play," he said. "But that’s the thing about doing this human jukebox thing. I know that I’ll never satisfy everyone and that I’ll never learn every song."
Still, knowing he’ll not learn every song on the planet doesn’t mean Oros doesn’t try.
"I have a lot of fun trying," he said.
However, the song has to be one that he enjoys hearing as well as playing.
"I already have, for a steakhouse analogy, the meat and potatoes songs ready to go on any given night," he said. "I mean, I have 10 or 12 Eagles songs, but in the last year or so, I’ve been getting into the Black Keys. There are some of those songs that work well. And I’ll probably learn a song or two off the new Radiohead album."
Still, it’s the classic-rock staples that Oros can fall back on. In fact, his list includes 61 Beatles songs, including "Across the Universe," "For You Blue," "Here Comes the Sun," "Revolution 1" and, of course, "Yesterday."
"I can keep adding Beatles and never get tired," he said.
Although Oros would like to do that, he knows that he’s not playing music just for himself.
"The staff at Prime is made up of ‘musicheads,’" he said. "There are a couple of busboys who are into Radiohead and to make them happy, I’ll play one or learn a new one. But, like I said, it’s got to be something that I somewhat enjoy."
Sometimes finding a good new song to cover is challenging.
"I hate to sound like the old cynical rock musician, but there was an article in the New York Times by Chuck Klosterman about which rock star will be remembered 300 to 500 years from now," Oros said. "Are there any that will be remembered from the last 20 years? Are there any great songs from the past 20 years that are going to be a part of rock history and have cultural significance? I’m not seeing a lot.
"I’m not going to be able to put this better than Chuck Klosterman, but there is not going to be a rock band or rock musician [transcend] the way the Beatles did," he said. "I don’t think there is one that will change the music industry the way Radiohead has. They blacked out their whole cyber presence before they released their new album. That’s never been done before and it took balls to do it."
Challenges of learning new songs
Some of the most difficult songs for Oros aren’t ones with intricate guitar pieces.
"Picking apart guitar songs makes me feel like a monkey with mittens on, so I decided just to focus on vocals," he said with a laugh. "So, maybe the hardest stuff for me to play are the ones with a lot of lyrical memorization, and songs that I haven’t listened to my whole life."
One example is Tom Waits.
"He’s Dylanesque with a stream of consciousness, so the lyrics just keep coming," Oros said. "So, if I add a song that is wordy to my set, I will use a cheat sheet for the first month or so. After that, I try to memorize everything."
The singer also looks for artistry when he wants to learn a new song.
"I’m sorry, but Beyoncé isn’t an artist," he said. "She’s a good singer, but if you don’t write your own words, you’re a singer, not an artist."
Oros said he doesn’t consider himself an artist, either.
"I’m a singer and I try to interpret other people’s songs accurately as I can as a vocal mimic," he explained. "It’s fun going from Stevie Nicks to Bob Seger and all around the spectrum."
Taking care of his voice
To do that takes a certain vocal technique.
"That’s the key because I start at 6:30 p.m. and there is no end time at the restaurant," he said. "If it’s during the Sundance Film Festival or in the middle of winter and the restaurant is slamming, sometimes I’ll sing for five or six hours. The only way you can do that, especially with rock music, is with really good technique."
Oros learned that lesson the hard way after he developed a vocal nodule nearly 12 years ago.
"The silver lining was that I found one of the best rock vocal coaches in L.A. — Ron Anderson," he said.
Anderson is known for coaching Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Adam Levine of Maroon 5, according to Oros.
"He teaches a technique called bel canto, which lets you lower your volume and develop better control and pitch," Oros said. "That helped me to better do impersonations, and it helped me with my stamina."
Technology has its advantages
While Oros sings solo during his acoustic restaurant sets, he does add some technology to the show.
"My favorite toy I have been using the past few years is a vocal harmonizer," he said. "When I do Eagles or [Pink] Floyd or something with a lot of harmonies, I can kick that thing on with my feet and it will add a couple of voices that will make the song sound more like the record."
Outside of learning a song or trying to make a song sound as close to a recording as possible, Oros also has the added task of entertaining his audience.
"As a cover guy, my mission is to sound like the record and feel out the room, which is different every night," he said. "When I’m up there, I try to assess a couple at a table who may be there on their first date, and at the same time, take in the eight-top of rowdy 50-somethings. I do what I do and it seems to have worked."
Sometimes an audience member will test Oros with a flippant request.
"There was a night, I think it was during shoulder season, and they asked for some rap. So I did Ice Cube’s ‘It Was a Good Day,’" he said, laughing. "However [a couple of Sunday’s ago] I did ambiance for 80 percent of the evening, and at the end, one diner came up and said, ‘You did ‘The Fix’ by Elbow, and that was a good call.’"
Sometimes a listener won’t say anything verbally, but will leave a $20 tip.
"Those nights don’t suck," he said.
Oros got into music through The Beatles.
"Getting into them makes you run the gamut from hard rock to ballads and country," he said. "You can learn basic chord structures and basic theory through their songs."
The band not only opened Oros’ eyes to musical possibilities, it also opened his door to other bands such as Pink Floyd, U2 and Radiohead, and that is reflected in his song list.
"I still try to keep a steady rotation," he said. "I’ll add new ones for myself and for the employees that I work with.
"With a venue like Prime, where I’ve played [since 2005], being able to do weekly shows is an entertainer’s dream," Oros said. "I can walk in there, set up at 6:30 p.m. and play a couple of hours of Elbow, Catherine Wheel, Travis and Radiohead, and it’s nice ambiance for everybody. If the requests come later, then it’s ‘Hotel California’ and the rest of it."
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Summit Community Gardens’ Dinners in the Garden series offers meals created by local restaurateurs to benefit food-insecure families
Summit Community Gardens readies its Dinner in the Gardens summer fundraiser series.