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Now solo, ex-Live frontman Kowalczyk heads to 'Mountain Stage'

WANT TO GO?

"Mountain Stage" with Deer Tick, Ed Kowalczyk, The Defibulators and Luray.

WHERE: WVU Creative Arts Center

WHEN: 7 p.m.

TICKETS: Advance tickets $23. At the door $28.

INFO: Call 304-293-SHOW or visit www.mountainstage.org _____

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From the mid-1990s to the end of the decade, Live was a powerhouse alternative rock band, with hits like "Lightning Crashes," "I Alone" and "Run to the Water." While not as commercially successful in the 2000s, Live's records still received critical praise, and the band continued to tour. In 2009, though, the band announced a two-year hiatus.

The hiatus turned out to be an acrimonious split (which is still working its way through the courts), with lead singer/songwriter Ed Kowalczyk setting out on his own and the remaining members of Live reforming with a new singer.

Kowalczyk, who performs Sunday night on "Mountain Stage" in Morgantown, is trying to focus more on what's ahead than what's behind.

His third solo record, "The Flood and The Mercy," was released in the United States Oct. 29, and his appearance on "Mountain Stage" is part of the U.S. leg of the tour supporting that record, which was already out in Europe and Australia.

"I did a month-long tour with the 'I, Alone' acoustic show in Europe," Kowalczyk said. "We wanted to have the record out in the U.S., but we didn't have it ready. There were timing issues. Americans fans had to wait a little longer, but it's out now."

So far, so good. The record is doing just fine overseas.

Kowalczyk said, "I've got some amazing feedback, and the single 'Sevens' is the number-two rock song in Australia. We're really proud of that, and the album has been really well-received worldwide."

He added that he thinks it is his best work to date.

"It's got an amazing caliber of musicians on it," Kowalczyk said, although he wasn't plugging his own talent.

"The Flood and The Mercy" features performances by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.

"I've known Peter since the early 1990s, and I was huge R.E.M. fan since forever," he said, "but I hadn't spoken to Peter or any of those guys for five or six years."

Kowalczyk said his producer, Jamie Candiloro, who helped record several late-career R.E.M. projects, was at a wedding several months ago and ran into Buck. Buck asked Candiloro what he was working on, and Candiloro told him about the Kowalczyk project.

Buck reportedly said, "Tell Ed I said hi and I'd love to play on his record."

The guitarist wound up playing on nine of the 11 songs.

"We recorded out in Portland and hung out," Kowalczyk said. "We just ate, drank, played music and went to record stores."

It was good to have Buck on board, he said, but writing the songs for the record was a lot like what Kowalczyk said he did when he was the frontman for Live.

"What I would do with Live is allow the song to emerge on acoustic guitar, mostly," he said. "I'd bring them in relative stages of completion to the band and, mostly, we'd get together, and the band would put their stamp on it in the arrangements, but 90 percent -- the lyrics, the melodies -- that was mine."

His solo material is very similar, with themes of spiritual and emotional searching.

"I think you hope, every now and again, that you get blessed with some finding," he said. "There's a great beauty in the search, as well."

Fans of old Live, he thought, would probably like the new material, some of which is darker.

"I think on this record, I've gone to a deeper place than I've ever been before," he said.

He loves the new songs, but he hasn't given up playing the old, and just because he's been performing a lot of solo acoustic shows doesn't mean he's given up on playing in a band.

"I still play in a band a good bit, but the songs, the new and the old, really revolve themselves back into this acoustic environment."

Just the same, this winter, Kowalczyk and his band will tour Europe and Australia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Live's breakthrough album, "Throwing Copper."

"Yeah," he laughed, "I'm staying busy." Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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