You would think that a group of guys starring in hit television shows would already be living the dream. But according to Bob Guiney (The Bachelor, GSN Live) and Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Alias) from Band From TV, this isn’t always the case. “Actors always want to be a rockstars,” Guiney says. “And vice-versa.” Rocking for a good cause, it seems, is even better.
Recently, Guiney and Grunberg were kind enough to set aside time and’ chat with me by phone. We talked about their recently reissued CD, Hoggin’ All the Covers-Unleashed!, their goals for the band, and the fun they have doing good work while making great music.
A few years ago, Grunberg decided to form the band after participating in a charity event in Dallas, Texas where he played drums in an all-star group. There he met vocalist Bob Guiney. They had such a great time making music and seeing the proceeds going to worthy causes, Grunberg thought, “Why not form a band of our own and donate what we earn to charities close to our hearts?”
From there, Grunberg recruited stars such as Hugh Laurie (House), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), and Bonnie Sommerville (Cashmere Mafia, The Ugly Truth) to join them and Band From TV was born.
Originally released in 2008, Hoggin’ All the Covers is currently the band’s only album, recorded live in front of an enthusiastic crowd, who were no doubt familiar with the group’s members from their acting work. A big surprise was in store for those who doubted the band’s musical acumen, because these guys can really rock.
They chose their set list wisely. Yes, there are versions of such classics as “Mustang Sally” and “Lean On Me”, which are not only expertly rendered but performed with enthusiasm and respect for the material. But a couple of surprises are thrown in as well, most notably an upbeat bluesy treatment of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene”, featuring Hugh Laurie on piano and vocals.
Hoggin’ has had three incarnations. Initially it was available only as a digital download, enabling fans to purchase the concert track by track. It wasn’t long after that a proper CD was made and put up for sale at Amazon.com. This package included a live DVD of the entire concert. Now, with the third release of the set, Hoggin’ All the Covers-Unleashed, the band finally has their CD out to retail stores, which will enable them to reach an even wider audience.
Unfortunately, the DVD included with this package does not contain the entire live show (only footage of the song “You Really Got Me” is included along with an interview with the band, as well as wallpaper and screensavers). A DVD of the performance is slated to be issued separately in 2011.
Guiney says his stint as lead vocalist with Band From TV has been a hugely rewarding experience. “It’s a source of great pride being able to play music with people I consider my friends, and the fact that we’re playing for a good cause makes it that much better.” He sounds almost incredulous when he adds, “We don’t just rehearse, we hang out too. We’re friends as well as bandmates.” Grunberg is quick to agree.
They add that they consider their backup musicians and vocalists part of the band, as well. “Really,” Grunberg says, “we’re all like family.”
Since the album’s original release, the band has gone through a few major changes. Bonnie Sommerville is gone but Adrian Pasdar (Heroes, Desperate Housewives), Scott Grimes (ER) and Jesse Spencer (House) are on board, playing guitar, keyboards and violin, respectively.
When asked if many TV notables ask to join them, Guiney replied with a laugh, “Yeah, but we don’t settle for having just anyone in the band. They have to be good.” And although BFTV is all for having fun making music, these guys are serious about what they do, They generally rehearse twice a month or, if a show is coming up, once a week. “Work begets work,” Guiney says. “We love hanging out with each other.” That said, the occasional guest artist has been known to join the band onstage. TV stars Terry Hatcher and Jorge Garcia have spread their musical wings with the group. But one of Guiney’s biggest thrills was when John Mayer jammed with them. “It was an incredible experience having him play with us,” he says. “I couldn’t believe he was up there, right next to me.” Wayne Brady was another artist the band was thrilled to have participate.
Requests for the band to perform come from all over the globe. Saudi Arabia and Israel have expressed interest, and Mexico offered them one million dollars to play there. “We wish we could do it,” Guiney says before explaining how costs and time constraints hold them back. “Ideally our dream is to pack up a Partridge family type bus and go out on a major tour.”
Each band member his own taste in music, a fact that strongly influences which songs will be included in the set lists. These influences are wide-reaching, running the gamut from Springsteen to Ray Charles to country, to New Orleans blues.
One thing Band From TV are not interested in is performing original material. “We want people to be able to come to our shows and know the songs,” Grunberg says. “That way they can sing along and really be a part of the performance.” Guiney adds, “It’s more inclusive, kind of a ‘Kumbayah’ experience.”
They do plan to record a new album with the current lineup. It all hinges on schedules; working on TV constitutes long, grueling hours. When time permits, they say, it will happen.
Both men continue to be overwhelmed by the talent and generosity of their bandmates. Grunberg says, “Hugh Laurie, who is the star of the most watched television show in the world, is more than happy to do whatever he can to promote the band.” He adds, “Everyone in the group considers themselves equals and all the charities get an equal cut of the proceeds.”
As an example of the band members’ level of comeraderie, Laurie was instrumental in providing Guiney with a song to help the band’s singer over a rough patch. Guiney revealed that Laurie came to him with Keb Mo’s ballad “Don’t Try To Explain”, thinking it might offer Guiney some comfort to sing it. “He took time out of his crazy schedule to think of me and bring me that song,” Guiney says. “I couldn’t believe he did that.”
I ask if Laurie will be premiering any songs from his forthcoming blues record at future Band From TV shows. “That’s up to Hugh,” Grunberg says, “and his record company.”
The group will be busy over the next few months, playing shows at the Avalon Ballroom in Hollywood on December 4th and a three night stand at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, February 19th, 20th, and 21st, 2011. They are also set to headline NAMM’s (National Association of Music Merchants) All-Star Celebrity Jam concert in Anaheim, California on January 15th, 2011.
Band From TV supports the following charities:
The Epilepsy Foundation (Greg Grunberg)
The Conservation Fund (James Denton)
The Indiana University-Kenya Partnership (Jesse Spencer)
Taia Peace Foundation (Adam Pasdar)
Lupus L.A. (Scott Grimes)
Save The Children (Hugh Laurie)
Guitar Center Music Foundation (Band From TV)
If you can’t make it to one of the band’s shows (or even if you can), pick up Hoggin’ All the Covers-Unleashed! The music is sure to put a smile on your face and you’ll be helping these very dedicated actor/musicians support a bunch of worthwhile causes. Hoggin’ All the Covers-Unleashed! is available at Amazon, Best Buy, Barnes &Noble, Newbury Comics, Dimples, J&R and Independent Records.