Blues Traveler making another stop in Valley - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Arts & Life

Blues Traveler making another stop in Valley

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Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 6:00 pm

Blues Traveler guitarist Chan Kinchla, 41, said the 24-year-old band has been coming to the Phoenix area for 20 years with their first performance in Tempe.

"Phoenix has been great for us," Kinchla said. "It's a great area of the country and we have a great fan base."

Next year will mark Blues Traveler's 25th anniversary together as a band. They plan on releasing a commemorative album in early 2012, Kinchla said.

Following in the fall of 2012 will be the release of their 11th studio album, the first since "North Hollywood Shootout" was released in 2008.

The band has been writing and recording in Austin, Texas, collaborating with artists Alejandro Escovedo, Ron Sexsmith and Carrie Rodriguez to create a fresh style.

After recording so many albums, "you have your techniques and you get your system down," Kinchla said. "Working with other people got us out of our comfort zone."

Until the band begins touring again, Kinchla said they will stay relatively quiet and spend time with their families before their big year. However, they plan on playing a few shows in some new places as well as their annual Fourth of July show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.

"We're down to a good balance now," Kinchla said of the active schedules and personal lives of the band.

But the band's stability has been tested during the quarter century they have existed.

Bass player Bobby Sheehan's death in 1999 shook the strength of Blues Traveler.

"When something like that happens, you have to consider if you want to go on," Kinchla said. "I know he'd want us to keep going if one of us kicked the bucket."

The New Jersey high school garage band assembled in 1987 under the name Blues Band. The original members were frontman John Popper on vocals and harmonica, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Sheehan and guitarist Kinchla. After changing their name a couple more times, they settled on Blues Traveler.

After Sheehan's death, the band added Ben Wilson on keyboard and Kinchla's younger brother, Tad, on bass, with the hopes of producing a new sound.

"We're always changing our style," Kinchla said. "We didn't want to recreate what we did in our first decade."

Kinchla said it took them a few years to find their style and footing with the new members, but the outcome was successful.

"You have to be self-motivated and stay on top of each other to keep the whole ball rolling," he said. "You just keep on grinding it out until you find those great magical moments.

"When we were young we were too naïve to realize how tough it was to get to the top," Kinchla said.

Upon graduating from high school, the band moved to New York and lived out of a one-bedroom apartment, constantly practicing and writing until they started landing gigs.

"It's the old saying ‘You have to put yourself in a position to get lucky,'" Kinchla said of their early success.

Blues Traveler struck gold when their self-titled debut album sold 500,000 copies in 1990.

Their next albums also went gold and in 1994, their album "Four" went platinum six times with album cuts "Run-Around" and "Hook" topping the charts.

The album single "Run-Around" won a Grammy and broke the record for most weeks on the chart.

"They're all kind of your babies," Kinchla said of the band's studio albums. For now, "we are all focused on making a great record."

For tickets or more information on the show at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., call (800) 946-4452 or visit wingilariver.ticketforce.com.

• Erin Sullivan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.

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