Interview: Guitarist Steve Brown Discusses New Wizards of Winter Tour
Formed in the winter of 2009 as a way to support their hometown community, The Wizards of Winter has quickly become one of the holiday seasons more highly-anticipated traditions. The project, founded by the husband and wife team of Scott Kelly (composer/keyboardist) and Sharon Kelly (flute/vocals), crosses the nation every year with their unique brand of classically-influenced hard rock with Broadway tinge, as well as a world-class arsenal of musicians with a resume from groups like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Def Leppard, The Irish Tenors, Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow and Alice Cooper Band.
In celebration of their 10th anniversary, The Wizards of Winter is in the midst of a thirty-city tour in support of their infectious new album, The Christmas Dream. It’s a tour that includes a stop in the beautiful Pocono Mountains at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA on Friday, December 20.
The 2019 touring line-up of Wizards of Winter includes the aforementioned Scott and Sharon Kelly, along with Greg Smith (bass), John O’Reilly (drums), Fred Gorhau (lead guitar), Steve Brown (lead guitar), Kornelia Rad (violin/vocals), Karl Scully (lead vocals), Vinny Jiovino (vocals), Tony Gaynor (narrator) and Shawna Marie (vocals/saxophone).
I recently spoke with guitarist Steve Brown about the upcoming Wizards of Winter show at Penn’s Peak and more in this exclusive new interview.
What can fans expect from The Wizards of Winter performance at Penn’s Peak?
Steve Brown: The show is an audio / visual onslaught with a Broadway overtone, and a musical journey through all the different sides of Christmas. People mostly associate Christmas with family, good times and celebrating, but the story we take you on shows all the sides; including the hardship and tough journeys some people go through. It all ends on a very positive note. Tony Gaynor, who was with TSO for fifteen years, is the narrator who leads us through this journey. This is my first time doing something like this and I’m having a blast.
In your opinion, what makes these shows so special?
SB: You’ve first got to look at the success and influence of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This is in that vein. Some people might consider this a tribute band but that’s not the case. Wizards of Winter has more original music. Scott and Sharon Kelly are the band founders, Fred Gorhau [guitar] wrote the music for the new album, The Christmas Dream, and Karl Scully, one of the Irish Tenors, sings. It’s classically influenced hard rock with a tinge of Broadway. There’s something for everyone with a Wizards of Winter show.The band is tremendous and it’s an honor to be out playing with them.
How does your style of guitar playing match with Fred’s?
SB: Fred is from the Ritchie Blackmore/Yngwie Malmsteen/Randy Rhoads-style of guitar playing. He’s got the classically influenced sweep picking and arpeggios. I’ve got more of a melodic Def Leppard/Neal Schon-type of vibe. It’s a great ying and yang of guitar styles which really complements the rest of the music. Some of the riffs and guitar parts are interesting and difficult. It puts me in a different comfort zone, but I’m always up for a challenge.
Can you give me an update on the status of another one of your projects — Tokyo Motor Fist?
SB: We’ve been recording the new record for the last eight months, and Greg [Smith]and I are working on bass tracks while we’re on the road. It’s a continuation of the great, melodic hard rock we’re known for from our last record, only we’re taking it to the next level. I recently had the honor of working with Dennis DeYoung, who played a keyboard solo on one of the new tracks. It’s a mini- rock opera that’s very deep and inspired by The Beatles. We’re hoping to have the record out sometime next year. Sonically, it’s going above and beyond anything anyone’s heard. I think people are going to be blown away by it.
What was it like working and recording with Dennis?
SB: Dennis is a legend and an icon. I say this all the time but it comes from the heart: I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. For me to be thirty years in and still doing this is incredible. Whether it’s working on the Wizards of Winter tour, recording with Dennis DeYoung or touring with Def Leppard. I still call up my friends and tell them about my “a-ha” and “oh my god” moments. At the end of the day, I’m still a fan.
As we end the year and look ahead to 2020 what excites you?
SB: It’s been a great and bittersweet year. I lost a few of my very dear friends in 2019, so it’s been hard on me emotionally. But every year the phone rings and I get to fly around the world to play music. For 2020, I’m looking forward to a healthy year for family, friends and fellow band members. I’m also excited to finish the new Tokyo Motor Fist album and getting out and playing live. There’s a lot of travel and a lot of rock and roll headed for 2020 and I can’t wait to get out there. The best is yet to come.