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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 2:11 pm | Partly Cloudy with Haze 58º


Jeff Moehlis: Singer Jason Scheff Provides a Taste of Chicago in Paso Robles


​In terms of hit singles, album sales, and longevity, Chicago is one of America’s top rock bands. Their first album came out in 1969, and introduced the world to their horn-driven sound with songs like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” They followed with hits that included “25 or 6 to 4,” “Make Me Smile,” “Saturday in the Park,” “Just You ‘n’ Me,” “If You Leave Me Now” and “Baby, What a Big Surprise.” The band adapted to the 1980s with songs like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Hard Habit to Break” and “You’re the Inspiration.”

At the peak of their popular success in 1985, singer/bassist Peter Cetera left for a solo career, but new singer/bassist Jason Scheff came aboard and the band continued its winning streak with songs like “Will You Still Love Me” and “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” — both sung by Scheff.

Scheff has remained with the band ever since, and co-wrote the title track of this year’s new album, Chicago XXXVI: Now.

Scheff talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming Chicago concert at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road in Paso Robles, on Sept. 14. Click here for the full interview.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?

Jason Scheff: You can look forward to basically opening up your diary. (laughs) Coming to a Chicago show, I always hear from people that it’s an experience where it seems like they just open up their diary, and each song takes them to a place that they’ve been before.

You know, Chicago has been around for 47 years, and we have really three different eras. It’s just amazing to perform for the people who were there from the beginning in the late 1960s through the ’70s, then the ’80s crowd, and now it’s kind of like a combination of those generations bringing their grandchildren along and exposing them to the music that we’ve created over the years. So it really is a feeling of, “Oh, I remember where I was when this song happened.”

You know, we’ve got a few little surprises in store for you, too. We have a new album that just came out — we don’t tax the audience and play too much of it, but just a little taste of it. So we’re still active in that way. And some other little surprises.

JM: How did you get the gig playing with Chicago, and how well did you know their catalog when you first joined?

JS: It’s a matter of just being in the right place at the right time. I was 23 years old, a kid from San Diego who had moved up to L.A. around 18, 19 years old, and just loved great songs, loved the radio. So I’d grown up listening to that music like everybody else had. When the opportunity came along, they heard a demo tape of mine and thought that I might be a good fit for the band. So when I went to audition they had me learn a few songs. I can’t remember which ones they were. I think “You’re the Inspiration,” “25 or 6 to 4” and maybe “Hard Habit to Break.”

And when we were done with those three songs, I don’t remember who said, “Wow, that’s really cool. I wish we would’ve had you learn more songs.” And I said, “Well, let’s play something.” And they said, “Did you learn anything?” And I said, “No, but I’ve heard your music over the years.” And they said, “Really, you want to try something you haven’t played before?” I said, “Sure,” because it’s just like playing in a club band, a Top 40 gig. You know, I’d heard this stuff so much. And it was really funny. They couldn’t believe that I wanted to play something we’d never played before. But it’s in your DNA, when you’ve grown up listening to something so much. So I think that might have scored some points with me, too.

JM: Do you remember what song that was?

JS: Yeah. They said, “What do you want to try?” I said, “Well, how about “Just You ‘n’ Me?” “Have you ever played it before?” I said, “No,” and we played it. I didn’t remember all of it, but most of it, so it was really cool.

JM: Are you willing to go on record on what your favorite Chicago songs are, say one from before you joined and one from after you joined?

JS: Yeah, I’d have to say “Just You ‘n’ Me.” That song was probably the first thing that I was really exposed to from Chicago, the first song that really lit me up. Because that’s my age — you know, I’m 52. So I wasn’t there at the very beginning, in the late ’60s, catching on to them, but I guess 1972 or 1973, whenever it was, “Just You ‘n’ Me” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” just lit me up. So I always go back to that. “25 of 6 to 4” is pretty fun, too. Again, I can’t thank these guys enough for handing me that gift that I get to sing it every night we perform.

And then afterward, I have to say the song “Now,” which is the title track of our new album. I love that. A lot of times artists will say that because it’s their most current work. But give it a listen. It’s a really funky track, and it’s a lot of fun.

Can I give a couple? (laughs) “Will You Still Love Me” has a big place in my heart, too, because that was the first time I got to really hear myself on the radio a lot. We were on MTV, and it was a big turning point, it was a defining moment that I was really feeling comfortable that it was going to work with me being in the band.

Click here for the full interview with Chicago’s Jason Scheff.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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