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An Interview With BARENAKED LADIES Keyboardist Kevin Hearns On The Bands Just Released Collection With The Persuasions And Much More!

Posted On 14 Apr 2017

Today, Barenaked Ladies released a very special collaboration with the legendary “Kings of A cappella” titled, Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies And The Persuasions. Produced by Gavin Brown, the album features 14 tracks re-imagined BNL’s award-winning catalogue and the classic ‘Good Times. BNL recorded the album live off the floor with The Persuasions last Fall at Noble Street Studios in Toronto.

The video streaming app Sessions X filmed the entire session and will feature full-length performances, interviews, and behind the scenes moments. Sessions X launched their BNL content on March 22nd.

The seed for Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies & The Persuasions was planted when Kevin Hearn befriended The Persuasions at Lou Reed’s memorial held at the legendary Apollo Theatre in 2013. The friendship led to an invitation for The Persuasions to perform with BNL at Central Park Summerstage during the Barenaked Ladies 2016 Last Summer On Earth tour. Both bands had such a fun time, they all agreed to “do more” together. Before hitting the studio together, and after running through about 25 songs from the BNL catalogue, both BNL and the Persuasions’s excitement grew and the songs were narrowed down to the final 15 tracks featured on the LP.

Although The Persuasions enjoy a long, storied career, the group has admittedly never recorded an album in a room live, with the band performing the songs. Says Dave Revels, lead vocalist for The Persuasions “…with Barenaked Ladies, [their] music is passionate so I guess that’s why we identify with it…because we can feel passion so I think that’s why it was a natural union.”

Says BNL drummer Tyler Stewart, “To actually play with these guys who are veterans of music making for so long… everything that comes out of their mouths is dripping with soul and you can’t help but absorb some of that when you’re in the room.” 

Considering the once-in-a-lifetime feel of a musical project between two groups who have collectively released 40 albums across their careers, Sessions X, which is
an online subscription music series thatfeatures intimate performances straight from the stage or studio, was an opportunity to document the recording session, all of which was recorded over two days in October, 2016 in Toronto. Tyler Stewart described the collaboration as “Top three most fun things I’ve done” in his twenty six years of performing. Dave Revels, lead singer for The Persuasions described the collaboration as a “beautiful chemical reaction”.

Founded in 1962, The Persuasions first came together on the street corners of Brooklyn with a musical inventory deep rooted in gospel, with a major measure of soul, and a dose of pop. Featuring original members Jimmy Hayes and Jayotis Washington, along with Raymond Sanders and Dave Revels, their eclectic repertoire has drawn from country to blues to gospel to rock to jazz. The group has released 26 albums, performed in concert halls worldwide, and shared stages with such seminal artists as Lou Reed, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Pryor and Frank Zappa.

Currently, Barenaked Ladies are putting the finishing touches on their 16th studio albumFake Nudes, expected to be released later this Fall. More information will be announced in the coming weeks.

Learn more about Barenaked Ladies in the following All Access interview:

Speaker 2:           So, how is 2017 going so far, for the band?

Kevin:                   It’s going well. We’ve been in the studio, which is nice because we work in Toronto, so we’ve been able to be at home and go into our creative space in the studio. We made a new record that’s going to come out in the fall. So now, we’re trying to adapt our minds on getting ready to go on the road.

Speaker 2:           That’s right. Is it hard to believe that you’re going to be releasing your 15th studio album?

Kevin:                   Yeah, I guess so. I mean, it’s all a bit hard to believe some days, really. You know?

Speaker 2:           Did you think that when you first became part of the band, back in ’95, that all these 22 years later you’d still be with this group, and still making music and touring and all of that?

Kevin:                   I did not. I did not foresee that I would be in it so long. All I know is my first gig, we played at a football game, we had to run into the middle of the field to the stage. On either side of me were two lines of cheerleaders. And they were all cheering with pompoms, and I thought, “Man, this is a good job I got!”

Speaker 2:           That’s great! Now, I understand that the idea to work with The Persuasions came about during your 2016 Last Summer on Earth tour. So, how did it go from that idea to a full-fledged concept and this album that you’re going to be releasing?

Kevin:                   Well, I worked with Lou Reed from 2007 to 2013. I was in Lou Reed’s touring band, and his touring band leader. And this is just to give you a bit of back story of how this all came about. Lou was also a fan of The Persuasions, and in the 70s he had The Persuasions open for him on his tours. So, at Lou’s memorial in 2013, I met The Persuasions because we were both performing there. I reached out to them, and asked if they’d like to collaborate on something. It was just a recording project that I was doing, and it went well, and we wanted to do more.

So then I said, “Well, why don’t you come meet The Bare Naked Lady guys, and let’s perform together.” So they came to Central Park when we were playing there, last summer, and we just hit it off. We had a great time backstage singing songs, and getting to know each other a bit. After that we’re like, “Well, let’s do more.” So, I invited them up to Toronto, and they came up to Toronto and we did this record.

BNL_DSC7152 BNL and The Persuasions by Matt Barnes 2017
Photo Credit- Matt Barnes

Speaker 2:           Wow! Was it hard to go about picking the 15 tracks that ended up on the album? Or was it an easy decision?

Kevin:                   It was pretty easy actually. I think, you know, my family kind of left it to me to kind of spearhead it. So, I listened to every record we’d done, and just made a list of songs that I thought could work with The Persuasions. Songs that had lots of harmony. Songs that maybe had a doo-wop feel to them. Then I send a list of about … and recordings of about 30 songs to Dave Revels, who’s The Persuasion’s singer and arranger currently, and he would send me rehearsal tapes of them, I guess voice memo, he would just send them over the phone, of them rehearsing. And those were really thrilling to get to hear. From there we just kind of went, “Well, these ones weren’t the best.” And we kind of narrowed it down to the ones that are on the record.

Speaker 2:           What do you think that they brought to your songs? What new elements? What new sound did they provide?

Kevin:                   I’d say they really brought a soulful feeling to a lot of the songs. Sometimes even a gospel feeling, a joyous feeling. Whenever there were songs where there were harmonies, it’s like now there’s harmonies on steroids. They’re so much bigger and beautiful, and I love it.

Speaker 2:           I’m curious as to why this is the first time that you guys have collaborated with another group for a recording project?

Kevin:                   I don’t know that it is, to be honest. There’s been other things. One thing comes to mind, we were on Tom Jones’ duets record. We had a song with him called Little Green Bag, and we’ve done a couple other things like that over the years. But this was the first time we’ve actually done a whole record, I think.

Speaker 2:           Okay, okay. That must be it. Is there anyone that you would love to work with next, if time and schedules weren’t an issue today?

Kevin:                   I’d love to work with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits. Not going to happen, but, you know, a guy can dream.

Speaker 2:           Now, is this the first time that The Barenaked Ladies have worked with Pledge Music to release a collection?

Kevin:                   I believe it is, yeah.

Speaker 2:           So, what do you think about the whole process of it?

Kevin:                   So far, so good. I like the bundles that they do. Where you can buy the vinyl, but you can also get a T-shirt, and there’s different ways to experience the whole thing. I think that’s cool.

Speaker 2:           Definitely. Now, you guys are consistently touring, and you were saying earlier that you’re about to rev up to go on a tour. Do you find that that’s where you’re all happiest? Is being onstage and performing in front of a live audience?

Kevin:                   Well, that’s when we’re happiest when we’re on tour. Yeah, but it can be quite a grind.

Speaker 2:           How do you keep up the energy, night after night, and the momentum and all of it?

Kevin:                   Oh, different ways. We still enjoy what we do, and we change up the set list. If certain songs are feeling like we’ve played them too much, we’ll try to freshen it up. And we still try to make each other laugh. We make up songs every night. I don’t know if you’ve seen one of our shows, but every night we just make up songs about whatever we did that day, or something we see, and that keeps it pretty fresh and fun.

Speaker 2:           At the end of the day, what do you hope that fans that are listening to your music, and fans that go to your shows take away from the experience?

Kevin:                   I hope they feel good. I hope they have a good time, and connect with something we do. Yeah, I don’t know what more there is.

Speaker 2:           So where is your tour … your forthcoming tour, where do you head, and what cities are you excited to hit?

Kevin:                   Can I just add one thing to my last answer?

Speaker 2:           Sure, yeah!

Kevin:                   We meet a lot of people that meet us, and they say, “You know, I met my wife at one of your shows, or I met my husband, because he was a Barenaked Ladies fan, and we met on the cruise.”, or whatever. I think we help bring some people together, and that makes me feel good.

Speaker 2:           That’s great. So, your upcoming tour, where are you excited to head to?

Kevin:                   I know we’re going to Vermont. That’s Bernie Sanders land, so I’m excited. I hope I see Bernie somewhere in the coffee shop.

Speaker 2:           Have you played all of your dream venues, or is there still a venue that you’ve yet to hit?

Kevin:                   The one that comes into my mind, is The Royal Albert Hall. For some reason, I just loved playing there. Maybe it’s because I was a huge Beatles fan, and still am, but that place always held sort of a magical quality in my mind. I’d love to play there again.

Speaker 2:           Do you have any plans for new music in the foreseeable future? Putting together a new album?

Kevin:                   We just recorded a new album. We’re mixing it this week. And it’s all new material, and it’s going to be released in the fall. The working title is, Fake Nudes.

Speaker 2:           So, it seems like you guys are constantly being inspired to write new music, and come up with new songs. Do you find that you’re always in that state, all of you?

Kevin:                   I know I am. I know Ed’s always got a whole bunch of songs on the go. We still enjoy what we do.

Speaker 2:          Well, thank you so much for your time, Kevin. I really appreciate it. I know you’re a busy guy. So, I really appreciate your time.

Kevin:                   Hey, thanks! I appreciate your time too.

Speaker 2:           Well, take care. Best of luck on the tour, and I’ll see you when you come to LA next for sure.

Kevin:                   Cool. Yeah, come and say hello.

You can also listen to the full interview here on Soundcloud: