Resting on one’s laurels after breaking the Top 40 wasn’t an option for pianist John Ondrasik, who hit the big time with the Grammy-nominated “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” in 2000.
Known professionally as Five for Fighting, the California native returned to the charts twice more with “100 Years” and “The Riddle.”
Now, with a new album called “Bookmarks” under his belt, he’ll not only be performing new material, but also fan favorites at his upcoming Interlochen concert.
In a bit of a twist, Ondrasik will be accompanied by an orchestra, which includes several Interlochen musicians.
EXPRESS: John, is there a specific theme to the new album? I understand that, as part of your recording process this time around, you deliberately pursued songs and sounds that you felt would be truly relevant to the music scene today.
ONDRASIK: As much as I’ve thought about writing a concept record, usually it’s ‘survival of the fittest’ songs. So ‘Bookmarks’ was no different. I do believe my albums represent certain life time periods that can be obvious, but certainly this record has a more modern tone and production than my previous records.
ONDRASIK: Certainly there is a larger dynamic and emotion that the symphony brings. I get chills at times sitting at the piano hearing them behind me. Even on the hit songs it adds a new dimension that makes a song I’ve played 5,000 times sound new again.
EXPRESS: Are there any particular songs that you think translate best to the ‘added orchestra’ format?
ONDRASIK: Well, typically the songs that have a certain arrangement already in place are obvious songs, but we also will rearrange songs to experiment. For example, the song ‘Hope’ is a orchestral/vocal presentation, which is quite different than the album version. I also have a song on ‘Bookmarks’ written specifically for symphony called ‘Symphony Lane.’
EXPRESS: I noticed you’re including some Interlochen musicians in this upcoming performance, too. Are you traveling in part with your own musicians, or are you tapping orchestras in each city?
ONDRASIK: Yeah, we’re playing with local orchestras across the country as it’s a bit too expensive to move everyone around. I do bring my own conductor to make sure we are on the same page, and of course my band members.
EXPRESS: How did the idea to match up your songs with orchestras come about?
ONDRASIK: I’ve always had a significant orchestral component to my records but rarely could present the songs live with symphony. At this point in my career, I’ve scaled back the long bus tours and looked to gigs that are a bit more fulfilling and musically ambitious. There is nothing better than playing with an orchestra, and I believe the fans also enjoy the experience.
EXPRESS: The symphony instruments add so many complex sounds to your already very melodic works – what do you like best about this?
EXPRESS: I’m sure the Interlochen audience is really looking forward to this blend of your great pop music and our local orchestra sounds. What are you personally looking forward to the most about your Interlochen show?
ONDRASIK: With a 13-year-old who’s an aspiring actress/musician, I’ve heard great things about Interlochen. I’m looking forward to seeing it firsthand, and excited to hear the Interlochen singer-songwriters who will be performing before me.
Five for Fighting (aka John Ondrasik) will be in concert on July 19 at 8pm at Interlochen Center for the Arts’ Kresge Auditorium. For more, visit tickets.interlochen.org, or visit fiveforfighting.com.