"All That Matters," it's a phrase one usually hears during an argument or perhaps when someone tries their best and fails. However in the case of vocal group Lights Out; this particular phrase means a whole lot more.
"Lights Out was started back in 1998 as an A capella group at the University of Delaware and we worked our way through singing A capella with influences from Rockaapella, Barry Carl who was formerly the bass voice of Rockapella in particular and then we gained interest from Mike McCary who was the bass voice from Boyz ll Men," stated group member Rob Fleischman as he told of the band's origins. "He encouraged us to start writing music so we took that and ultimately recorded an album with our current manager Jerry Gross of The Dovells; they did "Bristol Stomp" and "Hully Gully Baby" and had some other major hits back then in the 60's and we've been touring the country currently as a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and The Jersey Beach Boys. We just released this song, "All That Matters" and even though it was written a couple of years ago it just seemed like the right time and the right moment for it to come out."
"Danny G and myself wrote the song together back in college sometime around 2000 or 2001," added group mate Chris James. "It was written certainly to be an inspirational and uplifting song for people but it was Rob and Chad Moroz who actually recognized how it applies to the situation today."
"The song," as it is known, is the title track from their new release and is now poised to do great things for some of the greatest people our country and planet has to offer. "All That Matters" is the group's way of saying thank you to all of the workers who are keeping things as normal as possible during these trying times.
Healthcare workers, supermarket and retail employees, truckers and first responders are considered "Essential" or "Front line" personnel unable to work from home or remotely. Fleischman takes the list a bit farther though as he explains how this particular song was chosen and the thought process behind the video.
"Chad who is our lead singer in the group called me and said that during this time we should release one of our songs like "All That Matters" or one of the others and it got me thinking that yeah that would be pretty cool. So I took "All That Matters" and I put it into a video software program; my first thought was yeah, all that matters is that we stay strong as a four man group because we've been together for 22 years and then I was watching the news and it kind of hit me like an aha moment; this song should be a way to say thank you to the first responders, the doctors, the nurses, the EMTs the teachers, cashiers, parents, the military and everyone. So if you watch this video it really takes you through the emotions of what is going on and then at the end we are thanking all of those people who are really savings our lives."
"The video is images that I put together to really invoke thought as to what's going on and what really matters to people. For instance there are pictures of older couples when the words are saying, "In the end all that matters is that we stay strong," it shows going through hardship, "Tonight is the hardest night I've had" and there are pictures of people depressed and anxious and as you go through the video it shows pictures of busy restaurants and stadiums. We're hoping that that's where the world gets to again; right? Hopefully the world will open up again and in the end all that matters is that we all stayed strong and got through this pandemic."
So is there a better way to help those who are helping us than to take care of the families and children of those who have paid the price; in some cases the ultimate price with their lives? Lights Out has teamed with the "First Responders Children's Foundation" and they are donating the proceeds from the "All That Matters" song and video to the fund so they may help them in their time of need.
"What is interesting about this charity is that they were also involved with the "Concert for America" that was on television a couple of weeks ago but this particular charity started after 9-11 and back in October of 2001 Lights Out was asked to perform in a concert that was called, "United for Liberty" which was at Liberty State Park overlooking New York City and the smoke was still billowing," said a reflective Fleischman. "Speaking with the charity, they had started because of 9-11; so in a weird twist, we have actually worked with this charity before because they were involved in "United for Liberty." So we've actually worked with them and now again, it's just almost 20 years apart; we didn't actually know that they were a part of this but we did know that they were part of the "Concert for America" but most importantly they support the families that have lost people and specifically support the children and we've done a lot of work with charities throughout the years and the fact that we are able to raise money for this charity and that it goes to the kids who have lost family members is something that's really close to our hearts as a group."
"What's interesting about that fund specifically is that it benefits families who have a loss in their family that was a first responder and they have a very specific fund for first responders who are lost due to this pandemic and it benefits the children of those families to make sure that they're taken care of through their lives," added James.
The group has been called "America's number one tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons" one of several irons in their proverbial fire. So how did they go from a mix of original and cover material to doing a Frankie Valli tribute? James couldn't help but laugh a bit as he recounted their foray into this realm.
"That's funny, what originally happened was that we were at a show in Pitman, New Jersey at the Broadway Theater and we all recall this day specifically well; we were singing an A capella show and our agent came to us after soundcheck and said, "Did you guys ever think about doing a Frankie Valli tribute? I think you'd be good at it because you guys can sing and you can dance" and we mulled it over and some of us thought we could do it and others not so sure. We all kind of had a mutual admiration for the music but we really weren't 100 percent sure about it. So later on we said to our agent, well if you think that it can get us work and you think that we can do a good job, then maybe we can try it. He said, "Good because I booked you for one already in six months!" "We were like, whoa; we had to work extremely hard, we rehearsed endlessly for those six months to be ready. It was a private corporate gig for a computer software company; we've certainly improved a lot since then but that was a really tight cram to put that show together in six months."
Fortunately the Broadway production of "Jersey Boys" was also zooming in popularity which aided in the group's success as well. "Our timing was definitely on the mark and I think that certainly contributed to it and I hope that what we bring to the stage contributes to it as well; we've been really lucky to be able to bring that Frankie Valli music to so many people."
Over the more than two decades which the quartet has been together there have been zero changes in personnel; they are still the same four college buddies who began together and the same ones who have elevated their talents and gigs to heights they could only dream about in the beginning but life is all about perspective as James so eloquently points out.
"That's a pretty interesting question because I think it depends on perspective," he said as he recalled some of their "Big gigs." "Things that would come to mind certainly are headlining in Vegas over 10 times and that was awesome; especially the first time. We've done some pretty great National Anthems, one was for 100,000 people live plus on TV for NASCAR; we've headlined in Atlantic City a bunch of times. I guess it depends on perspective as to what you consider a big gig. We've performed on shows with some major artists as well; Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood but for us big can also be performing in front of 300 people and having a show that we will remember forever and hoping that the audience feels the same."
"A big gig for us was back in 2015 or 2016," continued Fleischman. "We got a call from a woman whose family friend was dying of cancer and only wanted to hear Frankie Valli music. She was literally on her death bed in her house and we went to her house and performed in her living room our Frankie Valli show for her and two weeks later she passed away. I still keep in touch with the family members and they keep in touch with us and that was something that I will always remember as a big gig. In fact, the woman, before we left called me over to her; she had this purple and black rubber band ring on her finger and she took it off of her finger, gave it to me and said, "Here, you take this, I'm not going to need it anymore I want you to have it" and that ring comes with me and us to every show that we do."
So what is the group doing to stay in touch with their fan base while helping the aforementioned charity? Fleischman says there is no shortage of efforts as they are always looking for ways to engage their supporters.
"We don't want social distancing to keep us away from our fans via social media. So what we've created is every Saturday at four o'clock we create a Facebook Live episode called, "Escape the Virus with a Lights Out-ing." Every week we come to our fans with either broadcasts of our shows, we did a cooking show with one of our guys who likes to cook, we play original music, I just did a history of Lights Out and we recently did an A capella show, it was a montage of our A capella songs in an effort to stay in touch with our fans. Moving forward we have a ton of gigs booked that are being postponed to later dates and we're going to continue working as much as we can and hopefully this song gets traction and helps a lot of people."
"Rob is right on; certainly our passion is touring and being on the stage in the theaters with these people that we are so lucky to call our fans and that's the goal to get back there," added James. "In the meantime our fans and the people who have followed us and supported us for so long; we're trying to support them too by giving them something that they can look forward to from us. Like Rob said, via social media or anything we can do to make them smile or make their day better."
A Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute, a new album, a charitable single and video and one last weapon which has recently been added to their arsenal; a new show.
"The idea for our new show, "Jersey Beach Boys" is actually a little known story in rock 'n' roll," began James. "There was a famous east coast group headlining a show with The Beach Boys at the Hollywood Bowl and after the show Brian Wilson said to the east coast guys, you guys are great, you can really dance and the east coast guys said to Brian, you're amazing you can really sing. So Brian said, I'll tell you what, if you teach us how to dance we'll teach you how to sing. Now that never happened but our idea is; what if it did? That's where we came up with the idea for "Jersey Beach Boys."
Sounds incredibly interesting and something these four will tackle head on in their continuing efforts to evolve as a group and top-notch entertainers.
To discover more about "The First Responders Children Foundation" and Lights Out or to donate to the fund, please visit www.lightsoutvocals.com.
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!
Nothing to report as of yet but I urge you to support music and musicians through virtual means and Rock On!
Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.