PAUL GILBERT Looks Back On Writing MR. BIG Hit "To Be With You" - "I Had Been Culminating To This Shred Mountain Top And Said, 'I Kinda Miss THE BEATLES'"
March 19, 2023, 4 days ago
Legendary guitarist Paul Gilbert of Racer-X and Mr. Big is featured in a new interview with Quazzistellar. In the clip below he talks about his big break when bassist Billy Sheehan contacted him to form Mr. Big. He also dives deeper into his influences and how it changed his musical style.
Gilbert on Mr. Big's 1991 smash hit "To Be With You":
"With my guitar playing, I had been teaching at GIT, I had been in Racer X, I had been culminating to this shred moutain top. And then I got to the top, looked around, and said 'I kinda miss The Beatles.'"
Mr. Big is putting on their signature top hats and old shoes one last time for a worldwide tour, aptly titled The BIG Finish. Since the band’s original drummer and co-founder, Pat Torpey, lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease in 2018, the band now feels it’s time to mark the end of this chapter of their legacy.
The first leg will take the band to Japan and Southeast Asia in July and August, while shows in South America, Europe, and the US will launch in early 2024 and will be announced soon.
“We wanted to do a proper farewell, and this seems like the right way to do it,” asserts bassist/vocalist Billy Sheehan. Notes guitarist/vocalist Paul Gilbert, “We’re in the process of making sure we come up with a suitably big entertainment extravaganza to go along with our music. And since our music has resonated so wonderfully in places all over the world, we’re going to play in as many of those places as we can.” Submits lead vocalist Eric Martin, “If we were in the movie business, we’d just put it all up in lights and say, ‘Welcome to The BIG Finish!’ Seriously, I’m glad we’re getting a chance to do it all onstage together as Mr. Big again and raise a flag to everything we’ve done as a band over the years.”
After 35 years of being addicted to that perpetually electrifying performance rush, the band feels it’s finally time to collectively hang up their top hats and shoes after coming together for one final, extended curtain call — a curtain call that will take them on an all-out world tour commencing in 2023 that will go for as long as, well, as long as Mr. Big fans demand it.
Joining Mr. Big on drums for this special final world tour will be longtime friend of the band Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Big Big Train), stepping in for founding drummer/vocalist Pat Torpey, who sadly passed away in 2018 following his heroic battle with Parkinson’s disease. “We found a wonderful drummer in Nick, and he’s got a great voice too,” confirms Sheehan. “Nick has a vocal range similar to Pat’s, and he’ll be able to do the parts Pat did with a similar finesse. It’s a big relief because Mr. Big has always been heavy on the harmonies. When the band began, we really relied on each other. We knew each guy would do exactly what he needed to do vocally and to do it righteously, on key, and in time. It’s difficult to find a drummer who sings in that range, but Nick has the voice we really need onstage.”
Concurs Gilbert, “Nick gets close to the spirit of Pat Torpey. Billy, Eric, and I have been really happy with the music we’ve already shared back and forth. I’m impressed with Nick’s level of musical adaptability and breadth of skill. He and I have done some recording together, and I was blown away with his groove, and how he just played what fit the song. If the song requires him to be more progressive and stand out, he will stand out. But if the song requires him to groove, he will groove. That’s actually a rare thing, and it really fits in with what we do in Mr. Big.” “I love the fact that Nick was a fan of Pat Torpey and wants to keep our BIG sound intact,” says Eric. “When I first saw his audition demo video of the Lean Into It song ‘Lucky This Time,’ Nick was playing drums with those signature Pat snare hits and singing harmonies spot on to what Pat used to do. It gave me goosebumps!! I am so thrilled to have this man who will be filling some mighty BIG shoes join us on our last tour.”
One particular aspect of this upcoming final run that Mr. Big are excited about to a man is the decision to perform the entirety of their breakthrough Platinum-selling 1991 album Lean Into It from start to finish as a featured highlight of the live setlist. (To be sure, the full setlist will encompass Mr. Big’s entire career.) Fact is, Lean Into It is the perfect litmus testament to the band’s inherent dexterity at blending a variety of styles together, whether it’s the heady rocking brew of “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind,” the power-drilled and power-chorded identity checklist “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy,” or the truly heartfelt sentiments found within “To Be With You,” Mr. Big’s chart-topping, worldwide #1 smash hit single.
For his part, Martin the songwriter remains eternally grateful for the never-ending success of “To Be With You,” but the essence of Mr. Big goes much, much deeper than that. “That song helped put the stamps in our passports,” Martin allows, “but we really nailed it on Lean Into It. I’m still in awe of how Billy and Paul play on that album, because they’re such brilliant players. I used to call them the dynamic duo. And Pat Torpey was an underrated drummer, in my opinion. I mean, just listen to his tone! Lean Into It is totally indicative of who we are as a band.”
Explains Sheehan, “Lean Into It was put together much like a movie, with an opening scene that lets us get into the dialogue and find out what the story is. And then you get the love scene, the car chase, and the punchline ending. I think it’s a perfectly sequenced album.” Observes Gilbert, “Some people thought we had brought in professional background singers to do all those harmonies on Lean Into It, but no, it’s really us. We always felt like we had something to prove whenever we went on the road and did all that singing ourselves, just to show everyone that we really could do it.”
Just like the consummate performers they are, Mr. Big still want to reach into your dreams. “I hope the people who come see our shows get to feel what it’s like when musicians get together and really play and sing the songs they wrote,” offers Sheehan. “We want the audience to be one with us, and feel our evening together was a magical and beautiful event.” Theorizes Gilbert, “Music is like time travel. You can hear something that takes you right back to 1992, and it reminds you exactly of what was happening back then. On this tour, I want to give people the opportunity to time travel like that and go, ‘These guys are on fire!’ Good music is timeless.”
Concludes Martin, “I love playing with these guys. And if I’m being honest, I don’t want it to ever end. I’m the guy who just knows we still have that special spark together, and I always want to keep the torch burning. But if it really is the end, then I want us all to have a happy ending together. We’re a great live band. I want everybody to come out and see us, because we want to blow you away and have you all think as you’re leaving, ‘Mr. Big really is the real thing.’”
Indeed, when it comes to harnessing the real thing that best represents the unyielding power of rock & roll, Mr. Big have truly got what it takes. Make sure to catch them before they bring down that final curtain, because when it’s through, it’s through. Mr. Big really do want to be with you at least one more time, and they’d be more than honored to see you, one and all, somewhere around the world.
20 - Nagoya, Japan - Nagoya Shimin Kaikan
22 - Osaka, Japan - Osaka Maruzen Intec Arena
25 - Tokyo, Japan - Budokan
29 - Seoul, Korea - Yes24 Live Hall
31 - Hong Kong, China - Southorn Stadium
2 - Taiwan - Zepp New Taipei
4 - Singapore - Marina Bay Sands Theater
5 - Singapore - Marina Bay Sands Theater
7 - Bangkok, Thailand - Show DC Hall
9 - Manila, Philippines - Skydome
12 - Kemayoran, Jakarta - The 90's Festival