Will Evans' new tour includes community activism
Ah, the much-revered lore of the backstage and/or traveling musician. Keith Moon driving a car into a swimming pool during the Who’s 1967 American tour. The Eagles’ Joe Walsh routinely using chainsaws to shred hotel rooms. Ozzy Osbourne, on the road — literally — in Florida, snorting a line of ants like they were cocaine.
And what about Wildman Will Evans? Picking up trash from Misquamicut Beach after a gig at Westerly’s Knickerbocker Café! As in, to remove litter from the seashore!
Actually, the Evans thing hasn’t happened yet — but it will this weekend. And if that sounds drastically removed from the aforementioned degeneracy, well, Evans isn’t exactly the rock-guy cliché. A much-loved New England musician who crisscrossed the country for years fronting the pop band Barefoot Truth, Evans, now based in Westerly, went solo a few years ago and has released two infectious albums called “Wishin’ Well” and “Signal Flares.”
With his new band, Rising Tide, Evans is out on his “Make a Little Change” tour and, far from post-gig property destruction or wanton cavorting, he has a far different mission. On each of the junket’s stops, Evans will reach out and undertake some small project or help a cause appropriate to that particular location. On Saturday, the morning after the Knick date, for example, Evans is organizing a community clean-up at Misquamicut Beach.
“The Knick has ties to Westerly, and I’ve always surfed Misquamicut, so I came up with the idea of helping keep the beach clean,” Evans says. “I’ll bring some coffee and donuts and trash bags and we’ll just clean up for an hour. Maybe I’ll have an acoustic and do a song or two.”
The socially active aspect of the tour was partially inspired by the current political situation.
“As with everyone else, I’ve been sucked into this election and a lot of the petty news that’s being reported, and it’s hard not to be affected in some fashion,” Evans says. “You start thinking, ‘What can I do?’ And it occurred to me to just start small — it doesn’t have to be anything crazy — and do something in every city we go to that helps keep people inspired. The world’s bigger than what we see in the news.”
This attitude is reflective of Evans’ own personality. Folks who know him appreciate not only his musical gifts but also his kind and gracious nature. Everyone in Barefoot Truth had similar personalities and, as such, the band felt like they ended up making “friends” rather than “fans.” They played a lot of small towns and stayed on a lot of couches all over the country, and were always welcomed back.
Evans has had to approach a solo career in a slightly different way. Barefoot Truth was an established national entity that came very close to breaking out in a headlining fashion and, though Evans still has some connections and his name is known, he nonetheless has to work without Barefoot’s management and booking power. Plus, he’s happily married, has a day job, and wants to approach music without the constant grind that partially caused Barefoot Truth to give it all up.
The “Make a Little Change” tour is completely indicative of Evans’ organic approach to music at this stage in his life. “This business comes with demands and the live shows often come with a certain lifestyle,” he says. “It was never about the party for me but instead the passion I have for certain things in my life that I can best express through music. In that sense, I was trying to think about this tour and what I could do to connect that with other activities I enjoy and how we could correlate it all with a charitable group at each stop.”
The “Make a Little Change” tour officially started a few weeks back in Trumbull, and Evans, a longtime yoga enthusiast, coordinated an event at Yoga Reaches Out. There were demonstration classes and an info marketplace, and all the proceeds from the concert went to Sandy Hook Promise, an organization formed after the school shooting there that aims to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge.
Subsequent dates will focus on a variety of similar projects, including, for example, the Dec. 10 gig at FTC StageOne in Fairfield (a toy drive for the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital) and the Nov. 4 Burlington, Vt., date at Nectars (benefiting concussion awareness group Love Your Brain).
“Once I started outreaching, it all came together pretty quickly,” Evans says. “If it all goes well, this might be something I try to always do in the future. To be honest, it certainly doesn’t hurt promoting the shows, but it’s also very much about a community effort to make a change.”
As for the music, Evans is as joyful and energetic as ever. His last album, “Signal Flares,” came out in 2015 and he hit the road on a national tour supporting Trevor Hall. It’s Evans’ general habit to try to release a new CD every two years and, to that extent, he’s been writing songs and rehearsing material with Rising Tide.
“These are some of the first shows with a full new band, so in a way this is almost an album release tour (for ‘Signal Flares’), as well,” Evans says. “I’m trying to rebuild the brand and go in a fresh direction. And Rising Tide is a big part of that. As you get older and a little more tired, the romantic side of touring can wear off, and to have some younger guys in the band gives me energy.”
The members of Rising Tide — all recent graduates of the Berklee School of Music — are drummer/vocalist Curtis Kelly, keyboardist/vocalist Miles Sweeney, bassist/trumpeter Nick Frenay and guitarist/saxophonist Kyle Champeon.
“They’re obviously all really good players,” Evans says, alluding to the collective Berklee pedigree. “It’s a treat to be with guys who are motivated to see the world and play music. And that’s so great. I’ve always been driven to share what I have to share. I won’t call it a gift, but it’s something inside that makes me want to get out and work. With this band, and with the situation in the country, I’m even more excited because America’s a truly special place.”
If You Go
Who: Will Evans and Rising Tide with The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow
What: “Make a Little Change Tour”
When: 8 p.m. Friday with Saturday beach cleanup TBA at show
Where: The Knickerbocker Cafe, 35 Railroad Ave., Westerly
How much: $10 advance, $12 day of show
For more information: (401) 315-5070
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