The Cleveland native recently made national news when he and his rock band, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, went on a 12-hour music marathon playing pianos at 27 of 29 locations throughout Manhattan.
The 29-year-old musician said he was inspired by the public art project “Play Me, I’m Yours,” in which 60 pianos were made available across New York City’s parks and public places for passers-by to play from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through July 5. Walston said he had fun performing across the city and was surprised at the public support.
“It was really cool. The New York Daily News ran a big picture on us,” said Walston. “News crews were shooting footage as we rolled into parks. We felt like the people were rooting us on. In one park none of the children were playing the piano until we arrived. Then they came over and started dancing and joining in. We had fun.”
Walston, a 1999 Bradley High School graduate, learned to play the piano watching his grandmother play. He writes his own songs on the piano instead of using his guitar as many rockers do. Walston has been hailed by critics as an authentic rock ‘n’ roll musician with an equally talented band.
The Baltimore City Paper described J. Roddy Walston and the Business as “infectiously manic ... they make James Brown look lazy.” One writer for Flagpole Magazine said, “J. Roddy Walston and the Business is, to almost the exclusion of all others, the purest American rock ‘n’ roll band I’ve heard in years. Their songs are piano driven, soulful rave-ups. Some might refer to this as ‘good-time rock ‘n’ roll” but that’s much too simple a term for these guys.”
“We’ve been getting comparisons to James Brown meets the Replacements with some Led Zeppelin in the mix,” said Walston. “We’re definitely a rock band but we were influenced by a lot of older gospel and country music bands. We’re doing something new with soul, the blues and gospel music.”
The band was recently named one of Spin magazine’s “50 Must Hear Bands at SXSW 2010.” Walston’s father, Ken, describes himself as a fan of his son’s music.
“It’s neat hearing his music. I refer to it as contemporary rock,” said Ken. “My wife and I go to see his shows and we’ve become pretty big fans.”
“Since we started playing, their taste in music has definitely broadened,” Walston said. “They’ve been very supportive from the get-go.”
Walston, who has played at functions for TV personality Rachael Ray, describes her as “a really big supporter of independent music and artistic bands” and has helped their career tremendously.
“We’ve played at her parties where four thousand people or more attended,” he said. “A week ago she threw something like that in Brooklyn (N.Y.) where she provided free food to the community and we played there.”
The rock ‘n’ roll roadhouse quartet travels between Richmond, Va., where Walston and his wife live, and Baltimore, Md., where the band lives. The group is made up of singer J. Roddy Walston who also plays the piano and guitar, Billy C. Gordon, who also sings and plays the guitar, Logan Davis, on bass with vocals, and Steve Colmus on the drums.
The group dates back to Cleveland when Walston’s demo tapes won the band a slot on a national New Band showcase.
“I still like coming home to Cleveland and hanging out with my friends,” said Walston who spent the fourth of July weekend with his parents. “I got the band to go to the Ocoee River and relax. I love Cleveland.”
The critically acclaimed rock band recently signed with Vagrant Records. Their first label release is due out July 27. The self-titled CD is already receiving buzz over “Brave Man’s Death,” from their upcoming album.
“Lyrically, this album is a lot more complex and a little darker than some of our other material,” Walston said. “The piano catches you. We’re very excited about it.”
To sample the band’s music, visit jroddywalstonandthebusiness.com.