Rock On: Fox Valley musicians talk songs of love and heartache

ROCK ON: Love is in the air for these 14 Fox Valley musicians 


Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a good old-fashioned love song.

Hitting all the usual prerequisites like tender lyrics, soft instrumentals and emotive vocals, it’s easy for these mushy tunes to find their way into our hearts at least one day of the year.

However, it’s not always sunshine and lollipops as sometimes the love song’s antonym — the breakup song — can be just as popular (just ask Adele and Taylor Swift). Nonetheless, as Cupid takes aim today, we tug on the heartstrings of 14 Fox Valley musicians about their favorite love songs, breakup songs and more. From college memories to wedding dances, these musicians share their romantic sides.

#1 Tim Dorsey

Tim Dorsey 2

Favorite love song to perform:The Luckiest” by Ben Folds or “If” by Bread

Favorite love song to listen to: None

Favorite breakup song:One of a Kind (Love Affair)” by The Spinners

Dorsey on “One of a Kind”: “Besides the bouncy upbeat juxtaposition of the music and the theme, it’s mostly because of one visually descriptive verse: ‘I never ever thought the day would come when she would leave without her bags. She wrote a line or two upon the wall. Said, I’m leaving you, though I love you, too. I can’t stay with you.’”


#2 Jason Lambie of Half Empty

Jason Lambie

Favorite love song to perform:The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe

Favorite love song to listen to:Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi (and a slew of other power ballads)

Favorite breakup song:Here Comes the …” by Butch Walker

Lambie on “The Freshmen”: “When I first heard that tune, it was my freshman year at UW-Oshkosh and the chorus hook just grabbed me from the start. Typical to most 1990s love tunes, it has a negative vibe to it, but the story and passion in the lyrics Brian Vander Ark wrote are so powerful. Myself, Chris Larson (former Half Empty guitarist) and Mike Wendland (Rooftop Jumpers singer) had the great opportunity to play a show with Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe a few years ago at Route 15. Hearing him doing this with just him and his Gibson is something I’ll never forget.”


#3 Hillary Reynolds of the Hillary Reynolds Band

Hillary Reynolds

Favorite love song to perform:God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys (Reynolds has performed this song with her father)

Favorite love songs to listen to:Have a Little Faith In Me” by John Hiatt or “10 Contados” by Céu

Favorite breakup song:Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac

Reynolds on “Silver Springs”: “I’ve always loved this song but I think I’ve grown to love this song even more as a writer in recent years just because every recording, every performance, every written song that I have is tied to a relationship of some kind — whether it’s passion-based or friendship. Stevie (Nicks) wrote ‘Silver Springs’ after her breakup with Fleetwood guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, coming to realize that their love in every phase of their road-winding relationship was stamped by their art. With certain songs I’ve written, in order to perform them from an honest place, I have to persuade myself to relive certain emotions. … But just as much as it is a struggle for the artist, it is an ongoing struggle for the muses of those songs who live with the recordings, and to me, ‘Silver Springs’ illustrates that struggle beautifully.”


#4 Eric Peters of Boogie and the Yo-Yo’z


Favorite love song to perform: “Letting You Go” by Boogie and the Yo-Yo’z

Favorite love songs to listen to: Four-way tie. See below.

Favorite breakup song: “Letting You Go” by Boogie and the Yo-Yo’z

Peters on favorite love songs to listen to: “This is going to sound like a copout but, really, it’s a legitimate four-way tie. ‘And I Love Her’ by the Beatles: arguably one of the most beautiful Beatles songs ever arranged that speaks to any young man who has been shot by Cupid’s arrow. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Paul McCartney could be the first power ballad ever, and Paul’s love for Linda is evident and exposed in this song. It is incredibly relatable and it was the song I danced with my wife to on our wedding day. ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys. Beach Boys’ harmonies and melodies are true American works of art and in this tune, Brian Wilson and the boys do a magnificent job of relating to a person who is in love. ‘Somebody’ by Depeche Mode — kind of obscure but haunting and beautiful nonetheless.”


#5 Wen-Lei Gu, associate professor of music at Lawrence University

Wen-Lei Gu

Favorite love song to perform:Poème” for violin and orchestra, composed by Ernest Chausson

Favorite love songs to listen to: Anything sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Favorite “feeling down” songs: Vladmir Horowitz’s recording of the Schubert Piano Sonata in B Flat, slow movements by Bach or songs from Barbra Streisand’s “Guilty” album

Gu on “Poème”: “It is a piece full of yearning and longing, full of heartfelt tenderness. From the beginning to the end, it seems to be repeating two words — my dear.”


#6 Mike Underwood, multiple bands

Mike Underwood

Favorite love song to perform:Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green

Favorite love song to listen to:La Vie en rose” performed by Louis Armstrong

Favorite breakup song:Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” performed by Willie Nelson (originally by Duke Ellington)

Underwood on “Let’s Stay Together”: “A love song so fine that the good reverend named the whole album after it. First and foremost, it is hard to find a song any groovier. Secondly, Al Green sings the melody as if he were singing right into the ear of his favorite lady. Finally, this song has helped countless musicians in a pinch including an uncooperative wedding reception, an unruly bar gig, but mostly when they are in need of something to say to that special someone. Regardless, no one can say ‘Let’s Stay Together’ better than the Reverend Al Green.”


#7 Rich Plath of Road Trip

Rich Plath

Favorite love song to perform:Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye

Favorite love song to listen to:All My Loving” by the Beatles (one of many but Plath chose this song because he used to sing it to his daughter)

Favorite breakup song:Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin

Plath on “Since I’ve Been Loving You”: “True love takes no less than everything, and the song vocally and musically is as powerful and changing and gut-wrenching as the pain of a love gone bad truly is. Power, conviction, pain, all the tears and all the man does, only to be replaced by a stranger. This is the song for me that made me love Zeppelin, and actually showed me the blues and how many forms there are.”


#8 Rob Anthony

Rob Anthony 2

Favorite love song to perform:Stand By Me” by Ben E. King (watch the Rob Anthony version)

Favorite love song to listen to:Two” by Ryan Adams

Favorite breakup song:Lyin’ Eyes’” by the Eagles

Anthony on “Two”: “Great lyrics, honest acoustic vibe. ‘It takes two when it used to take only one’ says it all. It’s a must to give this song a listen.”


#9 Joe Slyzelia of Sly Joe and the Smooth Operators

Sly Joe

Favorite love song to perform: “Melody” by Sly Joe

Favorite love song to listen to:Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down” by ALO

Favorite breakup song:It’s Too Late” by Carole King

Slyzelia on “Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down”: “It always reminds me of living in paradise with my soon-to-be-bride. We’d be working all week on an organic coffee farm in Kona, and then on the weekends we’d drive all around the Big Island with this (ALO) CD playing. Next time you’re with your significant other, try tenderly singing, ‘You’re smooth and creamy like peanut butter’ and see what happens.”


#10 Chris Szebeni of Boxkar

Chris Szebeni

Favorite love song to perform: “Beginning” by Boxkar

Favorite love song to listen to:The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies

Favorite breakup song: “Good Morning, Goodbye” by Boxkar

Szebeni on “Beginning”: “My favorite love song to perform is the first love song I wrote that sheds a positive light on relationships. ‘Beginning,’ the last song on our latest album, ‘Can You Hear Me,’ speaks of finally not having to chase love. All in all, I am in a very good and happy place thanks to a beautiful woman, and best friend, Anne Metz. … Thank you for making me believe in love again.”


#11 Pita Katobalavu of Unity the Band

Pita Kotobalavu

Favorite love song to perform:No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Favorite love song to listen to:Waiting in Vain” by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Favorite breakup song:Could You Be Loved” by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Katobalavu on “Waiting in Vain”: “My first kiss was to this song! (laughs)”


#12 Christopher Gold of The Dirty Rotten So and So’s

Christopher Gold

Favorite love song to perform: “Mexico” by The Dirty Rotten So and So’s

Favorite love song to listen to:Highway 101” by Social Distortion

Favorite breakup song: “F*** You” by Cee-Lo Green

Gold on “Mexico”: “We have an original song called ‘Mexico’ that is the story of how I proposed to my wife. It’s really simple, which makes it fun to play and people always react to it really well. It’s one of my favorites to do because a lot of our songs tend to be very serious or political and it’s nice to celebrate something positive in a song rather than point out and critique something negative. It’s always a highlight of the set and gets a lot of smiles. Plus, it’s a foot stomper. Foot stompers are good.”


#13 Dylan McAuley of Baywood Park

Dylan McCauly 2

Favorite love song to perform: A soon to be released song by Baywood Park

Favorite love songs to listen to: See below.

Favorite breakup songs: “‘After All” by Baywood Park, “Miss Me” by Andy Grammer or “Not Over You” by Gavin DeGraw

McAuley on favorite love songs to listen to: “There are so many great love songs out there and I must admit, I am a sucker for them all. Some of my favorites that come to mind include ‘Never Say Never’ by The Fray, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ by Journey and a new tune called ‘Ever Enough’ by A Rocket To The Moon. All these songs really do a brilliant job of allowing the listeners to relate and adapt their own storyline to the lyrics.”


#14 Jessica Bierman, formerly of Grand Union

Jessica Bierman 1

Favorite love song to perform:Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland

Favorite love songs to listen to: See below.

Favorite breakup song:Mama’s Broken Heart” by Miranda Lambert

Bierman on favorite love songs to listen to: “Honestly, the first song that popped in my head was a little song called ‘To Be With You’ by Mr. Big. I kid you not. I can’t help but think of moonlight skating back in my younger days and I can’t help but have a smile on my face when I think of that. … I would like to hear if anyone does not think of moonlight skating and this song going hand in hand. On another note, ‘History in the Making’ by Darius Rucker makes me think of my husband. He proposed to me onstage on New Years Eve 2011 and asked the guys to learn this song to play after the proposal. So now, when I hear that song, that’s what I think of.”

— Mike Thiel: 920-993-1000, ext. 526, or Follow him on Twitter: @foxcitieshub

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