30 Days Out Exclusive Interview: Tommy Farese, vocalist, Trans-Siberian Orchestra
UPDATE: Check out our updated interview with Tommy here. Just in time for Christmas!
You might be familiar with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s powerful Christmas classic “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” but if you haven’t had a chance to see them live on their annual tour, you are truly missing out on one of the great rock and roll shows on the road. Formed in 1996 by writer/producer Paul O’Neill, TSO features some of the finest musicians, vocalists and theatrics on the planet. One of the talented vocalists is Tommy Farese. A self-proclaimed old school saloon singer, Farese brings the power to two of the shows great songs; “Ornament,” and “This Christmas Day.”
TSO just released dates for this year’s trek and Farese will once again be part of the ensemble. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about life in TSO.
30DaysOut: How did you get involved with TSO?
Tommy Farese: Paul O’Neill used to manage a group I was in called Cathedral back in 1982 and after the group broke up ( like most musicians), Paul and I lost touch over the years. Fast forward to 1995, Al Pitrelli (musical director and guitarist) and I had just finished a record together called Place Called Rage. Al had also just gotten the gig with Savatage the year before. Paul was just putting together the Christmas Idea, and had all of the singers in place for all but two songs; “Ornament” and “This Christmas Day.” The way Al told it to me was that they had auditioned about 20 people and were getting nowhere, when Al turned to Paul and said “I got this friend of mine Tommy Farese who could probably nail this for you.” Paul had no idea Al knew me. Fast Forward again, my phone rang and the rest is history.
30DaysOut: TSO looks like a major undertaking…what’s it like being in this type of production?
Tommy Farese: I can only speak from my own experience on this one, but my hats off to all my bandmates, singers, crew, bus drivers, tractor trailer drivers, etc. We cover more ground and play more shows in less time then I think any other band in history. It is no small task to set up and take down our show, not to mention driving an average of 600 to 700 miles per night only to do it all over again in record time. The thing I love the most about what we do is that no one up there acts like a rock star. Everybody gets their moment to shine and we all act as one. I’d have to say that’s one of the biggest keys to our success.
30DaysOut: Do you ever tire of doing the same show every night, sometimes twice a day?
Tommy Farese: In a word, NEVER. I am very fortunate to be a part of something great. I know people who would give their right arm to be able to do this. That’s what keeps me humble.
30DaysOut: What’s it like singing with such an incredible band behind you?
Tommy Farese: It’s kind of like Michael Phelps and the relay team he had behind him. They always get me the gold.
30DaysOut: I remember the first couple of times you came to Houston you were playing smaller venues. Now you’re selling out two shows at the 19,000-seat Toyota Center. What is it about this show and the music that has really struck a chord with people?
Tommy Farese: I think the fact that we come off as real people. We are also very accessible. People who meet us on the street are always surprised how approachable we are and they like the fact that we take the time after every show to meet and greet with them. Contrary to what some might think, the meet and greet is our time to thank everyone for supporting what we do.
30DaysOut: What was it like jamming with Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company, Queen) on last year’s tour?
Tommy Farese: He was the highlight of all the people who have graced our stage as a special guest. Paul Rodgers is one of my idols, put simply, it was amazing.
30DaysOut: I like the rock opera format of the show. Do the producers make a conscience effort to let everyone have a little bit of the spotlight?
Tommy Farese: Paul (O’Neill) has the first and last word on who sings what, although he surrounds himself with some of the best advisors. I think it’s more painful for him to *not* hire someone who he thinks is talented. That’s just the type of guy Paul is. He sees talent in everyone who comes down to audition. That’s when the advisors have to step in and push him to choose.
30DaysOut: Are you excited about this year’s show? Also, it can’t suck to be able to share the stage and travel with some very beautiful and talented women?
Tommy Farese: Rehearsals get underway in mid-October and I am always excited to get out and play. The women on the tour are no doubt beautiful, however, they are all like sisters to me, so I don’t see them in the same light as you and so many others do. LOL.
Catch the great Tommy Farese when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2008/2009 kicks off Nov. 1 in Council Bluffs, IA. The tour comes to Houston Dec. 28.