SXSW Interview: Al Staehely (formerly of Spirit)
AUSTIN – Walking down Lavaca St. last night, we stumbled upon The Ginger Man, a cool club that houses yuppies in the front and live music in the back. We checked out the list and saw that former Spirit bassist Al Staehely was playing the 8 p.m. slot. We had planned on seeing Al tonight at the Saxon Pub (although he plays at midnight and after sleeping on air mattress last night, we’ll see), but we figured since we weren’t doing anything else we would pop in since his set just started.
To be honest, we were not expecting much, but man were we pleasantly surprised. Along with his guitarist brother, John, Staehely delivered a rockin’ 45 minute set that featured a blistering version of the Spirit classic “Got A Line On You.”
Replacing Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes and as Randy California took a break, the Staehely brothers played on Spirit’s 1972 album, Feedback, and put out an album on Epic under the name the “Staehely Bros,” a couple of years later. Since the mid-80s Staehely has played infrequently spending his time as an entertainment attorney dealing with the music and film industry. We caught up with him after the show to ask him how he balances being a lawyer by day and a rocker by night.
30 Days Out: I understand you didn’t play out for a long time. What made you want to get back on stage?
Al Staehely: When my son was born in 1985, I figured I needed to be a full-time lawyer. I kept playing around the house and for friends and family, and I would occasionally sit in with some people. What really got me playing again was Freddie (Krc, owner of Steady Boy Records and leader of Freddie Steady 5). He told me to come and be a guest on the Freddie Steady 5 show and that they would back me up. So I said OK. Then he invited me to a writer’s in the round acoustic deal. He made it real easy. I didn’t have to think about getting a gig or getting a band.
30 Days Out: I understand Freddie was instrumental in bringing the out-of-print Staehely’s Comet back to life?
Al Staehely: Yes, he started bugging me for a couple of years. He kept saying “it was released in Europe, but it’s never been released on CD in the states.” I owned it, and he said he wanted to release it on Steady Boy. He put it out under the name “Al Staehely and 10,000 Hours” last year. I have to credit Freddie with bringing my music career back to life. I’ve got some serious musicians behind me (brother John and drummer Mark Singer) and these are the same guys that played with me on the album.
30 Days Out: Many people know you from the band Spirit. Do you get a lot of request to play that stuff?
Al Staehely: We normally play longer sets than the 45 minute one we played tonight, so we do play those songs from time-to-time. We’ve been playing “Nature’s Way” lately. I like that one. It’s a Randy California song.
30 Days Out: Are you having fun doing this again?
Al Staehely: Yes. Playing with the band is great and I also do a lot of acoustic shows. When I play acoustic I do some other songs I wrote that are a little different. Now my son, Christian, is playing with me and opening some shows. He’s 26 now and graduated from Princeton in 2008. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners as a pitcher where he played for a couple of years before he was let go. He played in Australia for a year then Italy. He’s been a musician since middle school, and a songwriter since high school, so he decided to hang up his spikes and get back to the music.
30 Days Out: How do you balance being a lawyer and a musician?
Al Staehely: Being a lawyer pays the bills.