By MIKE CHAIKEN
To the casual listener, Mr. Big is best remembered for their chart smash, the ballad, “To Be With You.”
That was back in 1992.
But the band has kept rocking since that time.
And with their latest album, Mr. Big—which is coming to Connecticut this month—offers a rocking and forthright remembrance of their moment as the next big thing with the track, “1992.”
In the song, Eric Martin sings, “What did they write in the history books, you know it gets better if you know how to look… I was number one in 1992.”
The song isn’t so much a wistful remembrance of a time gone by. And it hardly sounds regretful or spiteful.
And for the band’s bassist Billy Sheehan, there’s no bitterness over the fortunes of “To Be With You” and the way the record company left them behind after that glorious moment.
Sheehan, calling from Los Angeles, explained “1992” was inspired by similar autobiographical rockers that the band liked such as Deep Purple’s “Smoke in the Water.”
Sheehan, given the opportunity to gripe about the aftermath of “To Be With You,” opted to look on the sunny side of the experience.
“I urge everyone to have a hit song,” he said. “It changed our lives in so many ways.”
“People know who we are,” said Sheehan, who is joined in the band by Martin, Paul Gilbert on guitar, and Pat Torpey on drums (and drummer Matt Starr).
Some bands of Mr. Big’s vintage have relegated their live set lists to the material they wrote decades ago. And when they release new records, they tend to be live recordings of their older material or maybe, just maybe, a re-recording of their older hits.
But “Defying Gravity,” which is released on July 7, is entirely new material and the band has kept releasing new material since “To Be With You.”
“People want it,” said Sheehan of the band’s insistence on recording new music. “People are asking us for it. And labels fund it because they want it.”
The band also wants to keep writing and recording new music, said Sheehan. “We grow and evolve.”
“We like playing the old stuff,” said Sheehan. “That stuff is important.”
But it’s nice to have new music that reflects the lives of the band members now.
“It’s an evolution,” said Sheehan.
Writing the songs for Mr. Big usually begins with the members gathering together with a bunch of ideas. “We go through all the basic arithmetic (figuring out what works and what doesn’t).”
“We don’t really plan,” he said. “We let nature takes its course.
“Defying Gravity” was a little different in that the band gathered with only one or two songs complete. But the members have done this so many times—either with Mr. Big or their other bands—they were able to come up with more than enough songs to record.
In terms of arranging the tracks, Sheehan said the band member’s experience also comes into play. Sheehan said he’s played on a million songs (in addition to Mr. Big, fans have heard Sheehan in bands like The Winery Dogs and the first David Lee Roth album.) “I’ve got a big bag of tricks,” said Sheehan. “I can treat some passages in seven different ways.”
For “Defying Gravity,” Mr. Big also is back working with producer Kevin Elson, who produced their first four albums.
“He’s a dear friend,” said Sheehan. “We love Kevin dearly. He’s responsible for our biggest success. He’s a joy to work with.”
“He’s quite a stellar talent,” sa id Sheehan.
For their gig at the Wolf Den on June 9, Sheehan said fans can expect a night of “hot sweaty fun.” They are a good jam band and they love it when fans sing along.
“We sing a lot,” he said. “We harmonize a lot.”
And the band loves when everyone in the audience enjoys him or herself, said Sheehan.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” said Sheehan.
Mr. Big plays the Wolf Den at the Mohegan Sun on Friday, June 9 at 8 p.m. Admission is free but it is suggested your arrive early since the venue fills up quickly.
For more information, go to www.MoheganSun.com or MrBigSite.com