Musicians shilling for corporate America were frowned upon a generation ago. After Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Madonna made big bucks by either appearing or letting their music be part of soft drink commercials, Neil Young responded with the scathing “This Note’s For You.”
“Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi,” Young snarled. “Ain’t singin’ for Coke/I don’t sing for nobody/Makes me look like a joke/This note’s for you.”
Much has changed in the crumbling music industry.
“Commercials are now a way for your music to be heard,” Blues Traveler bassist Tad Kinchla said by phone from his Nashville home. “It’s so hard to get on the radio these days.”
Blues Traveler had no problem appearing in a recent television commercial for Santander Bank, based in the northeast United States. The ad used the band’s quarter-century-old hit, “Run-Around,” which won the 1995 Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.
“The thing we did for Santander was super fun,” Kinchla said. “Doing funny stuff for a commercial is right in our wheelhouse. It doesn’t hurt us or the song for it to be in a commercial. I get why anyone would be attracted to that song. The success of ‘Run-Around’ was huge for Blues Traveler. We love playing it.”
Blues Traveler, which will appear Sunday (11/10) at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, is best known for that jaunty song, but the group is far from a one-hit wonder. The band’s 1994 breakthrough album, “four,” which includes “Run-Around,” went platinum six times and is being celebrated on this “four” 25th anniversary live tour.
“To sell that many albums (6 million) is just incredible,” Kinchla said. “It was more than one song on that album that connected with our audience. ‘Hook’ was another big hit from that album.”
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“four” will be played in its entirety, but not in order, when Blues Traveler returns to Cedar Rapids.
“This isn’t usually how a band plays an album, but we’re working in and out with this album,” Kinchla said. “We’ve revisited a number of songs we haven’t played in a while. We just played ‘12 Swords,’ which we never played live. It’s been fun, but it’s always been a good time, since everybody in this band has always been close.”
Blues traveler has had plenty of continuity. Vocalist-harmonica player John Popper; Kinchla’s brother, guitarist Chan Kinchla; and drummer Brendan Hill have been with the band since it formed in Princeton, N.J., in 1987. Tad Kinchla joined Blues Traveler in 1999 after bassist Bobby Sheehan died. Keyboardist Ben Wilson joined the group in 2000.
“I’ve known the guys in this band since I was in the fifth grade,” Kinchla said. “It’s always felt like family, and that makes a difference. It’s a totally different vibe than a gun-for-hire band. The cool thing is that we can say anything to each other. We’re as tight as we’ve ever been, and there is no end in sight for this band.”
Blues Traveler plans to write and record a new album next year after Popper has shoulder surgery in January.
“We’re going to continue to make music and tour,” Kinchla said. “We’re all still inspired.”
Rumors swirled that Blues Traveler would resurrect the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) touring festival, an annual event that crossed the country from 1992 to 1998.
The jaunt was originally designed for bands like Blues Traveler to avoid the rock club circuit and score exposure playing amphitheaters. Blues Traveler performed at H.O.R.D.E., along with such pals as the Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic and Phish.
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“It’s funny how the bands from H.O.R. D.E. took off,” Kinchla said. “It was designed to give the recording artists exposure. There has been some talk about bringing it back. It’s possible. We’ll see how much time we have for such an endeavor. We’ve been so busy just touring. I’d rather be busy than just sitting around.”
• What: Blues Traveler: “four” Live Tour
• Where: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 8 p.m. Sunday (11/10)
• Tickets: $29.50 to $65, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
• Band’s website: Bluestraveler.com