An Evening with John Popper: The Hits. The Stories. The Experience.
Opening Act: Katrina Woolverton
Harmonica wielding frontman of Blues Traveler, John Popper, in "The Hits. The Stories. The Experience." No topic is off limits when one of the greatest voices of a generation shares his behind the music stories, band exploits, hit songs and favorite covers. Imagine VH1 Storytellers meets MTV Unplugged!
Perhaps best known for his roles as founder and composer for the popular 1990’s rock and jam band Blues Traveler, John Popper is a harmonica virtuoso. The Grammy award-winning musician has devoted his life to music and has performed with some of the greatest musicians of our time, including BB King, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Metallica. Using his signature harmonica designed uniquely by Fender, John Popper will perform some of his best-known compositions such as “Run-Around” and “Hook.”
John Popper was born in Ohio in 1967 the son of a Hungarian immigrant, and raised in Connecticut. Music runs in his family, as Popper is related to the 19th century European cellist David Popper, whose work remains some of the most popular pieces of music written for the cello. Along with his high school friends Brendan Hill, Chan Kinchla, and Bobby Sheehan, John Popper formed the group Blues Traveler in the late 1980s in New York City. With their improvisational style and unquestionable talent, Blues Traveler was known throughout the country as an exceptional jam band. It wasn’t until 1994, with the release of the album Four that Blues Traveler reached mainstream success. The group won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1996 for their song “Run-Around,” which Popper himself composed. As well, their song “But Anyway” was featured in the cult classic comedy film Kingpin, starring Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid.
With the success of Blues Traveler, John Popper explored a solo career, releasing the album Zygote in 1999. The debut album was produced by Terry Manning and featured a variety of special guests including the Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford. Released days after the death of Poppers’ former bandmate and friend Bobby Sheehan, Zygote was a critical point in the talented musician’s career. Shortly after, John Popper would form the John Popper Band and land his first role in a movie with Just for the Time Being with supermodel Eva Herzigova.
Popper rejoined Blues Traveler in the turn of the century with the addition of two new members, and the genre-bending group of musicians have been touring and recording ever since. 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Blues Traveler as a band and the group continues to amass fans around the world. In their latest album Blow Up the Moon released in 2015, every track on the recording is a collaboration with another artist, with guests such as Hanson, Plain White T’s, and Jewel.
For his performance at The Lyric, John Popper will explore his long and successful career, from the formation of Blues Travelers to his solo career and beyond. As Popper said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, "I'm just trying to count the steps behind me, and there are so many steps.” Count the steps with him as he takes you through his incredible career.
Opening Act: Katrina Woolverton
It’s the depth of her artistry and belief in unfettered creative inspiration that captures hearts and moves musical mountains on singer/songwriter Katrina Woolverton’s new EP ‘Better Now.’ The six-track offering showcase’s the star’s gift for musical nuance and her 5-and-a-half octave range. Songs on the album include the reassuring title track “Better Now,” as well as “Hold Me Down,” “Open Hearted,” “Known Better,” “Lonely Heart,” and “Heart Beats.”
Recorded mostly in London, with some tracks written in a sunburst of inspired L.A. sessions, the memorable title track was co-written by Grammy winning UK songwriter Amy Wadge, who co-penned Ed Sheeran’s 2016 Grammy winning smash, “Thinking Out Loud.” The EP was mixed and produced by renowned producer Mikal Blue, best known for his work with One Republic, Colbie Caillat, Augustana, Jason Mraz, Five For Fighting, and others, with co-production by Jez Coad, Jules Wolfson and Katrina Woolverton. Mikal, a co-writer on the song “Hold Me Down,” also engineered the EP with Jonathan Sagis.
For the UK sessions, Katrina immersed herself in London’s street-smart ambience, siren firmly at the wheel, displaying a diverse array of musical perspectives and savvy writing/studio chops in her extended stayover. The passionate L.A. native shared production duties with trusted London-based cohort Jez Coad, enlisting an A-list roster of kindred creative spirits to create an ego-less vibe and collegial atmosphere of compelling musical marksmanship that colors every detail. “It was really very collaborative – so much mutual respect with everyone working truly together,” says Katrina.
The earlier L.A. writing get-togethers bore fruit also, with Katrina collaborating with writer/producer Bryan Todd for the moving “Lonely Heart” and Raja Kumari (co-wrote "Centuries" by Fallout Boy) on the sultry first single “Hold Me Down.” On the UK side of the creative compass, she huddled with Bristol singer/songwriter Amy Wadge on another song, the sultry “Heart Beats.” Katrina likened Wadge to a ‘musical sister,’ working on a lot of material in Amy’s backyard studio dubbed ‘The Wadge Lodge’ in Wales. “We really bonded,” she says. “I have such great respect for her as an artist, songwriter and as a person. I cherished every creative moment I had with her.”
Katrina also cites the track “Known Better,” which she wrote with Robbie Grant, as an example of a song that progressed from ‘just a voice memo’ to one of her favorites, and all because ‘the wonderful musicians I was surrounded with in England just took it and ran with it musically – they put my spirit into their total love of music.’ Katrina calls it a ‘heart of gold’ tale, pointing it out as a counter-opposite, of sorts, to the songwriting themes initiated in L.A. “I loved London. You can’t help but absorb its magic,” says Katrina. “I was staying at a little hotel in Chelsea within walking distance from the South Kensington Tube. I rode the Tube to the studio every day, drinking tea and fighting off my jonesing for ‘crisps,’ determined to make sure every groove we created amplified the love, the soul, and the passion that these great musicians and collaborators imbued in me.”
Katrina’s own backstory is emotionally threaded with turning point moments and inspiring tales of overcoming personal setbacks to blaze one’s truest path. Talented from the start, Katrina made her initial music “debut” on the popular TV show Star Search, the precursor to today’s singing competition series', and the platform that helped launch Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Usher and Justin Timberlake, among others. The young Katrina emerged victorious in multiple consecutive weeks, (including besting the young star who would become known as Aaliyah) garnering attention (and offers) from record companies and other industry tastemakers.
Family upheaval would dictate unforeseen challenges and a switch in life-paths for the young Katrina. Dealing with the trials of an emotionally and verbally abusive father, the determined Katrina tabled her singing aspirations for a while and pursued both a college and law degree - but never stopped nurturing her musical destiny. Continuing to perform in school choirs and other platforms where she was afforded the opportunity (and writing songs in every spare moment available), the dedicated Los Angeles native always promised herself she would fulfill the potential of her tremendous singing gift.
Inspired after attending a Cher concert (even after receiving her Juris Doctor and Masters in Entertainment and Media Law), she made the decision to fully recalibrate her musical course a few years ago, eventually assembling a stellar team of songwriters and collaborators to create what would become her acclaimed 2012 debut venture, In The Blink Of An Eye. The memorable inaugural album featured Billboard charting hits, the original “Shame On Me” and “So Eden,” among other songs (she released the stand-alone 2013 gem “Ready To Love” that also climbed the Billboard charts).
Katrina’s accomplished vocal style also scored her coveted SiriusXM support, including over 1000 spins on multiple contemporary music channels. The hard-working artist has toured across the US with legendary icon Meat Loaf (as well as hosting her own live treks in the U.S. and UK), opening for the veteran rocker on his 2012 Mad Mad World Tour.
In the course of her successful musical run, Katrina has also found time to embrace another passion of hers: healthy cooking. She was motivated to blog about healthy eating and easy-to-make recipes while encountering the more unimaginative ‘road food grind’ while on tour in 2012, calling it “Katrina’s Kitchen.” Her desire to make better food decisions, and her passion for preparing quick, tasty, nutritionally sound meals caught the attention of New Jersey news anchor and radio personality Michelle Dawn Mooney, who hosts the radio show, “Middays with Michelle Dawn Mooney.” In 2015, Mooney began featuring the singer and her inventive culinary from Katrina’s Kitchen in regular segments. Katrina also shares strategies for healthy, creative recipes that can fit everyone’s on-the-go regimen on her website.
The self-motivated star also has dedicated her life to helping others through the criminal justice system. Katrina has practiced in the criminal defense and workers' compensation fields, and is sworn in to practice and appear in both Federal Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. As of 2015, Woolverton remains a licensed attorney in the State of California. In 2009 Woolverton and her husband, George Woolverton, created The George and Katrina Woolverton Public Service Award, the amount of $10,000 is given annually to one graduating student in recognition of demonstrated extraordinary dedication to public interest law activities while at Southwestern Law.
Katrina has publicly talked about her tumultuous early life. “My parent’s marriage turned into a battleground,” she says. “It was difficult and painful as a child, but I eventually learned to channel the transformative power of healing into my law career, into my music, and most importantly, as a form of engagement to lift others who may have experienced similar circumstances.”
Katrina has shared her story in public forums willingly, and continues to help her mother transform her life after enduring so much pain. “It’s important for every one of us to recognize the worth in ourselves,” she says. Katrina’s success in both her law achievements and musical career are a testament to a formidable inner strength that comes across whether you’re listening to her powerful musical canon or engaging her in conversation.
“I’ve learned that life is a constant barrage of decisions, and sometimes we don’t always make the right one,” she says. “That’s part of life. But by putting your real feelings out there, your true experiences – it gives you strength. It can empower others. It’s like how love gives you strength. Whether it’s your significant other or spiritual. Music has the ability to make that kind of connection too. It’s like the title song ‘Better Now,’ that I wrote with Amy. We had certain things in common about our relationships, and we went with it. Certain people have told me they listen to that song and it’s like tapping into that warm feeling out loud; like wrapping a warm blanket around you. Sometimes only music can provide that.”
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