Community//

Let’s found this movement: “History, Schmistory - Let’s Try Not To Repeat It Again!”, With The High Plains Drifter

I spent all of my childhood, and almost my entire adult life, believing that I couldn’t sing — from the time I was NOT picked, in grade…


I spent all of my childhood, and almost my entire adult life, believing that I couldn’t sing — from the time I was NOT picked, in grade school, to be in the church choir. For a long time, after songs started writing themselves in my head, I didn’t believe that the tunes could be any good. How could I — an unpopular high school nerd who couldn’t sing and played no instruments — be writing songs that were any good? No way. In time, however, I’d be in the car, listening to the radio, and I’d say to myself, “THAT song sucked, and I’ve written better.” Still, I was over 30 before I had the courage needed to make of myself the fool who was needed to sing some of my songs into a tape recorder, so that a band of trained musicians could transform them into something magical. I learned that, no matter what I heard in my head, the band and the producer would hear not just that, but so much more — and you have to give talented people free rein to “do their thing” if any song is to take life. The things that my band mates bring to each song are AMAZING. Sometimes they’ve worked out something in advance, but when all the stars are aligned in the studio, true magic happens from nowhere. Go listen to the guitar solo at the end of my song REAR VIEW MIRROR. We were nearly done with the tune when, one day not long after Chuck Berry had died, guitarist Mike DoCampo said out of the blue: “Plug me in, I think I’m hearing a little Chuck Berry thing I can do at the end of this tune.” He didn’t rehearse. He recorded that guitar solo in one take — no punching, no edits. It was perfect, almost as if he had channeled the great Mr. Berry. As long as things like that keep happening, I’ll never stop making records. But to make them, I must keep my day job as a lawyer. I simply do not understand the artist who feels so “special” or “entitled” that he or she would rather starve than take an honest day job.


I had the pleasure to interview The High Plains Drifters. Born with a desire for the finer things in life, a passion for rock-n-roll, and a rich background in the entertainment industry, The High Plains Drifters are the new band that is merging various genres of infectious music that speaks to the rebel in all of us. Gearing up for the fall release of their self-titled album, this veteran band of wanderlust musicians delivers a unique rhythmic backdrop that showcases an array of melodies, hooks and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that make it impossible not to sing along. The LP, produced by Greg Cohen (Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and more) and Charles Czarnecki (asst. musical director for the Broadway musical Jersey Boys), conceptualizes a listening experience of a sonic road trip across the country, where your radio station of choice automatically tunes into different musical genres as you travel. As they propel the listener through various genres (pop-punk, mainstream rock, ballads and more), one thing is certain: The High Plain Drifters offer a cohesive body of “feel good” rock-n-roll.
The front man is Larry Studnicky (songwriter, lead & backup vocals), the lawyer who, at the turn of the millennium, structured and closed the landmark label and publisher deals that ushered in the world of digital interactive radio (enjoyed today by listeners of Pandora, Spotifiy, etc.). The band also features Charles Czarnecki (producer, songwriter, keyboards, percussion, lead &backup vocals), John Macom (rhythm & electric guitars, lead & backup vocals) and Mike DoCampo (rhythm & electric guitars, backup vocals), all of whom are lifetime friends that created the group purely to bring happiness to listeners’ ears. Before coming together as the The High Plains Drifters, the group’s members worked alongside an such legendary artists as Pete Townsend, Brian May & Roger Taylor of Queen, Suge Knight of Death Row Records, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. John Macom’s music has been showcased in indie movies and TV shows, including Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five, and Felicity.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

First, music is not my career — it is my passion. (My career is law.) When I finally got the balls needed to pursue this passion, I already knew enough about how tough a business it is that I didn’t expect to make any money. And I don’t make money yet — well, dribs and drabs of performance royalties.

Two things brought me to music. One, for years, songs kept writing themselves in my head. Starting in high school and ever since, songs would pop into my head uninvited (sometimes just lyrics, sometimes a musical phrase, sometimes both — when I’m lucky). By my early 30’s, I couldn’t ignore this phenomenon any longer. The 2nd thing that made music a reality for me was getting fired from a legal job. After having spent about 7 years working 80-plus-hour weeks as a young lawyer, I finally had the time (and the savings) to go make a record. So, I did.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

In the mid 1990’s, I did legal work for a New Orleans-based indie label (Dinosaur Records) that had produced what ended up being the last album Carl Perkins would ever make. He called it GO CAT GO! It was an album of amazing duets — Carl with his pals including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Bono. Carl was in his early 60’s and still a captivating live performer. During this period, I saw him perform in NYC and Biloxi, Miss.

My first foray into the recorded music industry had ended as a financial disaster a few years earlier. Carl was my father’s age exactly. I had seen my dad remake his career several times, and here I was watching this rock legend still going strong. It gave me some perspective: If you persevere and play your cards right, and have some luck, you actually can get a second bite at the apple. That’s what the debut album of the The High Plains Drifters is for me: a second bite at the apple.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now

About two weeks ago, I wrote a new song called MICHELLE. I wrote it in two days, which for me is fast. I love it. It came out of me wondering about what might have happened, over the last few decades, to those most famous of girls we grew up singing about: like Paul McCartney’s “Michelle” or Marshall Crenshaw’s “Mary Anne”. I decided first to fantasize about what had happened to Michelle, and the first lyrics and melody line came instantly. I am really excited to start working on it in the studio. It could end up being a concept album.


Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories

On the first album I did in the 1990’s, I had the great pleasure of watching Cher record a duet with the band (not my band — it was a band that was recording a mix of my songs and songs of their own). Cher came to do the duet with the band’s lead singer, as she had promised him she’d do (but we didn’t believe him AT ALL). The lead singer was one of her longtime roadies — the late Mike Garrigan. She was totally down-to-earth and unbelievably gracious — and she brought her entire show and crew to the studio, after finishing a show in Atlantic City! It became a huge party, but when it came time to sing, Cher was all business.

Cher’s voice is one of the most powerful and instantly recognizable sets of pipes in the annals of rock and pop. Despite that, she came to the studio with her voice coach. I should have paid more attention. I never realized that singing well, consistently, is hard hard work and takes a lot of coaching and practice. Watching Cher tackle that duet, under the guidance of her voice coach, was eye-opening. She was no “diva” — she was a student, doing everything in her power to give her best possible performance for a friend. It blew my mind watching it.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why

Hands-down Winston Churchill. Answering “why” would fill many books — so I urge your readers instead to buy William Manchester’s 3-volume biography of this greatest of men of the last 160 years (since Abe Lincoln). In summary: he had the strength of his own convictions, when all the powers-that-be — not just in England but throughout Western Europe plus in the USA — dismissed him as a past-his-prime crank. Almost alone among world leaders in the 1930’s, he warned about Hitler and Nazism. He saw the great lesson of history that, as much as we’d like to believe that “all men everywhere are the same and want peace”, there are evil men whose regimes take power and pursue war — or worse, like the annihilation of an entire races. It seems that every generation must learn this lesson anew. God knows this country’s youth need to learn it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

How could I possibly bring goodness to the world — as a lawyer by day and singer-songwriter by night?!

Alright, I have enjoyed success in the law, if not yet in music. For me, “doing good” means that I do everything in my power to help anyone in the art entertainment world who somehow finds his or her way to my door. I cut my fees for them and sometimes represent them pro bono. It’s my way of giving back.


You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-

I am not a person of great influence. I’d only be such a person if The High Plains Drifters had sold millions of albums — and then, I’d never urge any fan to give a hoot about what a mere recording artist thinks about ANYTHING. Too many of the most public figures in the music industry these days know nothing of history, recent or ancient. Humankind is fallible, and each of its generations makes too many of the same mistakes as past generations, because too few take the trouble to study and learn from history (as Churchill did).

So, I suppose I would found this movement: “History, Schmistory — Let’s Try Not To Repeat It Again!”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”

Drink only in moderation, get a full night’s sleep, put all drugs aside, and remember that Winston Churchill was 64 when first he became Prime Minister, and Carl Perkins at that same age was still doing a kick-ass live show.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each

1. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t sing.

2. Get a voice coach.

3. Do not fear making a fool of yourself.

4. Listen to your producers.

5. Don’t quit your day job.

I’ll tell one extended story to illustrate all 5 lessons. I spent all of my childhood, and almost my entire adult life, believing that I couldn’t sing — from the time I was NOT picked, in grade school, to be in the church choir. For a long time, after songs started writing themselves in my head, I didn’t believe that the tunes could be any good. How could I — an unpopular high school nerd who couldn’t sing and played no instruments — be writing songs that were any good? No way.

In time, however, I’d be in the car, listening to the radio, and I’d say to myself, “THAT song sucked, and I’ve written better.” Still, I was over 30 before I had the courage needed to make of myself the fool who was needed to sing some of my songs into a tape recorder, so that a band of trained musicians could transform them into something magical. I learned that, no matter what I heard in my head, the band and the producer would hear not just that, but so much more — and you have to give talented people free rein to “do their thing” if any song is to take life. The things that my band mates bring to each song are AMAZING. Sometimes they’ve worked out something in advance, but when all the stars are aligned in the studio, true magic happens from nowhere.

Go listen to the guitar solo at the end of my song REAR VIEW MIRROR. We were nearly done with the tune when, one day not long after Chuck Berry had died, guitarist Mike DoCampo said out of the blue: “Plug me in, I think I’m hearing a little Chuck Berry thing I can do at the end of this tune.” He didn’t rehearse. He recorded that guitar solo in one take — no punching, no edits. It was perfect, almost as if he had channeled the great Mr. Berry. As long as things like that keep happening, I’ll never stop making records. But to make them, I must keep my day job as a lawyer. I simply do not understand the artist who feels so “special” or “entitled” that he or she would rather starve than take an honest day job.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them :-

I’d like to meet Tim Cook, the head of Apple. I’d just like to talk to the guy who Steve Jobs picked to take the reins from him, and hear what Steve was like. Jobs is perhaps this country’s most Churchillian of public figures. Like Winston, he was, when quite young, in power and world-famous — and then he was out in the cold and ignored for years. Each enjoyed a triumphal comeback, and each — in his second act — did things that changed the world forever and for the better.

You can’t hide the fact that I front a band of guys that are old (not the gals, just us guys). Only one guy is under 40; three of us are over 50. Some of my peers think I’m nuts to pursue music at this late stage of my life. I know I’m not nuts — radio stations keep playing our songs. Even so, whenever I need motivation, I can watch Steve Jobs’ speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. He said, “You’ve got to find what you love,” for someday you’ll be dead. I love making music music, and someday I’ll be dead, but until that happens — and for as long as some radio station somewhere will give an HPD record a spin — me and the band will keep making music.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Nobody wants to follow a guy my age on social media unless he has committed a horrible crime. If you have committed a horrible crime, follow High Plains Drifters, everywhere: @HPDMusic

Originally published at medium.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.