As the frontman of The Verve Pipe, Brian Vander Ark had his first taste of mainstream success with the studio album Villains. Yielding charting radio hits with "The Freshmen," "Photograph," "Cup Of Tea" and its title track, The Verve Pipe became a bonafied headlining act in the late 1990s. Two more major label efforts would follow before The Verve Pipe went on hiatus in the early 2000s.
Yet The Verve Pipe is only one facet of Vander Ark's long and still-thriving career. He has recorded a bunch of solo albums (most recently 2016's Simple Truths alongside actor/musician Jeff Daniels) and acted in a variety of film projects (including 2001's Rock Star). Meanwhile, The Verve Pipe is back, having released two children-friendly albums (the first was 2009's A Family Album) and several "adult" albums (most recently 2017's Parachute). All the while, Vander Ark was one of the major artists to perform "house concerts," having performed over 700 of them over the last concerts.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Vander Ark by phone about all of the above-mentioned matters, in addition to his success as an in-demand motivational speaker. A few minutes of our chat are transcribed below, while the full interview will appear as part of a future edition of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.
In the meantime, more on Brian Vander Ark and the Michigan-based Verve Pipe -- including tour dates -- can be found online by visiting www.brianvanderark.com.
Most people know you for your hit songs, but you have also had a lot of success based on your entrepreneurial efforts. Were you always this entrepreneurial?
Brian Vander Ark: The Verve Pipe was really business-focused from the beginning, which I think got us a lot of attention and got us signed. We ran our band like a business and we looked at the bottom line. All of us were go-getters and if someone in the band wasn't a go-getter, we had to let them go for someone who was... I encourage young bands today to do the same thing, have that same kind of spirit and run it like a business. This all came from my days in the [U.S.] Army. I spent four years in the Army, right out of high school. It taught me how to stay focused and go for what I wanted and be disciplined.
It used to be "Hey, I'm just a musician" for most major label artists, but you've also done children's albums, house concerts, acting and public speaking. Did all of these other things come out of necessity to make a living? Or is it more that you wanted to try new things and challenge yourself?
Brian Vander Ark: A little combination of both. As the royalties started waning with streaming, I found myself in a position where my income wasn't nearly enough to sustain the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to. I liked to have my kids in a good school and live in a nice neighborhood. I knew I had to figure something out. That's what happened with the house concert series, first to raise money for an album, then I loved it. This was back in 2007. I loved it so much it was like, "Why don't I do this all the time?" I've done it now for 12, going on 13 years.
Same thing with public speaking, I did a house concert for someone working with UBS, the giant bank, and they said, "You ought to come in and tell your story about the rise and fall and subsequent rise." So I put together a 45-minute speech and it went over great. I've done a few hundred of them and I do about 50 of them a year. It's a great way to make a living and easy gig. But it's also fulfilling because I get to tell the story, I play a couple of songs and that kind of thing. It's unique to people who go these corporate meetings who can be bored out of their skull... This is something completely different.
I used to know your brother Brad [Vander Ark, former bassist of The Verve Pipe], he once told me a story of David Lee Roth seeing you guys at a club around the time when "The Freshmen" was a hit, recognizing you and buying you guys a bottle of champagne. Is that true?
Brian Vander Ark: That is true. The funny thing is, I tell that same story... David Wells, the great pitcher was there that same night, a couple of actors. It was a really popular place in New York. David came over to us to say hi and bought us a bottle of champagne. With that bottle of champagne comes three hours of non-stop talking from Dave. (laughs) If you've ever spent time with David Lee Roth, or want to spend time with David Lee Roth, be prepared. The guy talks non-stop. You can't get a word in edge-wise. It sounds like a complaint, and it is. (laughs) Too much. I was like, "I can't take this anymore." Brad and I looked at each other like, "Get him out of here." (laughs)
Finally, Brian, any last words for the kids?
Brian Vander Ark: The kids, specifically, we're going to have a new kids album. (laughs) We're still working on it. But for the kids, as in the kids at heart that are Verve Pipe fans, we just love making music, and I can't see it ever stopping. God forbid, unless some catastrophe happens. We're constantly writing and constantly trying to tour as much as possible, just trying to keep this music alive, because we sure are enjoying it. When we don't enjoy it we'll stop, but we'll let you know before we do. (laughs)