What: John Sebastian

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: $32, $47 or $57 plus theater preservation fee

Contact: towertheatre.org or 541-317-0700

John Sebastian will have a lot of ground to cover in his solo acoustic show at the Tower Theatre on Saturday.

In addition to his groundbreaking songs with ’60s folk-rock band The Lovin’ Spoonful, the guitarist and vocalist will also delve into his extensive solo career, including his ’70s hit “Welcome Back” from the TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter” and his soundtrack work from ’80s animated films such as “The Devil and Daniel Mouse.”

Given this extensive back catalog, it’s no surprise Sebastian hasn’t released an album of new studio material since 2007’s “Satisfied,” a collaboration with mandolinist David Grisman. But Sebastian has a full plate (or spoon) of projects in 2019, as he revealed in a recent chat with GO! Magazine.

Q: Most of your touring now is solo acoustic, including the show at the Tower Theatre. Do you ever miss going out with a bigger band?

A: I hardly do, and probably the reason is that I do every now and then get the opportunity. I live in Woodstock, New York, and Levon Helm’s barn has very often been kind of a steady weekend celebration. And during the days when more steadily Jimmy Vivino was up there, playing up there, I would end up being the harmonica player or the second guitar player. … But I really don’t miss, for a split second, playing with a band, because what I’m doing now is in many ways — it demands more, but it’s much more interesting. Much more can go wrong. That’s one of the interesting things. There’s nobody that’s gonna cover for you.

Q: What is your approach when you’re playing solo versus with a band? Especially with such a big back catalog of music, is there anything that you find works particularly well, or doesn’t work?

A: That’s the job, is to make it work. You have to be a little bit selective, but in fact try to cover just about every little section of my career, from The Spoonful to the solo, “Welcome Back” era, period stuff. I’m describing what brought me to those songs, which is very often more interesting than the songs.

Q: You have a number of projects and releases in the works for this year. I know you were working on an instrumental album of old Lovin’ Spoonful songs with guitarist Arlen Roth for a while?

A: That’s right, yeah. We’re slowed down because we’re both on the road right now, but we did get a good, solid start on the project. And I’m also — now I’ve finally produced this series of songs from animated films of the ’80s that I was doing called “Short Songs for Shorter People.” And also I’ve repackaged “Tar Beach” (1993), which was a kind of a ’90s pop album.

Q: “Satisfied,” your collaboration with David Grisman, was released a little more than a decade ago now. Do you ever get the itch to release a new studio album of original material?

A: Not so crazy — not much drive for that. (Laughs) To be frank with you, to do what with? All you’re doing is just, you make it, then you give it away, and nobody’s bought it. We’re in the crazy period, and we’re just hoping good music survives the onslaught of this odd configuration where there’s no royalties for works, for intellectual property essentially. I can’t smile my way through that one, but it is still delicious to go out and play music for people. … It’s all a kind of a balance game, more than it ever was.

Q: You’ve talked about how Arlen Roth was really a student of Zal’s (Yanovsky, lead guitarist for The Lovin’ Spoonful) and really studied his playing.

A: Absolutely, yeah. He was the first to explain, “Look, Jewish kids were waiting for a hero like Zalman Yanovsky, and that that kind of said, hey, we can do this, too!” I mean, it’s funnier when he says it, but that is a fact, and it did drive Arlen to understand in quite a bit of detail what Zal did and what his style consisted of. That’s a real asset because there’s times when he’ll do something and I’ll say, “Jeez, that really is what Zal played, isn’t it?” and he goes, “Oh yeah, yeah, we have to have that in there.”

Q: When The Lovin’ Spoonful were together in the ’60s, it was a time of great social upheaval and change. Do you see any parallels with what’s going on today socially or musically?

A: Boy, I think it’s a stretch either way. I think we’ve never experienced anything this challenging, and we’re talking about recovering our democracy at this point. So it’s very challenging. … I can have a positive attitude a lot of the time, but as any of this relates to what I do, all I know is my audiences, all of my seats are full and I don’t know why. But I’m happy about it.

— Brian McElhiney

The Bulletin

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