Backstage Q&A: Rolling Stones' Keyboard Player Chuck Leavell
By Carolyn Richardson
Even after a press release was issued that The Rolling Stones had "no firm plans to tour," speculation continues to swirl about a possible 50th Anniversary Tour. According to Live Nation, The Rolling Stones last tour, The Bigger Bang Tour, took $554 million in ticket sales, and Chuck Leavell was along for the ride. ET interviews The Rolling Stones' keyboard player to find out the secret to their touring success.
ET: Name 5 songs that had to be on the list every night. Chuck: Some of the ones that are hard not to play would be: "Start Me Up," "Jumpin' Jack Flash,"
"Satisfaction," "Only Rock and Roll," and "Honky Tonk Women"…but there are plenty more!
ET: Where was the best concert you've ever played with the Stones?
Chuck: Rio De Janeiro in 2006. We played to a million and a half people on Copacabana beach. Being right on the beach with that many people watching sticks in my mind. A walking bridge was built from our hotel to the actual stage we performed on to make it happen. There were also hundreds of boats that pulled up from the water looking on the stage as well… it was an extraordinary experience.
ET: If it happens, will the 50th Anniversary Tour be the last of seeing the Rolling Stones live? Chuck: Again, that would be up to the principals, but I don't think The Rolling Stones will ever announce a final tour... I think it's in their best interest not to do that. Others have and it seems to me that in the end they tour again, after they announce it's all over, so I think it's silly to announce the end.
ET: The Rolling Stones started off covering blues songs, and their name is based on a blues song by Muddy Waters. Do you have a connection with the blues?
Chuck: Rock and Roll was born out of the blues. I have a new record almost finished that is a tribute to pioneering blues pianists entitled Back to the Woods. In the meantime, I'm also recording with the multi-talented John Mayer and just finished working with country's Martina McBride.
ET: While the tour is still being discussed, what are you working on?
Chuck: Environmental issues. I've toured with the Stones in extremely populated cities like Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and I realize the carbon footprint that we have and the pollution that is emitted in those heavily populated cities. This became a wake up call for me. In addition to my new book, Growing a Better America, my partner Joel Babbit and I decided to create the Mother Nature Network. Both give the young and old clear and accurate
information about our environmental challenges and how we can solve them.
ET: With the success of the Mother Nature Network and The Rolling Stones, what keeps you motivated?
Chuck: Writing, performing and recording music is addictive and The Rolling Stones are passionate about it. It's not our work that motivates us, nor the money and things that our work brings into our lives. It's our dreams. I've a passion for our environment, [and] a passion for making music. MNN is now the second-most visited environmental website in the world, but I want it to be number one. And it will be.