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Live Inspired Podcast: S3 | Ep. 23: Lead Singer of 90’s hit ‘Freshmen’

Brian Vander Ark Podcast

Do it for the process. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

Today’s guest is going to give you 90s nostalgia in the best way.

He sold 2 million records. Played the David Letterman and Tonight Show. Friends, today’s guest is Brian Vander Ark, lead singer of the band Verve Pipe, who produced 90s hits Freshmen and Photograph. Brian is still playing today with the band and as a solo artist.

From small-town Michigan to opening for KISS in sold-out arenas: Brian shares simple yet profound lessons on life… and even a little live music, too!

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  • Having been in the army, Brian is “more patriotic. I’m one of the more patriotic artists. I can’t help but get chills when I hear the national anthem at a stadium.”
  • Brian’s big break: When Willy Nelson asked him to play at Farm Aid. He went from playing for 20 people at the Holiday Inn lounge to 20,000.
  • 8 years ago he started writing kids music as well. Listen to I’m Not Sleeping in (Cuz It’s Saturday) here.
  • On his creative process:
    • “I listen to what’s going on in the world, my world and beyond. Something will jump out and I’ll think that’s a great story. I’ll write a song about it.”
    • “I look through notebooks for phrases and stories I’ve jotted down. I keep a journal – I have to.”
    • “Half of what I write is crap! Even when you develop your process, half of what you create will not be good.”
  • Imagine playing for 20,000 people, roaring in anticipation of hearing hear Kiss. And then they have to sit through us for 30 minutes?! It was tough, but once I faced that experience [30 days in a row] I never feared another crowd.
  • When Verve Pipe’s Freshmen knocked U2 off the #1 spot, they “Felt like kings on top of the world… Set up for a great long fall!”
  • “The ego thing happens to you without you knowing it. I look back at my ego then and think ‘Who was that guy? That’s not me.'”
  • Did you get sick of playing Freshmen in 1996 and 1997? “No. How can you get sick of bringing joy to people?”
  • What did you learn from your second album that fell flat? You realize you’re human, make mistakes and have to rely on yourself. You can’t point your finger at someone else.
    • Then I sold my over-priced stuff, bought an RV and drove around town playing in coffee shops. I sold 10,000 copies of my next album on my own with no label. I realized this is what my left was meant to be.
  • It’s about the process and your life, the artistic process. It’s not just about the commerce, it’s about enjoying what you do and finding a way to do it and live your life and be creative.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Best book – Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent. I identify with the main character. I’ve read it 25 times!

Best song –  God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. I’m not a huge beach boys fans but that has to be the most beautifully crafted song ever written.

2. Tomorrow you discover your wealthy uncle shockingly dies at the age of 103; leaving you millions. What would you do? Immediately put it in a safe place. I would call my brother who is an accountant. I’d take my kids and wife to Europe. Save most of it. Had millions at a young age and lost them too – it’s a boring, easy answer, but true.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Lawrence Carol a painting by him. He painted us a picture and it’s specific to my family and painted it for us. It hangs in our living room.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? No one inspires me or interests me as much as my wife. It’s cheesy but true.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Comes from my wife: Do it for the process. If you don’t enjoy it, then don’t do it.

6. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at age 20? Remember to enjoy it and have a good time. And remember what it felt like. Don’t worry about what is next… so worried that I was going to fail.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? He was a terrific addition to the creatives in the world. It’s important to me to have a legacy, to leave a catalog of art I’m proud of and people can appreciate for years. His contribution to the art world was important.


Live Inspired – IN STUDIO: For the first time ever, John is launching IN STUDIO – a LIVE, virtual monthly experience for his Live Inspired community. Registration opens in April for a limited time. Learn more: www.JohnOLearyInspires.com/In-Studio

If you enjoyed today’s episode: Subscribe (automatically get new episodes), rate & review (help spread the word!) this podcast anywhere you get your podcasts.

I can’t wait to see you here next Thursday! Today is your day. Live Inspired.

Live Inspired with me every day on FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedInPinterest and get my Monday Motivation email: www.JohnOLearyInspires.com/Monday-Morning


If you enjoyed today’s episode: Subscribe (automatically get new episodes)rate and review (grow the Live Inspired. movement) this podcast anywhere you get your podcasts.

I can’t wait to see you here next Thursday! Today is your day. Live Inspired.

Live Inspired with John everyday on Facebook & Twitter and get his Monday Motivation email: www.JohnOLearyInspires.com/Monday-Morning

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