From Back-Up for Jonas to Boy Band Bonus: The Making of Ocean Grove

There are certain places in life you never envision yourself standing, such as behind a mic with an Oscar in hand or in front of a record-breaking audience reciting Shakespeare. Fortunately for them, the guys of Ocean Grove found themselves in one of those situations: playing backup for one of the biggest boy bands in the world, the Jonas Brothers.

Of course, this once-in-a-lifetime chance opened up doors to many other life-changing opportunities, including playing alongside Stevie Wonder and appearing on over 50 television shows in the last five years. One can only imagine the variety of experiences these grown men have endured during their run with the Jo Bros, but we do know this: Ocean Grove has been absolutely killing it since they broke into the music scene on their own. They’ve not only released two EPs in the last year, but also sold out shows at the Troubadour and the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. From what we can tell, it looks like Ocean Grove is not slowing down anytime soon.

Chelsea Deptula: What was it like making a living playing back up for the Jonas Brothers, one of the best-selling boy bands in the world? Was touring and working with them a little awkward on account of the age difference between you and your audience?

Ocean Grove: Not awkward at all. That was a professional gig with professional artists. When you are on a stage with that many people watching, it’s all pretty serious stuff. We took our gig seriously (we still had lots of fun) and tried to be as tight and as consistent as possible as sidemen. It was an experience we owe a lot to.

Chelsea: When did you guys decided to embark on your journey as a band?

Ocean Grove: We were on a European tour in 2009 and we decided we should because we already played together so well. We made a decision to start writing some material and eventually it all came together.

Chelsea: Why did you choose the moniker “Ocean Grove”?

Ocean Grove: Ocean Grove is a beautiful little seaside community in central NJ. A famous resident named Bill Gannon gave us a place to crash there while we were making our album in neighboring Asbury Park and we all immediately fell in love with the town. The name is an homage to Billy and to Ocean Grove itself.

Chelsea: What do you believe is the band’s biggest accomplishment thus far? What are your goals as a group?

Ocean Grove: We have successfully completed a few tours and really begun to grow a solid fan base. I think that is the most important work we have done, and is the work we are continuing to do.  ABC used our song “Our House” on Extreme Home Makeover and that proved to be one of the more significant things we’ve pulled off to date.

Chelsea: What do you believe is the most important thing a band should bring to the table–passion, skill, a good grasp on social networking, etc.?

Ocean Grove: Passion and talent are very important. The ability to communicate and interact with the fan base is also very important. I really think that honesty as an artist is what matters the most. People will rally around an artist if they believe  what the artist is saying, and the only way that ever works is if the artist is honest and believing in themselves. Truth is huge in all art, especially music.

Chelsea: Where do you see Ocean Grove a year from now?

Ocean Grove: On tour, promoting our first full length album!

Chelsea: Describe the feeling you had on stage when you all performed for the first time as you’re own band.

Ocean Grove: It was liberating. It felt incredible to be able to share the songs with people who really wanted to hear them. We were fortunate to have a nice crowd at our first show. It was an exciting and fulfilling night.

Chelsea: Which one of you has the weirdest cravings as far as food goes? Any weird food stories from the road?

Ocean Grove: Ryan is very particular about when he eats and what he’s going to eat. We call it him “preparing his palate” If he thinks we are going to get sushi and then go for Italian at the last minute, his whole world turns upside down. Because of this reaction we often try and make last minute changes for the entertainment factor.

Chelsea: I read on your website that Ryan welcomed his first child into the world, congratulations! What’s it been like balancing your career and home schedules?

Ryan Liestman: It turns out parenthood is completely awesome. My wife and I couldn’t be happier. I do miss my family when we’re on the road. It can be taxing at times, but we make it work. The key for us has always been communication. Skype and face time are also a huge help.

Chelsea: Speaking of your website, you guys are always updating it with your own brand of humor, most notably in your “Biography” section. Do you incorporate that same sense of humor in your shows, in between songs, etc.?

Ocean Grove: We are who we are, so I feel like a lot of that comes through on stage. While we are more serious when we are up there in terms of making sure we are giving the audience the best musical performance we can give, there are sure to be a few laughs at every show. That being said, I think people are just going to have to come see for themselves…

Interview by Chelsea Deptula

Originally published on Oct 26, 2011

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