With an unmistakable voice, John Ondrasik is the man behind Five for Fighting’s rich history of hits, including “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” “100 Years,” “The Riddle” and “Chances.”
These days, Ondrasik is taking a new approach to his tunes by backing them with a string quartet while out on tour. He’ll be stopping at DC’s Lincoln Theater on Sept. 16 to showcase this new musical direction.
Loria: Preview what those coming out to Lincoln Theatre can expect on the night?
Ondrasik: This is a unique, special show, beyond the new permutation of Five for Fighting, which is me and an incredible string quartet.
Loria: Why did you want to do these concerts with string quartets?
Ondrasik: I started doing symphony shows about three years ago, and one of the reasons I have moved to these quartets is it allows me to add a new dimension to the popular songs. It gives the audience something new to listen to and allows me to pull out songs from my catalogue that I wouldn’t necessarily do with the rock band—songs like “Devil in the Wishing Well” and “Two Lights.”
Loria: What do you find are the pros of doing a tour like this?
Ondrasik: I like not playing rock clubs all the time. There’s a lot of context behind these songs and I can tell the stories where they came from. The quartet does their own inspirational medley to show their talent. It’s been so inspiring to play with these incredible musicians and it’s rejuvenated me on the whole touring front.
Loria: Tell me about your quartet. Do you play with the same people every night?
Ondrasik: These are the best of the best, cream of the crop New York musicians. They enjoy playing rock music because it’s different for them. I’ve been fortunate to have the same 5-6 folks over the last few years and we’ve become like a little family.
Loria: Are you recording any of these concerts for those fans who may not be able to get out and see it live?
Ondrasik: We just did a Christmas special with the quartet and released a live album digitally. This tour, for the first time, we’ll have live CDs available. Also, we’re touring this year in rooms that will allow us to record every show so by the end of the tour, we will have a quartet CD to be released.
Loria: When did you know that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Ondrasik: It was always my passion and my childhood dream to be doing this. I was pragmatic to know that it’s a one-in-a-million shot, so I got my college degree in math. Success for me came very late. I got my first record deal in my late twenties, and “Superman” and “100 Years” didn’t come until I was in my late thirties, which is really old for a songwriter. I was one of those 15-year, overnight success stories. Between perseverance and fate, I’ve been able to do this over the past 20 years.
Loria: What else do you have on tap for 2018?
Ondrasik: I’m dabbling in some TV projects, dabbling in Broadway. My kids are 16 and 18 and my son is going off to college so I’m enjoying my children before we become empty nesters. I’ll be doing some shows for the troops, which is another passion of mine. Right now, I’m just looking forward to coming your way.
Five for Fighting, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 16, Lincoln Theatre. Tickets are $35. For more information, visit www.thelincolndc.com