Life & Style
Local Musician with International Audience Releasing New CD, Strange Legends
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bouchard (pictured) met Clinton artist Logan Cummings when the painter was a student of Bouchard’s partner Joan Levy Hepburn. (Photo courtesy of Joe Bouchard )
In a world of streaming and digital downloads, actual deliveries of CDs still matter for an album release. (Photo courtesy of Joe Bouchard )
Joe Bouchard’s album Strange Legends features artwork by Clinton painter Logan Cummings. (Photo courtesy of Joe Bouchard )
Joe Bouchard’s latest album, Strange Legends, releases in full on Friday, July 31. (Photo courtesy of Joe Bouchard )
The 20-somethings who heard the first albums Joe Bouchard made in 1972 are collecting Social Security now. Bouchard is, too, but the shoreline resident is still making albums, 48 years later. He’ll release his new CD, Strange Legends, on Friday, July 31. He has already released one single from the CD, “Forget About Love,” and on July 17 released another, “She’s a Legend.”
Bouchard is surprised by the excitement the new release has generated. He has already done some 25 interviews with media from the United States, Europe, and Canada.
“It’s been crazy,” he confesses.
Why the fuss? It’s because Bouchard has long been a cult figure—specifically, a Blue Oyster Cult figure. He was the bass player for 16 years during the glory days of that iconic heavy metal rock band. Though a version of the band still performs, Bouchard has long since left Blue Oyster Cult, as has his brother Albert, who was the band’s drummer.
Bouchard believes one of the reasons people still remember the heyday of Blue Oyster Cult has nothing to do with the band’s music. Saturday Night Live did a famous spoof of their best-known song, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell. The skit, called “More Cowbell,” is rated among the top 10 all time SNL take-offs.
“People always ask about it,” Bouchard says. “I’m glad SNL did it. I never felt like the brunt of a joke.”
In the years after leaving Blue Oyster Cult, Bouchard, a graduate of Ithaca college, has gotten a master’s degree in musical composition, taught music, and worked at a music publisher.
“One of the reasons I left the band in 1986 was to do different things, and I’ve veered off into other styles over the years. I got my master’s degree from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and I dreamed of becoming a serious composer. Eventually I decided to concentrate on songwriting and rock productions. What I produce now is a combination of the expected with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. It’s been very good to me,” Bouchard says.
He also has his own performing group these days, Blue Coupe. Last year they were the featured artists on a Scandinavian cruise ship and had been engaged for a return performance until COVID-19 canceled the cruise.
He has done three albums with Blue Coupe, in addition to five solo albums before the current one and more than 20 albums with Blue Oyster Cult and other groups.
Performing for Bouchard now, however, is different than the days when Blue Oyster Cult did some 250 live concerts a year.
“Now I do one and I have to rest for a month,” Bouchard says.
There are other differences these days.
“In the early days I knew the nuts and bolts but I didn’t always know how to get the best performance, how to come up with the magic,” he says.
“This album has some great guitar solos. I’ve gotten better at getting guitar sounds and I spent a lot of time crafting better guitar melodies. I believe it’s all about the best melodies,” Bouchard says.
On the current CD, Bouchard does the vocals and plays almost all the instruments, mixing tracks in his own studio. Bouchard also wrote most of the lyrics. The words for two songs were sent to him by science fiction writer John Shirley. Bouchard doesn’t know him at all.
“He just sent them,” Bouchard says.
The only thing he does not play is the drum set. That is done by another shoreline musician, Mickey Curry of Madison.
“A fantastic drummer,” Bouchard says. “He is Bryan Adams’s long time drummer and plays with a lot of fire and energy. He is incredible.”
There is another local connection for the new CD. The cover was designed by Logan Cummings, who has taken art lessons from Bouchard’s partner Joan Levy Hepburn since he was 10 years old. Cummings is a 2020 graduate of The Morgan School in Clinton.
Bouchard wrote some 25 of the 100 songs in Blue Oyster Cult’s catalogue and one of them continues to play an outsize role in his life, both artistically and financially: “Astronomy.” He co-wrote “Astronomy” with his brother Albert and their manager. The song was covered by another of the classic rock bands from a later generation, Metallica. The royalties for each time the song is played are, according to Bouchard, “just pennies,” but the Metallica version is played so often that those pennies add up.
“It’s very lucky. It changed my life,” Bouchard says. “When I found out [Metallica] covered it, I quit my day job.”
For the upcoming CD, Bouchard had 17 songs, but chose 11 that he thought went together well. Their inspiration comes from different sources. At home during the current pandemic, Bouchard found himself viewing old movies, among them African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
“When I was watching it, I knew that I had to write that song. It was easy to write, funny with strong lyrics,” he says.
Current events prompted another song on Strange Legends, “Walk of Fame.”
The idea came to him, as Bouchard puts it, when “a certain celebrity,” now an active politician, had his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame defaced several times.
“I had to write that song, chasing the idea of fame,” he says.
Bouchard is not finished playing and recording. He and his brother now have their own label, RockHeart Records. Those six songs he wrote but did not use on Strange Legends? Look for them on another CD.
To find out more about Joe Bouchard’s career and his new CD, visit joebouchard.com.
Eric O’Connell contributed to this story.