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Bassist settles into role with Blues Traveler
After five years, Tad Kinchla no longer the 'new kid on the bus'
by Sarah D'Esti Miller
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY
Aug 19th, 2004

The Grammy award-winning group Blues Traveler has had its share of both meteoric highs and subterranean lows.

"Run-Around" still holds the record for the longest-charting single ever in the history of the Billboard charts. The album four, which includes "Run-Around" and another hit, "Hook", is certified six-times platinum in the U.S. (Blues Traveler has had a total of six gold or platinum releases and sales of more than 10 million albums to date.)

But in 1999, the band's lead singer, harmonica virtuoso John Popper, was hospitalized with heart problems, and soon after, bass player Bobby Sheehan was found dead of a drug overdose at age 31.

Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla and drummer Brendan Hill decided the band would go on, adding keyboardist Ben Wilson and Kinchla's bassist brother, Tad.

Obviously, stepping in for Sheehan was daunting, but Tad Kinchla said the band supported him all the way. "Luckily I had my own relationship with Bobby and my own relationship with the band prior to joining the band," he said. "One of the first things they said to me was 'Play the way you're going to play. We're not trying to recreate something. We're trying to just see where this goes.'

"And them getting behind me like that really helped me, because I didn't want to come in and try to play like Bobby, because I really respect the way he played, and it was his own thing. So those guys were really clear that wanted to create and see where their new sound goes, and that made my job a lot easier. I play the way I play, and the fans were really open about it and receptive to me."

But don't think Kinchla had it easy because his brother was in the band. He had to audition, and the Blues Traveler guys didn't exactly roll out the red carpet.

"They decided to try out about five different guys. It was kind of a pain in the ---. They basically sent me a list of songs and had me show up to play a gig with them in New York.

"Usually, when people try out, you sit down and say, 'Let's play these songs together,' or 'Let's jam,' but this was actually in front of people, and it was New York, too,. So it was a lot of friends of the band, and the first gig in New York after Bobby passed. There was just a whole lot of emotion around it to begin with, let alone I was there playing as opposed to watching.

"I was very happy to get that night over with. But the chemistry was there."

Kinchla said he's adjusting to the fact that so many people expect the members of Blues Traveler to be much older than they really are, which is in their mid-30s.

"A lot of bands, when they first hit, they're 30, 32 years old. This band was fortunate enough to be around playing for years," he said. "I find that's one of the things most people are surprised at because the name's been around so long you just imagine the band's in their 50s or something."

As for working with his older brother, Tad likes it just fine.

"We get along great. But John is convinced there's something more there under the surface," Kinchla said with a laugh. "He kind of compares it to his own family, and he doesn't trust that two brothers get along so well."

Although Kinchla has been with Blues Traveler almost five years now and is currently touring with the band to promote its latest release, Truth Be Told, he still sounds amazed at his position in a multi-platinum rock band.

"The craziest thing is just going from having a van, touring up and down the East Coast, to having a tour bus. It's just, like, 'Yes!'," he said. "And to have somebody changing my strings -- those are the things that are really sweet."