“Where were they going without ever knowing the way?” Interview with Tony Scalzo from Fastball.

In 1998, American band Fastball released a massive hit song called The Way. The song is about a real disappearance that occurred in Texas in 1997. The disappeared couple were ultimately found dead, about 400 miles from their intended destination.

Here’s my interview with Mr. Tony Scalzo, singer for Fastball, who wrote the legendary song.

Fastball. Mr. Scalzo on the left.

What did you do before becoming a professional musician?

From the time I was about 12 I wanted to be good enough at guitar and piano to get into a band. My goal seemed insurmountable from where I was in suburban southern California. A year later I was in junior high school and girls liked Led Zeppelin and boys liked Kiss. I was into a million bands. The Who, The Beatles, The Stones, Yes, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Cream, Earth, Wind and Fire, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and many artists of whose existence eluded my fellow 7th and 8th graders. I paid close attention to older kids and saw rock bands whenever I had the chance; at community events, school dances even the drag races at Orange Country international Raceway a couple of miles from my home. Year by year, I started to realize my goal wasn’t unattainable. I always kept my eyes on the prize but I had to get through school and then, of course, work. So to answer your question more succinctly, I worked many jobs. Some for a short time and some for far too long a time. Painting (buildings!), carpet layer, baker, marble and stone shop, auto-body shop, office clerk, delivering auto parts, selling crap over the phone, etc.

How was Fastball formed back in the day? How did you guys find each other?

I had moved to Austin, TX to play with a band that had a recording contract. Through that project I met Joey Shuffield, our drummer. I was the bassist. We recorded some stuff but the project fizzled out for various reasons, not the least of which was the firing of the bassist and drummer! Anyway, Miles had been in a band with Joey called Big Car but they had split, and Miles moved to San Francisco for a while. After a couple of years there, Miles phoned Joey and told him he wanted to start a band in Austin and give it one more go. That’s how we got together, through Joey.

Do you remember where and how did you first hear of the disappearance of Lela and Raymond Howard?

I was at home looking at the morning paper.

Lela and Raymond Howard

What was it about this particular story that caught your attention and made it stay with you?

I can’t really say for sure. In retrospect, it had a darkly romantic quality to it. They had only disappeared at this point but I had the feeling they were not going to be found alive, as they had been gone a significant amount of days. I feel lucky to have latched on to it at that moment but I don’t know why I did.

Was the story “with you” for just the time it took you to write the song, or did you follow it afterwards

I don’t remember

Do you ever look into the story again nowadays? For new developments, etc. ?

I have met some of the family members but that was over ten years ago. I’m sure we’ve seen enough of each other. They are nice people who need to be left alone, I think.

Do you have a general interest in disappearances and other mysteries, or was “The Way” just a one-off incident?

No special interest, though many things spark my interest. I’m a moderately enthusiastic fan of mystery stories, factual or fictional.

How do you feel about the song today? Do you consider it your best?

People certainly still love it all over the world. I believe there is no “best” in music or art. My worst song is, Eater.

Though you’re well known for that song, you’ve written some amazing music since then as well, of course. What’s your writing process like?

I’m terribly lazy but when I do go to work and something’s happening, I tend to go at it with vigor until I think its done. I wake up in the night finishing lyrical phrases. Lyrics are tough for me because I’m very picky and hard to please. A lot of my music today comes from classical sources that I mine sub-contiously through my piano studies. I’ve been incorporating ideas from Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” collection and adapting them to my songwriting. Then I will add lyrics, transforming these pieces into songs WITH words!

Love is Expensive and Free” is another favorite of mine. Can you share something about how that song came to be?

I wrote the song when I was in love with multiple women. Three, to be exact. That, my friend, is expensive! If I’d known then how to be honest with myself and others, I would have realized love and happiness is free. Lyrically, it’s the product of a sick heart and mind. I’m better now. Musically, it’s got some interesting things going on. It was our producer, (at the time) Julian Raymond’s idea to get the Mariachi (look it up, Euros) orchestration on there. I loved what it did for the song. To this day the music makes me proud and the lyrics make me cringe.

Your latest album “The Deep End” came out this year. What are you working on at the moment? Are you on tour?

In addition to regularly attempting to write songs, Fastball has been recording with our friend and producer David Garza at Sonic Ranch Studio in the desert of far west Texas. Not quite enough material to complete an album, but about six new tunes from that. They will initially be released exclusively our Patreon Patrons (patron.com/fastball) and then, who knows what commercial form they will take?

Anything you’d like to add that I forgot to ask about?

Those of your readers that are already fans or would like to gain more access to us and our music, go to our Patreon (patreon.com/fastball) and learn how you can become a subscriber. We use funds we get through Patreon to produce more high-quality recordings of our music than we ever could back in the major-label days.

And, finally, my regular questions to all my interviewees:

Your top 3 books?

Anna Karenina – Tolstoy, Lonesome Dove – McMurtry, Horatio Hornblower series – Forester.

Your top 3 albums?

Elvis Costello And The Attractions – Imperial Bedroom, Lou Reed – New York, Yes – The Yes Album

Your top 3 films?

Paris, Texas – Wim Wenders, Down By Law – Jim Jarmusch, This Is Spinal Tap – Rob Reiner. I love film and watch an average of one movie per day. Pasolini, Visconti, Wenders, Kurisawa, Uzo, Hitchcock, Ford, Kaurismaki, Scorcese, Coppola, Ray. I wish I could make movies, but I’m content to make “mind movies” using the art of songwriting.

Thank you, this was fun! I’m writing this from Maui, Hawaii, so now I will jump in the Pacific Ocean!

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