The Faces of Change

Band From TV (BFTV) is in the house, turning mere men into heroes, and leaving us desperate for more; yes all puns intended. Some of the musically talented celebrities from House, Heroes and Desperate Housewives (as well as other past hit television shows), have come together in light of a good cause to form the ever growing in popularity Band From TV. The band is composed of drummer Greg Grunberg (Heroes), guitarist James Denton (Desperate Housewives), exceptional fiddle player Jesse Spencer (House), guitarist Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), keyboardist Scott Grimes (ER), keyboardist Hugh Laurie (House) and singer Bob Guiney (The Bachelor and TLC’s Date My House).

Greg has been the driving force behind this project, stating that “it’s just one of those things where I sort of put my energy in motion, and made it happen.” Having been asked to put a band together for a one night gig to raise money for the Guitar Centre Music Foundation (which offers a music education to underprivileged children), Greg eagerly accepted and a one night gig turned into a four year success. Originally, Greg was asked to play the drums at The House of Blues as part of a charity night, “I was thrilled,” said Greg, “when I got there I realised quite quickly that the press was paying so much attention to me, though there were some amazing musicians there.” Greg kept this in the back of his mind and after meeting his future band-mates when he guest starred on House and at various charity events, Greg, knowing that these guys played music, was struck by this brilliant idea and suggested that they all form a band. After all, “every actor wants to be a rock star, and every musician wants to be an actor,” Greg comically remarked, “so it’s really easy to kind of cross pollinate.” Serendipitously, it was just one of those things that slowly fell into place, “one event lead to another,” said Greg, and “it just kind of exploded from there.” Four years later they have raised over two million dollars that has been distributed to over twenty charities. “It’s been a really amazing and fun way to raise money for charity,” said James, “we started out playing two really horrible covers, and then two years later we were playing on American Idol and the Tonight Show, so it’s been quite a ride.”

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As the guys are all really busy on their various shows, they don’t really tour a lot, but instead just go from gig to gig. “The hardest thing is getting together to rehearse,” said Greg, “so we end up having a number of little rehearsals and then we get together as frequently as we can leading up to a gig.” Ultimately they just “have to sit down and know that people will be late or will have to leave early,” said James, and they end up having to do it in bits and pieces. Aside from coming to Canada in March and possibly going to Mexico, they don’t have an extensive tour schedule lined up. “We have to really stay local” explained James, “it’s just not feasible for us to travel with all of our schedules.” Though they admit that it gets really hard to get the logistics together, they all firmly believe that “in the end, when we can send the kind of money that we send to charity, it’s all worth it.”

The heart and soul of BFTV is that every penny that they take in goes out to charity. They raise money not only by playing shows, but also through the sales of their CD/DVD that they were able to put together called “Hoggin all the Covers.” Band From TV supports the Guitar Center Music Foundation, while individually Jesse Spencer performs for the The Indiana University-Kenya Partnership, Adrian Pasdar plays for Rush Medical Center – Pediatric Epilepsy Unit, Scott Grimes plays for Lupus LA, Hugh Laurie performs for Save the Children, and Bob Guiney plays for Art of Elysium and Children’s Hospital La. “Mine is a very personal one,” explained Greg, “our oldest son has epilepsy, so we deal with seizures almost on a daily basis. It’s my big crusade to try to cure and also remove the stigma that’s attached to epilepsy. It’s been an amazing experience for me personally.” On a similar note, James has an autistic nephew on his wife’s side, which is how he got started with Cure Autism Now; “we did a few events for them,” said James, which he found to be very rewarding. Also an active environmentalist, his focus is now primarily centred on The Conservation Fund which purchases land to protect it from being developed, drilled on, or abused and declares it a conservation site. “I think it’s a very important project,” said James, “especially right now. So it has become my charity of choice, which sort of rounds out our portf

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Not just big names with big hearts, although that is certainly true, they are having a lot of fun in the process and are really loving what they do. James will be the first to admit that “we’re not kidding anybody; it’s not totally selfless. It’s a lot of fun, because we are a bunch of middle aged guys pretending to be rock stars, so we get just as much out of it as the charities do.” Greg also admits that   “it’s exciting” and offers a thrill that he just doesn’t get from acting: “I am the heartbeat of every song,” Greg explains, “I play the drums so if I mess up, you hear it. I don’t get to go back, I don’t get to stop; it’s an energy that I don’t get from anything else other than this. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I love the vulnerability.” James readily agreed, as he never suffered from stage-fright, being involved in a lot of theatre in the past; however, when they played for the Nascar race, which had about twenty five hundred people there, he admitted: “I just about wet my pants, I was so scared.” Regardless of the fear, James believes that it’s “really good for me; it is really good to get out of my comfort zone. It’s been cool, I love it.” And on the plus side, they have actually gotten to be really good. “At first we had CHARITY written over our heads in great big letters and nobody cared what we sounded like,” said James, “but now we really are pretty good and that’s really rewarding.”

The guys have also had the opportunity to collaborate with music producer David Foster to record a Reggae version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, arranged by Hugh Laurie, for the House sound track. “He’s unbelievable, he’s such a genius,” said Greg about Foster, “he was so generous to give his time to the band. That was a dream for us.” A dream come true, as the guys recorded at capital records in Hollywood, where the Beatles recorded, “it was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Greg, “I’ll never forget it.” Likewise, for Bob, it was “one of the great musical moments of my life. He’s been a personal hero of mine for a long time. I got to stand in the same vocal room where Paul McCartney, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston had stood and recorded. It was just the most incredible experience for me.” James also recounted the experience as “a thrill,” and noted that Foster “really had the charity spirit…I’m pretty sure he didn’t get paid anything, and of course he’s as busy as anybody in the industry.”

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As luck would have it, BFTV will be playing at Fallsview Casino the first weekend in March. Greg relates that “we’re just really excited to get up and rock out with people. We are sold out already, or close to it, so we know that people want to see us, but we want it to be fun and we just want people to have a great night, maybe recognize some of the people in the band, and just rock out, that’s what it’s all about…and raising money for charity.” James simply describes BFTV as “faces you know singing songs you know” and that he’s found that “people seem to think that it’s kind of cool to see people like us, that they have seen from a completely different venue, out of our element.” Humbly, but sincerely, Bob explained that “the most important thing that I would like people to understand is that we are truly just a bunch of guys who are really great friends who happen to have really interesting jobs and because of those jobs people know us and recognize us. I would hope that they would think of us as a bunch of guys who don’t take ourselves too seriously, but who are trying to use every avenue that we can for good and who are trying to use this ‘celebrity’ thing to raise money for causes that really need it; that’s how I see us.” At the end of the day they do make a difference and as Bob notes, “If we can even make a little bit of a difference for one family or for one child by doing a show, then I would feel like we won. That’s how I would hope that people would see us when we come into town.”

BFTV is a great undertaking that sounds good for a good cause. In the end they are a bunch of big names with big hearts, despite the fun they may have doing it; they are selflessly using their public status for public good, and investing their own money and time into the effort. Being in the public eye, they do hold a position of influence and having acknowledged this edge, they use it to make a difference. This is a great group of guys who really are modern day heroes.

 

Published in Uncharted Sounds Magazine, February 2009