Now is Now frontman turned his back on the bright lights and big city to live his dream – playing the music he loves
by colleen marshall, the gazette, 10.25.06
Mitch Alden says he’s no longer a “destination junkie” – the Limington resident now says it’s all about simply enjoying the ride.
Once all consumed with trying to live the rock and roll lifestyle and trying to make his band a household name, Alden now is content to enjoy the small town offerings of Limington. And, although he once played nightly at large clubs and resorts, Alden says his routine of playing a handful of gigs on a monthly basis is much more to his liking.
The 36-year-old Now is Now frontman is in a word – happy. “I live in Maine with my beautiful wife and I get to play on weekends,” he says. “What can be better? I hit the balance.”
Wearing a blue long-sleeved T-shirt showcasing his enthusiasm for long-distance running, Alden also sports a clean-shaven head and a smile that stretches across his face, which – almost impossibly – grins wider when discussing the band.
“We try to make every place we play like a living room,” he says of the trio’s gigs. “Our idea is to bring people together and have some fun with it.”
It’s a far cry from where Alden’s musical aspirations once were. Although he never considered it a career while growing up, music was a part of his life since he was extremely young. He played the trumpet – until braces made it difficult – and took piano lessons, although he laughs that his attention may have been focused on the crush he had on his teacher.
In the eighth grade, Alden says he discovered rock and roll. “My dad used to play in those silly 50s bands in the Poconos,” he says. “He was the house bar club band, and growing up there was always this beat-up guitar in the boiler room. My dad changed the strings for me and gave it to me when I was 13 or 14, so I’ve been playing now for about 20 years.”
Having grown up about 40 minutes outside of New York City, he graduated from high school in 1987 and went to the University of Albany to obtain a business and economics degree. “I was going to work on Wall Street,” he says. “I was going to play with a cover band on the side, but I was 21 at the time and I realized if I was going to do it, and make it doing music, I was going to have to make the time to do it. I didn’t want to be in an environment that was sucking the soul from me.”
Alden says he relocated to Boulder, Colo., with the goal to write a record that tourists there would be able to take home with them – allowing the band to tour in the future. “It was a great learning experience and growth experience,” he says. “We would play three or four times a week and then we would tour other ski towns. We were a jam band, it was ‘Boulder Boogie,’ a six-piece acoustic rock band.”
The band broke up, but a friend was signed to a record label, and invited Alden to join him in California. He says a moving van with his wife Dylan and his belongings was packed and on its way to California – but Alden began to have second thoughts. “I was wearing clothes I used to mock and playing music I would never listen to,” he says. “It became about looking at our quality of life, so we decided to move up here. I wouldn’t be able to write the happy songs I write if the world around me is sucking my soul dry.”
After relocating to Maine, he posted an advertisement on the now-defunct Portland Maine Music Message Board. He teamed up with drummer Neil Carroll in 2002 and bassist Drew Wyman in 2004. Alden says Carroll and Wyman also had had enough of the “jam band in L.A.” scene, enough of living their lives out of a van, eating Ramen Noodles while trying to get signed for a record deal. “What’s really neat is we don’t have the stupidity of the rock and roll dream, I have no expectations except to have fun and make it work with our current day lives,” Alden says.
Lengthy rehearsals also are a thing of the past, Alden admits. “Since we play once or twice a week, that’s kind of it,” he says. “With the original stuff, we record a rehearsal and try it out at our next show. Alden says Now is Now plays gigs in Northern New England area, with stops at the Phoenix at Sunday River, Ri Ra’s in Portland and a few locations in Bar Harbor, and Portsmouth, N.H., and every so often travels to The Bitter End bar in New York City.
And, although their rock and roll dreams of stardom have dimmed, Alden says the desire to share their music with the masses remains. “What I’d like to see now is the music really take off and for us to need to go on the road,” he says. “I’d love for that to happen. I’d love to be able to experience being on the road, without being behind the scenes. There is so much stuff that needs to be done in order to travel like that though. You have to hire a company, which costs a lot of money, and it’s really tough. That’s why this band gets along so well. We certainly are not sad if that is not going to happen – that’s why we as a band get along so well.” Now is Now’s third album, “Never Go Back,” is not only a collection of eight tunes – but a statement about their history.
“I’m definitely blessed that all the band members I’ve played with – we are all still best friends,” Alden says. “When it’s all said and done – even though some of the bands haven’t worked out – it’s about the people in the bands. It’s about the friendships, which are much more important. I really just hope for more experiences and to write a lot more songs,” he says. “It’s all about the choices you make and the way you look at different experiences. It’s all about the fun you have. I have no expectations except to book a gig and play it. I just hope to touch people, or several people, sell some CDs. And then, I hope to do it again the next time. There is some real happiness in controlling your own destiny.”
For more information on Now is Now, visit the band’s Web site at www.nowisnow.com. Alden says people can email him and he will send them a CD. If they like it, they can send them the money, if they don’t they can simply return the CD.
colleen marshall is staff writer for the the gazette.