Written by: Frank Iacono
Harry Francis Giovan was one of the founding members of the infamous east coast rock band known as Mr. Greengenes. While with Mr. Greengenes as a keyboardist from 1995-2005, Harry and the band performed for close to a million people and shared the stage with such notable acts as Veruca Salt, Better than Ezra, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Jeffrey Gaines, G-love, Cowboy Mouth, the Commitments, Marcy Playground, and Garrison Star just to name a few.
In 1999, Harry released his debut CD entitled Here in the Underground. The CD demonstrated his love for pop/rock music with “Color My World” and featured catchy melodies along with his diverse sense of style. In 2003, his follow-up CD release was entitled Hi-fi Virgin. Hi-fi Virgin solidified his expertise in creating memorable pop hooks on tracks like “Butterfly Girl” and “Pole Position”.
Harry has studied songwriting with Rob Hyman, a songwriter and keyboardist for the 80’s band the “Hooters” as well as songwriter of the Grammy nominated…#1 hit by Cyndi Lauper, “Time after Time”. More recently, Harry has had the opportunity to work with Grammy nominated producer David Ivory (The Roots, Erica Badu, and Patti LaBelle), as well as Obie O’Brien (Bon Jovi) and top 40 American Idol finalist Kenny Hoffpauer.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Harry Francis Giovan and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in Mr. Greengenes, his life after Mr. Greengenes, his achievements, and his past and upcoming performances.
The Creative Spotlight: How old were you when you first get involved with music? And, who were among your musical influences?
Harry Giovan: I started playing the piano at the age of 6. I saw a piano in a store window and told my mom I wanted to play. She bought me a piano the very next month. My earliest influences believe it or not were Debbie Gibson and Lionel Richie!
TCS: Given the diversity of your musical background how would you describe yourself as an artist?
HG: If Billy Joel and Oasis had a baby, that would probably be me.
TCS: What prompted you to transition your career from being a music teacher to joining what would become one of the most famous local bands in Mr. Greengenes?
HG: At the time it was money. I was married with no kids making the same money playing on stage as I was as a teacher. It was a no brainer.
TCS: Share with us some of the history of Mr. Greengenes?
HG: Wow, that would require writing a book! Most of us were already friends so that part was easy. Back in the early to mid-90s we’d play Pennsylvania-based places like Cheeks Pub (now the Concord Cafe) in Aston, the West End Saloon in Media, Margarita’s in West Chester, and Brownies/Ground Zero in Woodlyn just to name a few. The crowds just kept getting bigger every time we played!
TCS: Tell us about the background of Mr. Greengenes’ original songs “Shotglass,” “Go Away,” “Fell,” and “Greenlight”?
HG: Here Goes Nothing. Here Goes Everything.
- “Shotglass”… words by our drummer Timmie Loveland and music by the band. Vermont, cabin in the woods, drunken quarters with some ladies, I’ve already said too much. 😉
- “Go Away”… written by lead singer Bryen O’Boyle after a run in with a crazy girl.
- “Fell” and “Greenlight” were both written by bass player Johnny Phat McGee. However, I don’t really know the background of these songs.
TCS: Can you believe that it has been 20 years since I joined Mr. Greengenes at Cheek’s Pub for my bachelor party? Do you remember that night and that stupid hat I was wearing?
HG: What’s your name again? Kidding!!! I can’t even remember my own kid’s names sometimes! Ha!
TCS: How would you define Mr. Greengenes’ recipe for success and how did the Midnight Sun Company figure into that equation?
HG: I think what set us apart from most other bands were lots of little things that other bands overlooked. For one, our live shows were better than anyone around. We interacted with each other on stage like no other band. We took chances playing songs that no one else would. We were also extremely diverse. I mean, we could play a song from the Brady Bunch, followed by the Beastie Boys, followed by our lead singer humping his keyboard while playing Nine Inch Nails. We would also make sure that when we learned a song, we learned every single note and nuance that made that song what it was. We were entertainers, but we were also damn good musicians.
Rick Green from Midnight Sun saw us play one night early on and fell in love with the band. We signed with Midnight Sun on a handshake at the old Main Lion on the Main Line in Ardmore. Midnight Sun got us playing opening for other bands and into bigger clubs we couldn’t get into on our own. As the saying goes… the rest is history!
TCS: How cool was it to be named the Official Rock Band of the Philadelphia Eagles?
HG: We worked our butts off to get to that point. I love wearing my Eagles jersey with Greengenes on the back still.
TCS: What was it like to have played at the 2008 Phillies World Series Parade at Citizens Bank Park especially being such big fans?
HG: I had left the band 3 years before this. It was something I definitely can say I was “green” with envy that I didn’t get to do that.
TCS: After performing in over 4,000 shows for more than 3 million people since 1993, please describe for us how emotional it was when Mr. Greengenes officially said goodbye?
HG: When we played the last show in April 2013 at Xfinity Live in front of 5,000+ people it was definitely emotional. I left the band physically in the fall of 2005 but for 8 years after that I always felt there was a part of me that wasn’t finished with Greengenes. That night coming back and playing with the guys felt as if that chapter of my life was finally closed and finalized.
We have all finally moved on doing other things.
- I (Harry, keyboards) teach elementary music, perform out live, write my own music, and work doing studio things for other people. Currently, I just started working with Bon Jovi’s engineer/producer on some of his side projects. It’s been really fun
- Bryen, lead singer, is still in high demand as a solo performer performing 3-5 nights a week in the Philly area.
- Joe, guitarist, just had another baby and has his own photography business. His pictures are amazing!
- John, bass, plays in a couple other bands in the area as well as playing out acoustic with his new wife Kristen from Kristen and the Noise.
- Timmie, drummer, has his own wood working business I think? Not sure.
- Joe M, keyboard player who took over for me, plays in a regional wedding band I’m pretty sure.
TCS: Can you share with us some of the awards and achievements you’ve earned during your career?
HG: I am proud of the awards and achievements that I’ve received over my career, including:
- 5 top 10 finishes in the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest (1998-1999)
- 1st place finish in the pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (1999)
- Harry’s song “Free” spent 4 weeks at #1 on the charts on Garageband.com (2001)
- Two “song of the year” nominations in Modern Rock and Pop in the Just Plain Folks music awards (2001)
- “Album of the Year” nomination for the Just Plain Folks music awards (2001)
- Top 10 finish in the pop category of the 2001 USA Songwriting Contest
- Three(3) “finalist” awards in the 2003 Unisong International Songwriting Contest
- Appeared on the NEW MUSIC WEEKLY “Up and Coming” pop/rock radio charts (July, 2003)
- “Best keyboard player” in the 2004 Philadelphia music awards
- “Album of the year” and “Song of the year” nominations for the Just Plain Folks music awards (2004)
- 3rd place “Album of the Year” in the 2004 Just Plain Folks music awards
TCS: When you’re performing what is your favorite wardrobe staple?
HG: Lately, it’s been wearing Peter Grimm hats. Love em!
TCS: What would you say was the craziest thing that happened to you while you were up on stage performing?
HG: I broke my finger while fronting a song with Bryen. We were doing a 311 song and I was lying on the floor. He went to pretend to jump on me and I moved my hand right in the path of his foot. I played the rest of the night with my finger broken then went to the emergency room. Hurt like hell!
TCS: Mr. Greengenes had particularly dedicated fan bases. Have you ever met any super fans and, if so, what was that experience like?
HG: Honestly, I love everyone we have ever met. What’s crazy is how far I can travel and someone still recognizes me. I was sitting at a bar in the Bahamas once and someone asked if I was in Greengenes. Crazy…
TCS: Over the years, both performing with the band or in a solo capacity you’ve played all over the country, so what places are among some of your favorite and least favorite?
HG: LOVED the Stone Balloon when it was in Newark, DE as well as the Chameleon in Lancaster, PA. I hated playing a place on Long Beach Island in NJ called “The Tide” simply because we had to load all of our equipment up these really long and tall fire escape type stairs on the 2nd floor way back in the mid-90s.
TCS: What’s your favorite metaphor? And, how does it apply to your life as a musician?
HG: “Get busy living, or get busy dying” from the movie Shawshank Redemption. It’s my life to a tee.
TCS: What do you do to keep your voice in good shape to maintain two hours plus of singing? Also, do you have any advice for improving one’s range?
HG: I was actually blessed with a pretty powerful voice and almost never lose it. Having a good monitor to hear is key along with water to drink. Rest is also crucial. Improving your range takes lots of working your voice out. You get bigger muscles by working them. Same thing applies to your voice
TCS: With whom in history do you feel that you most identify with and why?
HG: I identify with anyone who is confident in who they are and not caring what other people think of them. Confidence in yourself is one of the best qualities.
TCS: How do you market your albums, songs, and appearances?
HG: I market my albums, songs, and appearances through the following avenues:
TCS: Who are among some of the coolest people you’ve worked with, and what made them special?
HG: We’ve opened for some National acts and have seen some local people succeed. Working with Obie O’Brien from Bon Jovi has been awesome in the last year. I actually just returned from Nashville, TN and worked with him on a few things.
TCS: If I was to turn on your music player right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recent played list?
TCS: Tell us the background behind the songs and videos for “Christmas Rap” and “The Ho Ho Dance”?
Every Christmas my wife and I try and do one big gift for both of our kids. One year we got them a kayak and had a scavenger hunt all over the house for them to find it. Another year it was a poem for them to figure out where their gifts were.
For Christmas 2012, we decided to write a rap song called the “Christmas Rap” with clues in the song and a video we made to go along with it. Their last gifts that year were Apple iPhones.
Last year, we had to step it up. So, we created a dance called “The Ho Ho Dance” with another rap and video. At the end of the video the kids had to get up and do the ho ho dance or they wouldn’t get their last gifts… which were Flyers tickets and concert tickets.
HG: the five artists/songs would be:
- Imagine Dragons… I’m learning “On Top of the World” to play out.
- Cake’s version of “War Pigs”. It’s awesome!
- Christina Perri’s song “Human”. One of the most incredibly produced and written songs I’ve ever heard.
- Graham Colton’s CD “Here Right Now”. Love his songwriting style.
- ”Something to Believe in” by Parachute. Great song!
TCS: From your vast knowledge and experience, what advice do you have for young bands trying to get established?
HG: It really boggles my mind how many performers out there really have zero talent when they actually think they do because a few people with no musical background thinks they are good. Just because you can sing on key and can play a few chords doesn’t make you good. Practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. Know your own strengths and weaknesses and focus on getting the weaknesses better! Talent will always be rewarded.
Contact Harry Francis Giovan
To contact Harry, please call or text him at 610.952.2246 or email him at email@example.com
Song List on Hi-Fi Virgin (2003)
- So Alive
- When It’s Over
- Butterfly Girl
- John Doe
- Only God Knows Tomorrow
- Pole Position
- Little Ones
- Until We Meet Again
Song List on Here in the Underground (1999)
- Secret World
- Color My World
- Tell You
- Superman Was Here
- Silver Lining
- Without You
- Cloud 9
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.