Neill Byrnes: Draw The Line Aerosmith Tribute Band

Written by: Frank Iacono

Neill-Byrnes-Draw-The-Line

Draw The Line, the Aerosmith Tribute Band, hails from the city that boasts the Red Sox, the New England Patriots, and the Celtics as well as musical groups such as Boston, The Cars, Godsmack, and of course Aerosmith. With over 2,000 performances in over 100 cities Draw The Line, together as an Aersomith tribute band for more than twenty years, has performed in all but two U.S. states including shows in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other U.S. territories. Additionally, they’ve also toured other countries such as England, Canada, South America, and Japan.

In January of 1998, during an interview, legendary Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler singled out Draw The Line as the best of the Aerosmith tribute bands. On Boston’s biggest rock radio station 104.1 WBCN, disc jockey Nick Carter was quoted as saying, “I’ve seen Draw The Line! They ARE Aerosmith!” The band is very popular on the college circuit and has been interviewed by several Boston-based college radio stations over the years including Brandeis University’s 100.1 WBRS. Equally, Draw The Line has also appeared in several Boston area newspapers such as The Patriot Ledger, The Boston Globe, and The Mariner.

Draw The Line is the only tribute band who has been featured on the Official Aerosmith Website as well as that of Aerosmith’s Official Fan Club. With support and accolades from Aerosmith themselves, as well as top DJs, journalists, and fans worldwide, it’s no wonder that they’ve been recognized as a one-of-a-kind. If you love Aerosmith, then the Draw The Line tribute show is one you truly don’t want to miss!

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Neill Byrnes from Draw The Line an Aerosmith tribute band and asking him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in a tribute band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the Draw The Line lineup and tell us how you decided on the band name?

The Draw The Line band lineup consists of:

  • Neill Byrnes – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion (Steven Tyler)
  • Gino Caira – Lead Guitar (Joe Perry)
  • Jim Dennis – Lead Guitar (Brad Whitford)
  • Phil Cefalo – Drums (Joey Kramer)
  • Justin Hunt – Bass Guitar (Tom Hamilton)

Back in 1991, at the request of an agency that just picked us up, we changed the band name from Mass Production to one more Aerosmith recognizable. So after long discussions we decided on Draw The Line. We felt that the caricature on the front of that album cover was one of the bands most iconic images, and we could represent ourselves in a very similar fashion. This would be unmistakably recognizable to Aerosmith.

Draw-The-Line-Performance

TCS: So how long has Draw The Line been playing together and how did you get started?

As mentioned, I originally joined a band called Mass Production. It was a semi-Aerosmith tribute, but not serious. about two months after I joined, we decided to go full on Aerosmith tribute and change the name to Draw The Line. That was back in August of 1991. Here we are 24 years later.

 

TCS: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?

My first influences in music were from my parents. They were from the big band era. They were into artists like Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Sinatra, and Slim Whitman. It was the Lawrence Welk Show that turned me on to my first instrument; the trombone. I was exposed to rock and roll through friends and cousins. The Beatles, KISS, Rolling Stones, The Who, and etc. Great 60s and 70s bands. I was probably 8 when I started on the trombone. After being exposed to great theatrical rock bands and the response from the audience these people were getting. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

TCS: Early on Neill did you think that you looked, sounded, or moved like the legendary Steven Tyler or was it something that you discovered over time?

My friends used to tease me on how much I looked like Steven Tyler, but I just shook it off not really paying attention to it. It wasn’t until the same friends convinced me to enter a local Boston area Radio Station (WAAF) sponsored Steven Tyler lookalike contest that I paid attention to it. After winning the contest, the notoriety from it made it impossible to dismiss. It wouldn’t be until a year later that I set on the journey of transforming into him. I studied from a vocal coach that he studied with, worked out constantly, studied hours of video tape, took aerobics classes, gymnastics classes, piano classes, and I worked my butt off in order to be able to do this at the level at which I thought I needed to be at.

 

TCS: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. When you’re in a tribute band, obviously your music will be picked apart and compared to the original. So how did Draw The Line sculpt its sound and its stage performance?

Well when we started, I made sure that we were going to go all the way with it or not even bother. Meaning the look, sound, and mannerisms had to copied to a tee. Each band member had to dedicate themselves to this level of excellence. They had to do an in depth character study. Those that didn’t, ended up being replaced. We wanted to be the best.

TCS: What do you guys feel is the hardest aspect of re-creating an Aerosmith show?

The hardest part is the attitude and the energy. Being from the same stomping grounds of Aerosmith gives us a similar vibe. We naturally have the same sort of environmental factors that have shaped out personalities. Therefore in some respects, as performers, we come from the same place. Other Aerosmith tributes from other areas do not conjure the same energy. We are authentic being from Boston. Musically, Aerosmith is a tough act to follow. We have dedicated our selves to learning this material to the highest level.

 

TCS: How many gigs does Draw The Line play annually and what and where are some of the venues in which you’ve performed?

Draw The Line plays anywhere from 75-100 gigs a year. We have traveled all over America, Canada, Central America, parts of Europe, and all over the Caribbean. Most of our gigs these days are festivals, casinos, cruise ships, corporate, and private events. We still do a few clubs here and there locally in Massachusetts to ensure that our original fans can still see us often.

TCS: If Draw The Line could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would that be and why?

It would be one of the legendary venues or festivals like Knebworth, Isle of Wight, Donnington. Just to be on the same stage as some of the greats is a tremendous feeling. The Whiskey in LA is one of those places. I could feel legendary Jim Morrison from The Doors when performing on that stage.

Neill-Byrnes-Draw-The-Line-Performing

TCS: Tell us about how special it was to participate in the Aerosmith Legacy Show, hosted by Ray Tabano the original Aerosmith guitarist?

The legacy show was a culmination of what we have been trying to do from the beginning. Make what we do, a big produced show. Our manager Tricia Byrnes, also my wife, and I drew up the ideas and plans to create this. A show that was a retrospective of Aerosmith’s career. With video, costumes, etc… With Raymond being an old friend we thought what better way to do this, than having an original member tell the story. Someone who was there, on the inside. He came aboard and the show was set. One of the coolest things with Ray, besides the true stories, was playing Train Kept A Rollin’ with him. That is a song that Aerosmith took and made their own. He was part of that. After playing with him, you could clearly see his influence in the early sound of Aerosmith. An epiphany of sorts for us.

Draw-The-Line-Legacy-Show

TCS: Share with us the most requested Aerosmith songs at a typical Draw The Line show?

Making the set list is the hardest part of the show! So many great songs. The catalog is so extensive. We always make our set based on our audience. We do a little demographic research to see which albums did best where. There are certain songs in the show every night. Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way, etc.. We try to add a few deep cuts for the diehards. One song that gets requested more than any other is Seasons of Whither. It’s not one of their biggest hits so it doesn’t get in the show every night.

Below, please find an example of a recent set list where we were able to do a lot of deep cuts:

Draw-The-Line-Set-List

TCS: Of the songs that Draw The Line plays from Aerosmith’s extensive library which ones are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from Aerosmith that you guys really love that is not currently included in your set list? If yes, then why.

There are certain songs like Back in the Saddle, One Way Street, Pandora’s Box, and Seasons of Whither that are group favorites. We may not like all the songs before we learn them. But to a man I can honestly say that after learning a song, we come to like it very much. There isn’t a song that we don’t like. Even the ballads. Lol! A song we haven’t done yet… That we would love to do…. would either be Cheesecake or Spaced. They are very obscure but great songs. It’s just a matter of time before we get to them.

TCS: What would you say has been the toughest challenge Draw The Line has faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as musicians and performers?

I think the toughest challenge was in the beginning. When we first started, we weren’t that good. We really had to face the criticism and It was very difficult. This is a very difficult band to emulate. But we kept at it and we knew that if we just worked hard we would get there, but it wasn’t easy.

TCS: Tell us about how proud Draw The Line was to be named one of The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands Awardee?

Beside being recognized by Aerosmith as the best, this was our crowning moment so far. To be recognized as the greatest at anything is very humbling. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. It was just such an honor. And what a privilege to showcase the band on live TV!! Just an amazing experience. We really couldn’t be more proud. Thanks to all the Aerosmith / DTL FANS THAT MADE THAT HAPPEN!

 

TCS: How do you market Draw The Line songs, merchandise, and appearances?

I let management handle all that! I do post on Twitter and Facebook. Any one can always approach us at the shows. We love to meet people.

TCS: Has anyone in Draw The Line met any of the members of Aerosmith?

Yes we have a professional relationship with the band. Steven came to our show at the whiskey on AXS TV. Brad was at our gig for NASCAR. Joey played a gig with us. Aerosmith has been really supportive of us over the years. Steven has gone so far as to publicly endorse the band and allow us to use that in our promotion. We are licensed to sell their merchandise as well. They have really been unbelievable.

TCS: Have you played with any other Aerosmith tribute bands and if so what type of reaction have you received?

I was invited over to England once to sing with an English Aerosmith tribute band for a couple of gigs. The response was fantastic it was a great experience

 

TCS: Besides Draw The Line, if you could individually play a set with any artist alive or dead who would you choose and why?

I think it would be either The Doors or Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix a close third. The late 60s and early 70s was just a time that was magical. All this creative music was coming out and blazing the trail for everyone to follow. It would have been amazing to have witnessed that.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Draw The Line?

We have never been busier. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am able to make a living playing music. I am truly a blessed person. There’s no reason why Draw The Line cannot continue into the far future. As long as we have our health and they’re still callin’ we’ll be there to rock your world!

Booking Inquiries

Fine Productions
Tricia Byrnes
P.O. Box 586
Accord, MA 02018
Phone: 617-438-9884
Email: Tricia@FineProductions.com
Website: www.FineProductions.com

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

Written by: Frank Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Shaun Benson

Shaun Benson is a Canadian actor and director who was born in Guelph, Ontario. From a very young age, Shaun studied the arts including piano, ballet, and modern dance. He attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

During his University career, he began to perform seriously and garnered roles in university theater productions such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bones, and Biloxi Blues. Post-graduation, Shaun went on to study and train at the George Brown College Theater School in Toronto.

Shaun made his television debut as Jonah Gleason, a series lead, on the critically acclaimed series The Associates (2002), which led to another lead as Patrick Heller for the PAX network on Just Cause (2002-2003). He is best known for playing Leonid in Kathryn Bigelo’s K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) opposite Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, playing Steven Lars Webber on General Hospital (2004 – 2005), Bob Taylor in Populaire (2012), and the mysterious Simon in Kept Woman (2015).

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Benson and asking him a few questions about what first got him into acting, his career as an actor, his experience in directing Barn Wedding, his role on daytime soap General Hospital, his musical aspirations, and his upcoming projects.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in acting? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an actor?

I’ve always been a performer. I played my first piano recital at age 5 (badly) and was dancing onstage by age 9. The inspiration was a blend of things like watching Singin’ in the Rain (still my favorite all-time movie), The Sound of Music, and James Bond, etc. as a kid and also just how much fun dancing and school plays were.

TCS: What famous actors were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your acting style?

Gene Kelly most definitely—he shaped my style in that I am not afraid to go classically large with a role and I’m not afraid for it to be fun. In later years, it was Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro, and Matthew McConnaughey. De Niro for depth and Keanu and Matthew for the fun and joy of watching that sometimes actors who take themselves too seriously can lose.

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Barn Wedding?

Simply put Barn Wedding was the best artistic endeavor of my life. Working with the actors to create the characters – then the writer, then the cinematographers, then all of the editing and sounds mixing etc.— it challenged me daily and made my motor rev in every gear to the redline. Just the way I like it.

 

TCS: How did you prepare for your role as a villain in the 2015 movie Kept Woman?

Preparing for Kept Woman involved a lot of research into my own favorite film villains and then giving myself daily permission to be bad — both as a human and as an actor. I had to embrace a lot of darkness and then let it out because Simon doesn’t actually disagree with his own actions. So first I had to dig into the perversity of the actions and then I had to have fun executing them. It took its toll.

 

TCS: How did your participation in Louis Nowra’s film K-19: The Widowmaker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, influence your acting career?

The influences of that film are still being felt 13 years later. I don’t even know what I learned because I was on set for 3 months but not in a ton of scenes. So I got to watch and absorb. Certain pennies only drop years later and some haven’t yet, I’m sure. The biggest thing I learned, that I’m aware of, is that it’s ok to be both technical and in the moment. Harrison and Liam are masters of this.

TCS: Tell us about playing Dr. Steven Lars Webber, perhaps your best known role, on General Hospital.

That was a sheer delight. The cast and network of that show are so talented and engaged – far more than I was expecting. My run was only a year but I learned and gained so much more than I could ever describe. Huge shout outs to Jill, Maurice, Rick, Corbin, and Nancy.

TCS: Tell us about how exciting it was playing Bob Taylor in the French film Populaire?

It was exciting beyond measure. Paris 4 months Premiere on the Champs Elysee, working with Roman, Berenice, Regis, and Deborah and Laurent and Guillaume etc. etc. etc. — it was perfection from day 1. It is a beautiful film in a beautiful country made by beautiful people.

 

TCS: Describe for us your experience working on documentaries such as Flight of the Butterflies and Casting By.

Flight of the Butterflies was a bit like Populaire (except for my Montezuma’s Revenge day 1!!!!) The people involved and motorcycling through the Mexican countryside with Stephanie Sigman (the next Bond girl) on the back and ultimately shooting a scene with half a billion butterflies — forget it. Perfection.

Casting By was as eye opening as a project has been as I was the photographer for the first half and therefore was a fly on the wall and got to hear some of the world’s greatest talents talk about the casting process. Just invaluable.

 

TCS: Share with us some background concerning your iTunes podcast?

I always woke my lady up by ranting about politics or traffic or excitement about my week and I thought I should give her a break and share the ramblin! It’s been a huge success with thousands of listeners in 50 countries.

Listen to the Shaun Benson, Chatting Between Takes podcast now.

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in show business?

My best moment happened recently when the first film I directed sold out to standing room only and won 2 awards – but most importantly I felt like my 8 year old self watching it. And my worst was when drugs and alcohol killed my career for about 5 years. I’m in my own 2nd life in this career and I’m as grateful as a man could be.

 

TCS: Backtracking to your time at the University of Western Ontario to now working as a professional actor, is there a specific role that you’ve either played or portrayed that you would you say is your favorite and why?

My favorite would have to be the character of Lewis in a play called Waiting for Lewis. I was so naive and inexperienced but got guided by Fabrizio Filippo and Joanna McIntyre to do what I still believe is some of my best work and it also let me know this was a career I could excel at.

TCS: Is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

COMEDY! COMEDY! COMEDY!

TCS: Can you share with us your interests and hobbies outside of acting and directing?

Karate, car racing, cycling, motorcycling, hangin at the mall with my lady, playing in my band Emmy Rouge, chillin’ out, and binge watching TV shows.

 

TCS: Where did your interest in music come from and how did you land writing for the LA based band Analog Smith?

My house was always full of music. We had a piano, banjos, guitars, and a violin — so I just mucked around. Truly the summer camp I went to was where it all coalesced into writing and performing. The band was started like most — a few dudes who liked how each other carried it. The writing followed pretty naturally from that.

 

TCS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

I’m currently shooting a number of episodes for Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience and just shot a cameo for a film called Back Country that should be out next year. Other than that Emmy Rouge will head to LA to record next month and my producing partners and I will begin our next film that I’ll direct.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

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.