Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono
Have you ever wanted to experience a live performance featuring legendary Billy Joel, the masterful musician, singer-songwriter and composer from New York City? If so, then the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band, based in the Manhattan, NY, Philadelphia, PA and New Jersey area, featuring Karl Dietel is a must-see experience for you!
We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute is a band that was born out of a sincere respect, admiration, and love of Billy Joel and his incredible and timeless music. As fans, they started off playing a few shows in which they played The Stranger album from start to finish. As musicians, the band feels passionately about performing Billy Joel’s music with authenticity and integrity.
We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute, a collection of seasoned musicians and performers experienced in both national and international music communities, is committed to providing all the showmanship, power and adrenaline of a true Billy Joel concert while always staying true to the music of his unforgettable songs.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Karl Dietel from the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band and we asked him a few questions about his musical influences, his career in a tribute band, their set list as well as their past and upcoming performances.
The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?
Karl Dietel: I started piano lessons when I was 6 years old. My grandmother’s piano was in our living room, and Dad decided to start my older brother and I on lessons because we were banging on it too much. I took lessons until I was 16, when I learned ear training in a high school AP Music Theory class.
TCS: Did you think early on that you sounded like Billy Joel or was it something that you discovered over time?
KD: Hmmm. As a singer, it did take some time. In fact, when we started, we just played 9 songs off The Stranger for fun, so I sang everything in my own voice. It wasn’t until the band started getting some recognition that we decided to try to sound a little more like the records. As a piano player, I had been playing his songs for so long, particularly in my restaurant piano gigs, that it wasn’t much of a stretch to play an entire set of his music in his style.
TCS: Can you introduce us to the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute lineup?
KD: Perry Andrews plays tenor, alto and soprano sax, plus flute and piccolo, with a side of rhythm guitar and percussion. He brings a jazz sensibility to our show and always plays exactly what the song needs at any given moment. We worked in the same high school for a number of years, I remember we huddled around the concert piano during one lunch block and worked out our arrangement for “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” Derek Davodowich plays a tasty, complimentary guitar and has the perfect feel for this music. He did some touring out of Nashville after he graduated college, and I met him through a mutual friend back when I played keyboards for Sean Kelly and The Samples. Luke Kessel is a road dog of a bass player, he’s played in Europe and China and also toured the U.S. with a few blues musicians. Andy Janowiak was our original drummer who left to do some recording with the late Bernie Worrell in his home studio, but has now been able to rejoin the tribute. It’s a tight band with many years of experience and camaraderie!
TCS: So how long has We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute been playing together and how did you get started?
KD: We started off playing a few shows in which we played The Stranger album from start to finish. That had been a pet project of mine, just to say we did it. We kept getting asked back, I think we played it three different afternoons at our local home base, it was really going over, when some other venues asked us to play an entire night at their places. After we accepted the new dates, we realized we had to learn two more sets of Billy Joel’s music!
TCS: Why do you think tribute bands have become so prominent within the last couple of decades?
KD: I’m not sure, to be honest with you. People have been trying to figure this out. I could go into a long speech about the decline of popular music, particularly in terms of live performance, but I’ll just say that I think the music to which tribute is being paid reminds people of simpler, better or even more innocent times of their lives. So, they gravitate towards that. Also, certain albums and sounds and genres are becoming the new classical music, in that specific bodies of work by artists are being presented in full much like classical-era symphonies and operas have been presented in full for centuries. It will be interesting to see how long the tribute scene continues!
TCS: What do you feel sets We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute apart from other Billy Joel tribute bands?
KD: One of our strengths lies in the fact that we’ve had the same lineup since the beginning. Although we rotated two drummers off and on, we have the same four people out front every show. It’s comforting to the fans to see Perry on one side and Luke on the other. Having the same people play night after night really adds to the musical dynamic, particularly as we stretch out and explore a few of these endings of certain songs to shake things up a bit. We have that luxury because we know how each other plays and reacts to musical situations. And, that adds to the fun of the overall show.
TCS: What’s the hardest aspect of re-creating a Billy Joel live show?
KD: If we’re doing it right, it’s all fairly exhausting! Remembering all the lyrics is a challenge in and of itself, not to mention the chord progressions. As musicians, we always push each other on stage, we don’t cut corners or play it too safe. I’m drained at the end of a good night. Of course, that’s the way it should be.
TCS: Have you ever met Billy Joel? If yes, please explain to us where you met and how did that encounter go?
KD: I have never met him, no. I’m only two or three degrees away, in some circles, but I’ve never pushed the issue. I wonder what I’d say.
TCS: What are the most requested Billy Joel songs at your shows?
KD: A woman yelled at me once for not playing “Piano Man.” Shook her finger at me and raised her voice! Truth is, we were outside and ran up against an unexpected curfew, so we ran out of time. She wasn’t happy about it. “Vienna” is one request that surprises me, usually coming from younger fans. Different people gravitate towards different songs. “Goodnight Saigon,” for example.
TCS: Of the songs that We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute plays from Bill Joel’s extensive library which are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from him you or the band loves that is not included in the set? If yes, then why.
KD: I enjoy watching the crowd sing along. Sometimes, they play air drums, it’s a nice connection. As a musician, I enjoy playing the songs that give the band members a chance to stretch out. Perry can play his piccolo on “Rosalinda’s Eyes” and he plays a great flute line on “Get it Right the First Time.” Luke’s walking bass line on “Zanzibar” is always amazing. I’ve been know to leave Derek hanging because I have such a good time listening to his guitar playing! He wanders over to the keyboard, never missing a note of his solo, and gives me the nod that says, ‘Anytime you want to end the song, go ahead…’ and it’s all good, fun, in-the-moment playing. I also like hearing the 3-part harmonies in “My Life” and “Don’t Ask Me Why.” We have a 5-part harmony arrangement for “All About Soul.” That’s fun for us. “Prelude / Angry Young Man” is both my most favorite and least favorite song to play 🙂 “Root Beer Rag” is always a throw down, we love to take that one out when the time is right.
TCS: How many gigs does the We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute band play annually and what and where are among your favorite venues?
KD: We’ve been playing quite a bit these days, eight or ten shows a month, but that will slow down slightly during the colder months. We didn’t play much last year, for obvious reasons. Summer is always the busiest time, and we’ve picked up a few private parties recently, and two weddings, I believe, for 2022. As far as venues go, we can turn any room into a party. We originally cut our teeth in Pattenburg House in Asbury, NJ out in Hunterdon County, so that’s significant to our history. Recently, we’ve had some great shows at Brook Arts Center in Bound Brook, NJ and then Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA is something we look forward to every year.
TCS: What is the most interesting We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute road story?
KD: Well… there was a night when the band was setting up at two different venues…
TCS: What advice do you have for new tribute bands trying to get established?
KD: Good question. We sort of backed up into this, based on playing The Stranger album. What I always tell any bands is that they should take it seriously, but not too seriously. And that your overall sound, whatever it may be, benefits from having a strong musical foundation. Practice. Get your metronome out. Keep at it. And, don’t lose faith.
TCS: What’s the future look like for We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute?
KD: I don’t like to look too far into things, but we’ll have to pick a steady booking agent soon. We’re reaching a larger audience now, and that is allowing us to play in larger venues.
To stay connected, please join us on the following:
- We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Website
- We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Facebook
- We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute Instagram
- We May Be Right: Billy Joel Tribute YouTube
About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono
Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.
Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.
Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…
Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.