Written by: Frank Iacono
Have you ever wished you could experience the masterful voice of Ann Wilson, the craftsmanship of guitarist Nancy Wilson, and the rest of the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group hailing from Seattle, Washington known as Heart? If so, then Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart, based in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and South New Jersey area, featuring long-time friends Sandy Hall and Susan Salmon is a must-see experience for you!
Kick It Out is a tribute band that was born out of a sincere respect, admiration, and love of Heart and their incredible and timeless music. As fans, all the members of Kick It Out have followed the Wilson sister’s careers since the early 1970’s. As musicians, the band feels passionately about performing Heart’s music with authenticity and integrity.
Kick It Out, a collection of seasoned musicians and performers experienced in both national and international music communities, is committed to providing all the power and adrenaline of a Heart concert while always staying true to the soul and magic of their unforgettable songs. For those eager “to keep the love alive”, it’s an experience guaranteed to leave audiences thrilled, emotionally engaged, and moved.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Hall, Susan Salmon, and Joe DeLuca from Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their career as a tribute band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.
The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart lineup and share with us how you decided on the band name?
Kick It Out: We were throwing around some Heart song titles as names and many of them had already been taken by other Heart tribute bands all over the country, so our guitarist Billy Salmon thought that Kick It Out would be a good band name. The song “Kick It Out” appears on the Little Queen album.
The Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart lineup features:
- Sandy Hall — Lead Vocals
- Susan Salmon — Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, and Background Vocals
- Billy Salmon — Electric Guitar
- Mark Evans — Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Background Vocals
- Joe DeLuca — Keyboards and Background Vocals
- Ritchie DeCarlo — Drums and Background Vocals
TCS: So how long has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart been playing together and how did you get started?
KIO: We were out performing during the Summer of 2009. I started talking to our original bass player Chris Hall and Jeff Gordon (former KIO drummer) who I have known since my teenage years and Susan Salmon (KIO guitarist) that I knew from Archbishop Ryan High School believe it or not about forming this band at the end of 2008. I believe we started talking about it after I saw Heart perform at the Susquehanna Center in Camden NJ with Journey and Cheap Trick. I thought…you know…I would LOVE to do a tribute to Heart and I know exactly who would be the perfect “Nancy”….Susan Salmon! Wow! I can’t believe it has been THAT long! I have always been and still am a BIG Heart fan. Moved and inspired by their music ever since I heard the album Dream Boat Annie. Ann and Nancy Wilson were a big inspiration and reason why I started singing professionally. It was the love of and connection to their music really. The music is challenging and vocally like a master vocal class. It takes a lot of stamina, power, and control to sing those songs for up to 2 hours.
TCS: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as musicians?
Sandy Hall: I was in grade school, like maybe 3rd grade and I fell in love with music. I remember singing Karen Carpenter songs, The Beatles, Elton John, The Who, Jefferson Starship, and of course HEART. I would say that Ann and Nancy Wilson, Pat Benatar, David Bowie, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Pretenders, and Stevie Nicks all of them inspired me to purse music as a career.
Susan Salmon: I became interested in music at the age of 3. My mother was a piano teacher and she inspired me to pursue a musical career.
Joe DeLuca: For me, my love of music began when I was 10. I remember listening to my sister and brother’s 45’s of The Beatles, 3 Dog Night, The Doors, Motown, and etc.
TCS: Sandy did you think early on that you sounded like Ann Wilson or was it something that you discovered over time?
SH: Early on I actually felt and identified with Karen Carpenter’s tone and vocals in the alto/lower vocal register. Then when I started to really wail and rock out songs like Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, and Bette Midler’s version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” from the movie The Rose…well then I really started to appreciate the female rock vocal and of course I started singing Heart songs like “Magic Man” and “Crazy On You” and I really did identify and connect to the upper range and power vocals of Ann Wilson. If you listen to those songs….you almost hear that lower warmer tone in the lower range and then the build up and jump to the full voice wailing. It was a combination of the Karen Carpenter tone and then some Robert Plant wailing in the upper range. It was challenging, yet very moving on a deep, deep low in the gut level kind of soul connection vocally. There is something really freeing when you sing in a strong full voice in that higher vocal register. Certainly there is an adrenaline high there. I like a challenge so naturally I felt that singing Ann Wilson’s songs would help me become a better vocalist.
TCS: Why do you guys think tribute bands have become so prominent in the past ten years or so? And, has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart ever been criticized for being a tribute band?
KIO: Well, some artists like Queen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin are just not touring anymore or very infrequently and there is a desire in people to hear the music live in a nostalgic way and more frequently. You know recreate the feeling of that music that you fell in love with as a kid in a more intimate way….in a small venue instead of a large stadium in the nose bleed seats where you are looking at the artist over a big projected screen. Personally, I think people want to hear the music that they love live and in person and feel the connection to the music during a live performance. Tribute artists like Kick It Out channel the original artists during a performance in a smaller more accessible intimate level at a venue where they feel more connected to the artists and also at a more affordable cost as concert tickets are through the roof.
As for being criticized as a tribute band. No, Kick It Out has not been criticized for being a Heart tribute band. Although I know there is a school of thought out there that musicians should only perform their own music. My answer to that is that classical musicians in a way are playing covers and not their own original music and the very, very best are playing a piece as close to the original written music as humanly possible. So in a way that is what tribute artists do also. Ha!! And, I have to say that people do have a very high expectation of you when you put it out there that you are paying a tribute to what many consider the greatest female vocalist of this generation. That’s a lot of pressure actually. You can feel them checking you out and ready to put you down. I do my best to do a respectful tribute. Not an imitation. Of course, you want to recreate the experience for people so you do what you can to channel the original artists. A tribute is by definition an act of gratitude, affection, respect, and honor.
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 Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart sculpt its sound and its stage performance?
KIO: I think it comes very naturally for us. We all connect to the music and love it so playing it was easy even though the songs are challenging. When you love something you do your best to play it well. The stage performance is a combination of who we are and our own individual personalities with the understanding and intention of “channeling” the energy of Heart. You want to channel that energy and essence so that the audience can “feel” the songs as if they were at a Heart concert. But I do really feel that we all are infusing our own individual presence on stage in our performances. Again….it’s not an “imitation or impression” of Heart and their music …it’s a “tribute”….our tribute.
TCS: What do you guys feel is the hardest aspect of re-creating a Heart show?
KIO: For me it’s the stamina and power needed sing up to 2 hours during each show. It takes a lot of vocal control and lung power. I also feel that we would all agree that it is frustrating if you don’t have a good sound tech who knows the songs and they don’t turn up the guitars when they need to be up front and also for me it is essential to have good in ear monitor balance and mix as I depend on that to sing in pitch and not blow out my voice. If all that is in place…it’s a blast and not hard at all.
TCS: What do you feel sets Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart apart from other Heart tribute bands?
KIO: There is an aspect to my voice that has a similar timber and tone on these songs and power and energy on the high notes. Of course there is a visual resemblance that Susan and I have to Ann and Nancy. Additionally, Susan can actually play Nancy’s parts on both the guitar and mandolin whereas many Heart tribute bands don’t have that . She is a top notch musician. The band is made up of seasoned professional multi-talented musicians with excellent stage presence and high energy. Billy has that early Roger Fisher vibe going on too and is an excellent player and performer. Same goes for the other members, Mark Evans is a top notch pro all the way around, Ritchie DeCarlo, and Joe DeLuca also…pros with great attitudes.
TCS: Have you played with any other Heart tribute bands and if so what type of reaction have you received?
KIO: No. We have not.
TCS: How many gigs does Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart play annually and what and where are the venues in which you’ve performed?
KIO: We are a specialty act so we don’t play every week. On average we play about 10 to 12 good gigs a year. We don’t want to over saturate the area and Heart also is actively touring every year. We want to give people the music when they miss a Heart show or when they are not touring. All of us are also all involved in other music projects and we try and balance all of that out. We have played as far south at Virginia and north up to Boston and in between. We love outdoor music festivals, amphitheaters, casinos, and theaters like Delmarva Bike Week, Penny Pack Park, Sellersville theater, Scottish Rite Theater, Showcase Live in MA, Delaware Park Casino, Hollywood Casino, Wildwood Crest Concerts. In 2015, we played at the Burlington Amphitheater and La Costa in Sea Isle, New Jersey.
TCS: What are the most requested Heart songs at your shows?
KIO: The most requested Heart songs during our shows are:
- ”Crazy On You”
- ”What About Love”
- ”Magic Man”
TCS: Has Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart ever performed internationally? And, if you could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would that be and why?
KIO: No we have not performed internationally. We would though for the right situation and venue. There is a great festival in Akron, Ohio called Lock 3 that would be awesome, perhaps a cruise like Monsters of Rock (MOR) which our bass player who is also a front man/writer, Mark Evans just played MOR with his original band Heaven’s Edge. We love big stages, big crowds…anywhere where there are people who love Heart music and where the stage and sound are professionals. Why? Well it is an unbelievable high to play to a huge crowd….the energy is infectious and we would get to travel and see the world.
TCS: Of the songs that Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart plays from Heart’s extensive library which are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from Heart that you guys really love that is not included in the set currently? If yes, then why.
KIO: We love “Crazy On You” and “Rockin’ Heaven Down”. The song “Alone” is also great and very moving and powerful too. I don’t think that we picked up songs that we didn’t like. Then again, we love them all. Ha! I would love to do “Mistral Wind”. Very powerful, magical song we just have not had a chance to add it to the set yet. The great thing about this band is that we play these great songs that we love.
TCS: Individually, what’s your favorite Heart song of all time?
SH: For me it is “Crazy On You” from Dreamboat Annie.
SS: It is really hard to choose a favorite. It switches all the time. Right now, the song, “How Deep It Goes” from Dreamboat Annie plays in my head. Before it was “Sylvan Song” and “Dream of the Archer” both from Little Queen. I like the more obscure songs that show a lot of Heart.
JD: I really like Heart’s “Who Will You Run To” from Bad Animals
TCS: As a collective group, the band, what has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as performers?
KIO: The toughest challenge is always with sound and mix. The outdoor shows can be challenging in that way as wind and weather can really affect how it all turns out. We try and go with the flow and do the best show we possibly can no matter the obstacles.
TCS: How do you market Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart songs, merchandise, and appearances?
KIO: To stay connected with our fans, we market our songs, merchandise, and appearances on:
TCS: Has anyone in Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart met any of the members of Heart? And, how thrilled was the band when Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013?
KIO: We were thrilled of course! It’s about time they were recognized for their contribution to music as musicians and women! I (Sandy Hall) have met Ann and Nancy 3 times now. The first time was back in the 80’s when they came to Philadelphia on tour. I got to go back stage and meet them and hang for a while talking with Howard Leese. That was a really cool experience and a real spontaneous hang. I was so star stuck and shy and didn’t say very much to Ann and Nancy except “you are so great”. The last two times were recently during their organized VIP Meet and Greet thing before the show. During one of those two sessions both Susan and I met them together. They were nice.
TCS: Besides Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart, if you could play a set with any artist alive or dead who would you choose and why?
SH: I would love to play/sing with Ann Wilson, Robert Plant, and John Lennon all were inspirational to me.
SS: Probably Jeff Beck. I love the feel of his playing.
JD: I would love to play to play a set with Tom Petty, Leon Russel, Joe Cocker, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden.
TCS: What’s the short and long-term future look like for Kick It Out A Tribute To Heart?
KIO: We just want to keep doing what we are doing which is having fun playing songs that we love with great band mates who are also family and friends. We would love to do more of the larger spring/summer venues where the people go crazy for the music!
TCS: What advice do you have for new tribute bands trying to get established?
KIO: Do it because you love and connect to the music. The money is secondary and won’t always be there. Get a good agent or person in the band that books you in the right venues. Don’t over saturate your audience locally. Be very selective about what venues you play.
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.