Tommy DeCarlo is the lead singer of Boston – but he still considers himself just one of the fans.
It was only five years ago that the Florida resident and self-taught pianist was posting MP3's of Boston covers on MySpace while working a full-time job at Home Depot.
When the band's lead singer Brad Delp took his own life in 2007, DeCarlo was deeply moved and wrote an original tribute song to him. A friend on MySpace suggested he contact Tom Scholz, the guitarist and songwriter behind Boston's famous sound.
He sent Scholz some of his covers – and through the magic of social networking, DeCarlo became the lead singer of his favorite band.
"I always thought years ago – and I certainly don't mean this in a bragging sense – but I always thought that if Tom ever heard me sing his music, he wouldn't be disappointed," said DeCarlo. "I didn't think I'd ever get a job out of it, but I thought he'd be proud. I'm very thankful for the opportunity that Tom gave me."
He's been touring with the group for four years.
"I wasn't a part of the early success of the band, so I don't reap any of the benefits – residuals from records or anything. So when the band isn't touring I have to find means to support myself," he said.
But he certainly doesn't have to go back to the orange apron of Home Depot. "Fortunately with this opportunity Tom gave me, a lot of those opportunities come through music. So I haven't had to go back and punch a clock and work a 40-hour week. That's been a true blessing."
And speaking as a fan, he's pretty excited for the band's Aug. 3 show at the BMO Harris Pavilion. He promises lots of throwbacks and the classic Boston hits that the crowd wants to hear.
"I've been asked in a lot of interviews what my favorite Boston song is," he said. "I've come to the realization that my favorite Boston song is the entire 2012 setlist. We're going to be playing quite a bit from the debut album, 'Third Stage,' 'Walk On' – there's just a whole bunch of the greatest hits."
The band's North American tour features a few new faces but the same classic sound. Drummer Curly Smith, who played with the group during the '90s, has returned for this stint, as well as bass player Tracy Ferrie of the band Stryper. David Victor will be sharing lead vocals with DeCarlo.
"We’re really excited with the lineup this year," said DeCarlo.
Vocalist Michael Sweet left the band last August; bassist Kimberley Dahme and drummer Jeff Neal are not participating in the tour, which is expected to last through early September.
"There's been talk of possibly having a show or two at the tail end," said DeCarlo. "We would certainly love that."
Scholz has been working on a new album for several years, and DeCarlo (who has contributed vocals to the album) says he's as excited as anyone to hear what Boston will do next.
"Unfortunately I don't have a time frame on that (the new album)," he said. "The last entry that Tom man on the band's website was that it was approximately 85 percent complete."
But he promises it will be worth the wait.
"Tom's quite a perfectionist when it comes to his sound and his music and it's not always something that gets done in a timely fashion – but when it gets done, it's fantastic. I'm with all the fans – I'm excited to hear it myself. Let's keep our fingers crossed."
DeCarlo estimates that after the current tour Scholz will be able to focus more intensely on completing the album. But for now, he says, everyone's enjoying life on the road.
"There's so much more (to the tour) than what the fans see," he said. "I'm fortunate to have seen it from the other side. There's so much work that goes into it and so many awesome people. The amount of appreciation we all have for the crew members and how hard they work – those are amazing people. Without them we couldn't do our job."
DeCarlo's wife of 25 years and his two children often make it out to see him perform.
"They're pretty excited," he said. "Speaking honestly, I didn't really have a career – I worked at Home Depot and a few places before that – so for them to see Dad do something cool is just great."
But the best part about his new job? "To see the fans having a great time listening to the music that not only they love but we love."
Because even though he's up there with the microphone, DeCarlo is still Boston's No. 1 fan.
"The Boston shows I went to in the mid-'90s – I had nosebleed seats. I was out in the middle of nowhere," he said. "So I always make a conscious effort when I'm onstage to make some kind of contact with people who are way out there. I remember being out there."
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.