With his solo debut, former Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk says he's "Alive" again after suffering a "creative malaise" in the wake of the band's dissolution last year.
"I hit this point -- I guess you'd say an end of a chapter -- where I felt like I kind of did everything," Kowalczyk tells Billboard.com. "I wasn't interested in music. It was a really strange feeling, and needless to say it freaked me out a little bit. I really started to go inward and say, 'Hey, what is this about?' "
Kowalczyk says that starting to do solo acoustic shows two years ago rekindled his interest, and in short order he "started to write music like it was going out of style. The spigot went back on, and I've been really riding that ever since. It's like starting a new chapter."
Kowalczyk recorded "Alive," which came out July 6, in Austin with producer CJ Eriksson. The 11-song set follows a similar dynamic path to his work in Live, but Kowalczyk hopes the group's fans hear -- and embrace -- some differences, particularly in the dance-style rhythm of "The Great Beyond" and the blues/gospel tone of "Zion."
"I've stayed true to the core," Kowalczyk says, "but there's definitely moments where I've pushed it beyond where I've been. I'm conscious of that fanbase and how special it is, but I also feel a kind of mission, if you will, to push it. There's definitely finding a balance between the two, and I think I found a sweet spot on this record."
Kowalczyk wrote eight of "Alive's" tracks himself and teamed with Gregg Wattenberg on a pair. For the track "Drink (Everlasting Love)," Kowalczyk worked with "American Idol" finalist (and avowed Live fan) Chris Daughtry, who became a friend after the two performed together on the 2006 "Idol" finale.
Kowalczyk, in fact, had "kind of wrapped up" the song until he joined Daughtry on stage in Ventura, Calif., then invited him back to his house for dinner. "We started playing each other our ideas," Kowalczyk recalls, "and I played a little of that song and he was like, 'Try this here, try this there...' It turned into this impromptu collaboration that I don't think either of us expected, but it was really fun."
Kowalczyk is playing sporadic live dates -- including an appearance at Lollapalooza's Kidzapalooza stage on Aug. 6 in Chicago -- before heading to Europe for a series of shows that includes the Rottepop Festival in the Netherlands, where "Alive" debuted at No. 4 on the national album chart. He's starting line up North American dates, meanwhile, for October. "I feel like I'm at the tip of the iceberg here," he says, which means a Live reunion probably isn't in the cards any time soon.
"From my perspective it's never really been a split; it's more of an outgrowth, a moving beyond, a kind of expansion for me as an artist rather than that definitive moment where we said, 'No more,' " Kowalczyk says. "I wouldn't close doors, but being an artist I get tunnel vision about what I'm doing presently, and it's this solo career that I'm really excited about now."