"We have seven family guys in a band who want to make their time out here a little better than just spent sitting around waiting for a show."
Prior to O.A.R.'s performance Thursday evening (June 27) at the Capitol Theatre in Flint, Michigan, the band is headed to the local United Way to hand out clean water to residents who continue to struggle with the adverse effects of lead pipes contaminating their water supply.
United Way has set up "help centers" throughout the city to supply water to residents who are still wary of tap water nearly five years after the city’s contamination crisis began.
Every member of the seven-piece band will volunteer at the Flint help center prior to the show, which will close out the first leg of their 2019 The Mighty tour, giving the group the opportunity to meet with the community they are playing for.
“When opportunities arise like this and you’re in a city like Flint trying to bring entertainment and fun downtown, you should probably spend your time giving back to a place that at times has had the light shone on it and at times not,” O.A.R. lead singer Marc Roberge tells Billboard. “We’ve got seven guys in the band and we like to give back a bit during the day, have a great time at night and personally leave this tour on a positive note.”
The band has been on The Mighty O.A.R. tour with American Authors since June 5, but the “days of service” are nothing new for the band that formed in 1996 in Maryland.
“We go to different cities every single day and we’ve always tried to be part of the community,” says Roberge. “Every one of us is aware that we lucked out. We get to live this childhood dream. We started out in eight grade and never thought in a million years that we’d be doing this.”
For years, the band has been volunteering their time in the cities they visit including playing acoustic sets at Habitat For Humanity builds, visiting fans who can’t make their shows due to illness and donating up to $1 per ticket sold to their charitable organization Heard the World.
“We go on tour, the money comes from the tickets, goes into a fund, and then through that fund we donate to different health youth and educational programs throughout the country. Everything from the Children's Scholarship Fund in New York City and the list goes on,” says Roberge.
Heard the World has donated more than $1 million since its inception in 2006 and has benefited students in need of scholarships, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and helped revitalize schools within the group’s home district.
“The reason we are talking about this now and we haven’t really talked about it before is because of the times. Things are fucked up, excuse my language, but why not be inspired and why not use your time a little more wisely,” says Roberge, who adds that the band was inspired by celebrity chef and philanthropist Jose Andres.
“The world is a negative place right now. We need to spread positivity,” Roberge continues. “Every one of these major distractions takes away from the attention that we need on places like Flint. All we want to do is shine a light on the folks who are actually doing this every single day or every weekend. It is all about the folks in the community who are working much harder than any of us.”
O.A.R. will hit the road again in support of their 10th studio album, The Mighty, on July 30 at Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park in Indianapolis. The band intends to continue finding unique ways to lend a hand to the cities they visit along the way.
“If you boil it down community to community, there are always opportunities,” says Roberge. “It doesn’t have to be anything major. It is just opening up your arms a little bit.”