LYNN — Brian Maes is one busy musician. The lifelong Lynn resident hosts an open mic with his band every Tuesday night at Breakaway in Danvers. He has regular solo piano/vocal gigs at the Hawthorne Hotel and Ledger, both in Salem, at Rolly’s Tavern in Lynn, and Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut. His band plays regularly at area clubs and he has a busy teaching schedule.
Apparently, that’s not enough. The Berklee College of Music grad is back writing songs with Barry Goudreau, the Lynn native/Swampscott resident best known as lead guitarist for the band Boston, for the second Engine Room album. Maes has also formed a Who cover band and is cobbling together a book, “Brushes With Greatness,” about his encounters with rock ‘n’ roll royalty during his time playing keyboards on the road with Peter Wolf, Lynnfield’s Robert Ellis Orrall, Orion the Hunter (with Goudreau), RTZ (with Goudreau and Brad Delp) and Ernie and the Automatics. U2, the Kinks, Aerosmith and Deep Purple are among the outfits for whom his bands have opened.
“I like to stay busy,” said Maes, relaxing in his Lynn music studio. “I’m gigging a lot, and I love it.”
Maes said recording and touring behind the first Engine Room album in 2017 was “a tremendously fun experience. For about a year and a half we did a bunch of dates in New England, including a hometown show at Lynn Auditorium. We have lots of new material, Barry, Tim Archibald and I are writing, then we’ll rehearse, record and play live. Can’t wait.” A late-summer release is the target, he said.
Fronting The Who cover band is “a lifetime in the making,” said Maes. “Something happened when I heard The Who, the sincerity in (Roger) Daltrey’s voice, the songs about rebellion and angst. We’d play Who songs at house parties and school dances. All these years later, I’ve wanted to go out and play Who songs.” He’s named the band 5:15, after a song on the rock opera “Quadrophenia,” and Breakaway will host the outfit’s live debut on March 29.
He recruited cohorts Tony DiPietro and Archibald from Goudreau’s Engine Room to be the rhythm section. “There was no other drummer like Keith Moon. If you’re a drummer you just get to go crazy playing Who songs, and Tony is looking forward to doing that. The same with bassist John Entwistle; he was a powerhouse and Tim’s ready to dive right in.” Dave Fischer, from Brian’s wife MaryBeth Maes’ band, will handle lead guitar duties, and 20-year-old Joe Winslow will play flute and baritone horn.
“Joe’s dad Dave and I grew up together in the neighborhood. Dave and I went to see Tull together, and lots of other shows together. Dave passed away a few years ago. He was a flute virtuoso, played on my first few records, and young Joe, who’s going to UMass Lowell and wants to be a music teacher, is a virtuoso, too.”
Maes said he’d like to perform with The Who band about four times a year, when it wouldn’t interfere with the Engine Room, the priority.
He’s also enthusiastic about “Brushes With Greatness,” his book project. “I worked at E. U. Wurlitzer Music in Boston when I was at Berklee. There was no other place for musicians to get their stuff. I worked the counter and in the keyboard room. I got to interact with all the big local bands, Aerosmith, the Cars, even Bob Seger would stop in when he was in town. I started jotting stuff down about what happened on the road since the 1980s, when Robert Ellis Orrall hired me to play keyboards, and we were five guys with all our gear in a van motoring through Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many, many notables and having meaningful one-on-one conversations with them. I met Bono when we opened six shows for U2 just as they were starting to hit; ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ was just out. We opened for the Kinks. We were in Wales, and I met Robert Plant.”
The Automatics opened for B.B. King; Maes and he had a lengthy conversation.
I ask for more stories about his brushes with greatness. “You’ll have to wait till the book comes out. I don’t want to tell you all the good stuff,” Maes said, then laughed.
“I will tell you one story. I was in Peter Wolf’s Houseparty 5 band, and we were hired to play the opening of the House of Blues in Hollywood. Richard Gere and Dan Aykroyd owned it, and they were big Geils fans. I went back to my hotel room to relax. Peter called my room. ‘Brian, you gotta get over here now.’ I said I was tired, and I wanted to save my energy for the show. ‘No excuses. Get over here now.’ So, I reluctantly went. I walked in and saw lots and lots of famous people. Faye Dunaway. Aykroyd and Gere. James Brown was on stage. Next thing I knew, Peter Wolf was pointing and laughing. I looked to my right: Bruce Springsteen. I looked to my left: John Fogerty. Two of my favorites. … and they both praised my keyboard playing. It was wild.”