Yes has certainly had its ups and downs in recent times. The pioneering progressive-rock band, which has had its share of personnel changes over the years, stirred controversy in 2008 when it replaced founding vocalist Jon Anderson (who spoke with Tell’s predecessor magazine, E-Gear, in 2011) with Benoit David, a singer from a Canadian Yes tribute band. Yes carried on, successfully touring with David at the mic—and recording a studio album, Fly From Here, in 2011—until the singer fell ill in 2012 and left the band.
2013, which marks the 45th anniversary of the group’s formation in 1968, finds Yes with yet another lead vocalist, Jon Davison, best known for his work with contemporary prog-rockers Glass Hammer. He joins longtime members Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums), along with keyboardist Geoff Downes—who was in Yes from 1980 to 1981 and rejoined in 2011—in the current lineup.
While some loyalists maintain that Yes without Anderson isn’t truly Yes, Davison has received great acclaim for his authentic, impassioned delivery of the group’s classics onstage. And the recharged band has big plans for its 45th year, kicking off with a U.S. tour that will find it playing two of its most beloved albums, “The Yes Album” (1971) and “Close to the Edge” (1972)—as well as 1977 classic LP “Going for the One” on some dates. There are also plans to record a new Yes album—with full creative participation from Davison—this year.
Entertainmenttell.com recently conducted an exclusive interview with Davison, who discusses his music background, his role in the band, and his vision for its future.
Entertainmenttell.com: Jon, tell us about your background before joining Yes.
Davison: As a boy I sang in the choir led by my mother. At the age of 14, I finally persuaded my parents to let me take guitar lessons. Later I picked up bass guitar and played in various bands throughout high school. In the early ‘90s I moved to Seattle, Washington, to study, and after joined a big Northwest group called Sky Cries Mary. Within the course of about six years, we toured a lot and recorded several albums, one of which was on Warner Bros. We finally disbanded in 2000. A year later I moved to Brazil with my wife, Maewe, and son, Aleph, where I got to play bass guitar in a band. I definitely learned a great deal composing and performing with South American musicians. Eventually we returned to the States and it was not long after that I hooked up with Roundabout.
Entertainmenttell.com: How did you become the new lead singer of Yes? I understand Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters was involved?
Davison: Well, first a little about Taylor and me. We’ve known each other since the secondgrade and grew up being friends. Though we learned our instruments together and always played in the same bands growing up, we later drifted apart musically. We’ve continually stayed in close contact though and have always been interested in what the other was doing artistically. He’s known Chris Squire for several years and at one point had made Chris aware of my singing. When the time came, Chris had given Taylor a call asking for my number. It was Yes’ manager, Paul Silveira, that first gave me a call however, informing me that the band had heard my original music with Glass Hammer and was interested in working with me.
Entertainmenttell.com: I believe you sang in a Yes tribute band. Now you’re in the band you were paying tribute to. You’re not the first to follow this path—Tim Owens went from a Judas Priest tribute band to the actual band, and your predecessor Benoit David, also came from a Yes tribute. How did singing in a tribute band prepare you for the big gig?
Davison: It definitely served as the long, hard boot camp training that I needed to gain the proper experience. Before Roundabout, I had only sung little as a background vocalist.
Entertainmenttell.com: I’d imagine singing the Yes repertoire is a very demanding job. How do you maintain your vocal and physical strength to be able to deliver the goods onstage night after night?
Davison: I’ve been meditating for years and on tour, my meditation routine is definitely an important role in helping me to acquire a clear perspective of the situation. I follow a strict diet and vocal warm-up routine daily. Plus, having Maewe with me on the road enables me to maintain as much of a balanced life as possible.
Entertainmenttell.com: Yes is playing “The Yes Album” and “Close to the Edge” (along with, on some shows, “Going for the One”) on its current tour. How do you respond to the criticism that only two of the current members (Squire and Howe) were on the original albums (with White also on GFTO).
Davison: Though it’s important to acknowledge the artists of the music during such an event, it’s most important, in my opinion, to acknowledge the music itself, which transcends the personalities behind it.
Entertainmenttell.com: Any possibility that Yes would play “Drama” start to finish, as the current lineup includes four out of the five members of the lineup on the album?
Davison: “Drama” did come up as a potential candidate. We’re confident that this event will go off well, which will hopefully encourage us to do further album tours in the future. I hope that all the classic albums eventually find their way to the stage.
Entertainmenttell.com: You’ve also sung with Glass Hammer. Do you plan to continue working with them as well as Yes?
Davison: Yes, I definitely do.
Entertainmenttell.com: Any plans for a Jon Davison solo album down the road?
Davison: I have no desire at this point in time to do any type of solo work. I’ve always preferred collaborative efforts. Between Yes and Glass Hammer, I find that there is more than enough creative opportunity.
Entertainmenttell.com: Will Yes be recording a new studio album in the near future? If so, will you be involved in the songwriting process?
Davison: There will certainly be a new Yes album. Chris and I have already looked at some promising ideas. Currently the main focus seems to be each member solidifying any personal ideas that will then be brought to the collective table in the near future.
Entertainmenttell.com: Yes has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a travesty in my opinion. Do you envision the band receiving this unjustly delayed honor?
Davison: I too have wished this honor for Yes. They’ve certainly earned it. Will it happen? Despite all the success Yes has achieved throughout the years, Progressive Rock has yet to be accepted as a legitimate genre to the majority. If that day comes, no doubt Yes will be acknowledged as one of the most prominent and successful pioneers of the movement.
Entertainmenttell.com: What’s been the best part of becoming the singer for Yes?
Davison: To be able to share inspiring and uplifting music that has always registered with my heart, even from an early age. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know Chris, Steve, Alan, Geoff, the manager Paul, and the entire road crew.
Entertainmenttell.com: What is your vision for the future of Yes?
Davison: At present, my attention is on making the Classic Album Tour as amazing as possible and working hard on helping create an incredible new Yes album.
For further information on Yes and the 2013 Classic Album Tour, go to yesworld.comBuy Yes Fly From Here CD on Amazon