Playing guitar in a rock ’n’ roll band may seem like living the dream.
But for Derry Grehan, lead guitarist and chief songwriter for iconic Canadian ‘80s band Honeymoon Suite, he and his bandmates had “to work their ass off” to earn a living in the music business.
“It’s not a lifestyle I would necessarily recommend to anyone. People think you are making tonnes of money and the limos and all that, but it’s a hard life sometimes,” Grehan said.
Yet as a musician and songwriter, Grehan says there is nothing else he would rather do.
“Are we living the dream? Of course I wish we might have gone further and been bigger but at the same time I appreciate all the success that I have had in the music business,” he said.
“I am a songwriter who has been able to make a living from what I love to do. How many people get to do that anymore? And the added benefit is that people still want to see us play live and our original band is back together again so I’m getting the best of both worlds.”
Honeymoon Suite will be the closing act on Sunday for the second annual Rock The Lake classic rock festival this weekend at the Prospera Place parking lot.
Grehan is familiar with the Okanagan, the band having played numerous times in Kelowna over the years as well as headlining the Peach Festival in Penticton.
The group performed in Thunder Bay on Thursday, Ottawa on Friday and hope to be in Kelowna to catch some of Rock The Lake.
“It’s a beautiful place to come play and performing in an outside venue is something we really look forward to. We do a lot of outside concerts and it always sounds a bit different from playing at an indoor venue.”
The initial success of Honeymoon Suite was largely derived from the band’s first hit song, “New Girl Now,” which Grehan says he wrote in his kitchen while he was going to college, long before the band started.
“It took me about a half hour to write it and I just forgot about it in the years that followed. Then I played it for (lead singer Johnny Dee) one day and he said we should record that,” Grehan recalled.
The group won a song contest in Toronto performing the song, which earned them a record deal and it became there first of a string of hits during the ‘80s.
“I guess that song will always be special. It has the hook and riff to it that as a songwriter you are always looking for,” he said.
Grehan says Honeymoon Suite has reached a touring comfort zone, still in high demand based on the group’s catalogue of past hits, but he continues to write new music.
“It’s the family business,” he said. “My daughter is 16 and she wants to be a singer and songwriter so I have been working with her. Having gone through all that, I can help her avoid some of the pitfalls that go along with starting out.”
Grehan was born and raised in Niagara Falls, but lives today in Illinois.
“My wife is American and from there and we have two teenage kids. My family is used to the lifestyle I have now. I’m gone most weekends,” Grehan said.
“They are used to Daddy leaving on Wednesday or Thursday to go to work and coming back home Sunday or Monday. And they know it is hammer time during the summer as you do what you have to do to make a living.”
Grehan said Honeymoon Suite will carry on until the fun fades or it doesn’t make sense to keep performing anymore.
“If there are conflicts in the band or we are not representing ourselves well anymore, then it will be time to shut it down. I think we’ll all know when that time comes,” he said.
For Grehan, writing songs is something he will continue to pursue, his idea being to eventually move to Nashville, the current music haven for songwriters.
“My daughter and I have been down there a few times already. I love writing and co-writing songs for other people to perform and my daughter is starting to come into her own as well as a songwriter,” he said.