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Blues Traveler Singer Plans Solo Tour Following Heart Treatment
by Gil Kaufman
Wall of Sound, National
Jul 31st, 1999

Harmonica virtuoso John Popper says he's feeling up to getting back onstage to support his project, Zygote.

Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports:

Two months after undergoing a medical procedure to clear a blocked artery a potentially life-threatening condition Blues Traveler frontman John Popper will kick off a tour in support of his upcoming solo debut, Zygote (Sept. 7).

"I'm feeling healthier," Popper, 32, said Wednesday, resting at his Pennsylvania home.

The singer and harmonica player, whose weight had climbed to 400 pounds before his health scare, said he's spent the past month resting, dieting and preparing to work out with a trainer to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle.

The two-month, 28-date tour will kick off Sept. 1 with a show at the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach, Del., and wind up Oct. 30 at the Showbox theater in Seattle, Wash.

Although many of the dark, introspective lyrics on such Zygote songs as the R&B-leaning first single, "Miserable Bastard", and the '50s-like rock ballad "Once You Wake Up" appear to deal with mortality, Popper said they are mostly about a failed relationship.

"I'd say the doom and gloom stuff was written around 1996, or 1997," Popper said. "I fell in love with somebody and there was no way it would work. She didn't feel the same way and it forced me to look at my life."

Zygote was recorded earlier this year in Hoboken, N.J., with the help of Dave Matthews drummer Carter Beauford and a high-school friend of Popper's, Crugie Riccio, who provides many of the off-kilter time signatures of such songs as "Tip the Domino" and the brooding ballad "Lunatic."

Also joining Popper - who blows his trademark acrobatic harmonica on only half the tracks on the album - is blues prodigy Jonny Lang. Lang co-wrote the fragile acoustic ballad "How About Now."

Prior to the heart scare, the John Popper band was slated to make their live debut on July 16 in Chicago.

"I was really psyched to confront some physical exertion," said Popper, who has been under doctor's orders to get rest since the surgery.

"The good news is that I didn't actually have a heart attack, so the heart wasn't damaged at all, I can get it all back, but you still feel really scared every time you're taking a flight of stairs and breathing hard. My wind was for sh--, now I'm getting my wind back. I would play harmonica and need to take a nap for six hours."