Sam Llanas talks March Madness, new play

Sam Llanas, formerly of the BoDeans, is currently working on his second solo album as well as a play. Photo courtesy of Jessica Perreault

Sam Llanas, formerly of the BoDeans, has returned to the music scene as a solo artist venturing into new territories.

Since departing from the BoDeans, Llanas released an album at the very end of 2011 titled "4 A.M. (The Way Home)." More recently, he has penned a slate of new songs, heading back to the recording studio to put together his next, currently untitled record.

"4 A.M." is a collection of acoustic guitar-based songs which Llanas said "deals with a lot of themes of the night."

"I started writing the songs for '4 A.M.' before leaving the BoDeans, and I think the songs on the new record are even more accessible. And, for me, the next one feels like it is my real first solo record."

For Llanas, currently there's a certain buzz that may also be stoking creative fires.

"I love March Madness and, to me, it's one of the greatest things ever in sports," Llanas said.

Llanas, who is from of Waukesha, Wis., said that despite his proximity to both NCAA tournament participants Marquette and the University of Wisconsin, he's not a fan of any one team in particular.

"What I like is seeing a game that's anybody's game when it goes down to the wire," he said.

Llanas also elaborated on the passion behind the madness.

"For a lot of these kids out on the court, it's the last hurrah. Most of them aren't going to the pros, but it still shows that this is something they've worked their whole lives for," Llanas said. "Even for the ones who do go on to the pro game, they're not playing for money. They play for their love of the game and the chance to [leave] their mark, putting their heart into it.

"Sports to me is very much like music, in that it has the power to bring strangers together. People who support the same team -- when their team is doing well -- are high-fiving each other. Just the same, when people are at a concert and dig the music, hopefully by the end they are singing together, sharing something."

Llanas has certainly had experience with such moments. The BoDeans received critical acclaim in the 1990s, gaining hordes of fans as a result of their frequent live shows and smash tunes, such as "Good Things" and "Fadeway". And while "Closer to Free" stands as a signature favorite among the BoDeans early converts and dedicated devotees, it didn't hurt that the song later became the opening theme song to the television hit show "Party Of Five," gaining the band a bigger and more national audience.

Yet, Llanas's twenty-some years in music has given the artist a lot of perspective, and he said that the process of making new music is as fresh as the early days.

"Songs don't come in the mail. You have to put in the time. But my creative process hasn't changed that much over the years," Llanas said. "Sometimes I'll lock myself in with my guitars with some phrases I've written down and the melody comes."

However, Llanas points out that for him there's no routine, and that inspiration often just creeps in.

"It takes a while, but on a good day -- a great day -- you get a song. It could be that you looked out the window and just the color of the sky sparks something," he said.

In addition to the songs for the next album, Llanas has been busy at work penning music for an on-stage theatrical performance in Boulder, Colo. called "A Day for Grace."

Llanas teamed up with playwright Doug Vincent, who has written the off-Broadway piece as a story of memoirs and spoken word. Not only has Llanas written the songs for the play, but also accompanies Vincent's soliloquies live on stage.

"The play is more of a one-man monologue, and it comes out of an organization in Boulder called Story Healers. Doug and the group work with people who have gone through traumatic life experience -- such as loss of someone to suicide, alcoholism, and so on -- and the encourage people to speak in their own voice, and write a story about it and share on stage."

Llanas said he felt that there was a natural fit for his emotive songwriting style and the project, which is also scheduled to visit Denver, Chicago and New York City.

Llanas has launched, with the help of Daystorm Music, his own fundraising effort called "Send Sammy to Broadway," with a video due out April 5, hoping to take the show to even more locations.

"A Day for Grace" has a slew of Colorado football alumni, players and staff backing it, including Washington Redskins offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus, Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby and former Buffs head coach Gary Barnett, among others. Former Bronco Matt Lepsis has also been a big supporter.

"The stories deal with tragedy," Llanas said, "but also it brings out the humor and humanity of people in their experience."