“I don’t want no ordinary feeling/ I don’t like no particular style/ Tattoos or high heel shoes/ I just ain’t got no time for you/ I am not your ordinary guy”—from “Ordinary Guy” by Mike DelGuidice
It’s been three years since Mike DelGuidice, the frontman for Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot, became a member of the Piano man’s band. A job that started out as a stand-in for his idol at rehearsals in 2013 led to DelGuidice’s permanent position as acoustic guitarist and backing vocalist in Billy Joel’s touring band.
The North Shore native has relished playing his dream gig at Madison Square Garden each month for the last few years as part of Joel’s residency, which continues on Friday, Oct. 28. But he also continues to play with Big Shot, the buzzed about cover band that returns to The Paramount the following night, Saturday, Oct. 29.
The multi-instrumentalist also kept writing his own music throughout this surreal experience. “Ordinary Guy,” a song from his 2011 album My Street, is now the theme song for the new CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait, featuring fellow Long Islander Kevin James.
“It’s never easy to put yourself out there as an original artist and bare your soul to the world,” revealed DelGuidice. “I can only be honest in my lyrics. I learned how to write like that from Billy. That’s what sets him apart from everyone else—it’s his story from start to finish, down to earth truthfulness and at times self-effacing brutality. That’s how I want to be as a songwriter.”
DelGuidice discussed Billy Joel, Big Shot and hearing his song on TV for the first time.
How did your song “Ordinary Guy” become the theme song for the new TV show Kevin Can Wait?
I met Kevin (James) at one of the first Madison Square Garden shows and found him to be a really friendly Long Island dude. When I was in London with Billy, I got a text from Kevin saying they were in the hunt for a theme song for the show so I immediately thought of “Ordinary Guy,” because I wrote it with a sitcom in mind. I never quite thought of it as a single, or a hit, but more of a fun song that would work on a soundtrack. I sent him the video and, within a half hour, he wrote back saying he loved the song. I was beyond excited to say the least!
What’s the meaning behind the song, and what was it like to hear it when the TV show premiered last month?
I’m basically telling the world not all musicians are about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Most of us are really family men who play music because we love it. Because I don’t have the desire to be a hound when it comes to girls, I am not your ordinary guy…The bridge of the song was written with somebody in mind that I was talking to, but I’ll never tell who it is. Hush, hush.
Hearing one of my originals on TV for the first time was an awakening of sorts. I was definitely overtaken with emotion and I thanked God immediately for an answered prayer. After all the years of singing everyone’s music from Billy and Zeppelin to Rush and Chicago, I thought to myself, “I’m now Mike DelGuidice, and not just a cover singer.” And that felt undeniably satisfying.
Do you feel more comfortable touring with Joel now?
I had already done a lot of work with Billy’s band over the years when they played in Big Shot, so playing with those particular musicians was quite comfortable. And Billy is so welcoming; it’s like a family situation. It was definitely awkward in the beginning, just being on that side of the big stage in front of all those people was very surreal and also something I had to learn to embrace and get used to. Billy is an amazing communicator even when he’s not talking. Watching him on stage as he sings and does his show, I’m often amazed at how much energy he puts forth. And, with one look in his eyes at any point, there’s no need to say any words. I just know what he’s thinking and I’m sure everyone else in the band, who have been there way longer than me, feel the same way. You don’t get as far in music as he has without being a great communicator and someone that knows how to manage situations. There’s not too many times in this life where you can meet your mentor or your idol without them letting you down. This was not one of those situations. Billy has far exceeded what I would’ve thought.
You’ve had bigger crowds with Big Shot since joining Billy Joel’s band. What’s it like when Billy shows up to the gigs?
There is definitely a great buzz about Big Shot since all this happened. Nothing could spark that more than Billy showing up at the Paramount (in June). It was a magical night. The crowd was insane, with an energy in the room that was unrivaled by any other cover gig I’ve done. There’s nothing like having that most honorable endorsement. A lot of people have asked if I was going to stop playing with Big Shot. And I laugh at them and say; “There’s no way in hell I’ll ever stop playing Billy’s music, either with him or without him!” Big Shot is a labor of love that took years to cultivate and I would never want to end that. I love the endless fans that have supported me over the years.
Any interesting tour stories?
One particular night I was graciously invited to fly home with Billy on his private jet. We experienced some bad turbulence when we were trying to land at an airport in New York and, at the last second, the plane took back off again and aborted landing. There were a few gasps! We went back up and tried to swing around again. Once again, the plane is shaking violently. The pilots both had one hand on the dashboard as if they were praying while flying the plane with their other hands. We dipped and then tilted. To the left of us was a big cemetery. So Billy, in his typical sarcastic and humorous fashion, said out loud, “Well, we won’t have to go very far!” He definitely brought a sense of levity to the situation. We landed safely and later learned that the landing gear had not come down. Fire trucks were everywhere…I was reminded of the movie Almost Famous. But as scared as I was, as I hate to fly, there was something calming and surreal about being on the plane with him.
What can we expect at your MSG and Paramount shows? Any costumes?
For The Garden, I know that Billy always tries to add new stuff when he can. As far as costumes, I don’t think he’ll come out dressed in drag or anything, ha ha. But, who knows? The Paramount show on the 29th should be interesting. We haven’t been there in a few months so I know the energy will be great. We’re going to try a couple of deeper album cuts along with all the big hits. I’ll tell my boys that they can wear whatever they want. So you may see some costumes. We love playing at The Paramount—and it has a special place in my heart because that’s where Billy hired me.