Rock & roll at heart

Local musician Pat Foran talks weekly New Hope showcase, childhood influences and new music

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

The big time: Local musician Pat Foran is working on his second album while continuing to host the Pat Foran Showcase at Havana New Hope. Source: Pat Foran

Don’t get Pat Foran wrong. He has opinions about politics and religion just like the rest of us. But the last thing he wants is for those beliefs to seep into his songs. Instead, he aims to inspire through his music.

“The listener should go out and be who they want to be,” he said. “Whatever their passion is.”

Light-hearted tracks such as “Let Me Know” and “All That It Can Be” can be heard on Foran’s debut EP Foran Policy, which was released in 2013. An enjoyable blend of rock, pop and relaxed singer-songwriter style, Foran Policy helped put this Lambertville, New Jersey, native on the map in the local music scene.

Today, in addition to penning his sophomore release, Foran is helping fellow artists introduce their original music to the public through the Pat Foran Showcase, an acoustic series that takes place each Wednesday evening at Havana New Hope, 105 S. Main St.

In the midst of what’s arguably the biggest year of his career, which recently included an appearance at Bethlehem’s Musikfest, The Times caught up with Foran to learn about his vast array of musical influences, his mission to spotlight original songs rather than covers, and what’s on his jam-packed agenda for the remainder of 2018.

When Foran was only 8 years old, he pretty much had his life figured out. A memory that remains at the forefront of his mind is when a friend asked what he’d like to be when he grew up. Without hesitation, he blurted out “songwriter.” Reflecting on that response, Foran explained how it surprised himself — no one in his family was remotely close to being involved in the entertainment industry.

“I was really into music but I didn’t know any musicians,” he said.

Much of Foran’s passion for music came from the pop culture influences of being a kid in the ’60s. Though his older brother and sister favored the more simplistic songs of the ’50s, Foran was mesmerized by the strikingly different music of The Beatles and other bands of the British Invasion. It gave him and his peers the ability to have an individualized taste separate from their parents, a chance to embody an edgier vibe (and longer hair) to go against “the establishment.”

“The one thing that united us was music,” he said. “Youth culture changed our world back then.”

Foran also immersed himself in the genre of hard rock through legends like Led Zeppelin, as well as alternative/grunge. To this day, he’ll never forget driving around as a kid with his sister listening to her all-new FM radio. The first song to blast through the car speakers was “Light My Fire” by The Doors.

“It was like it reached down into my chest and grabbed me,” Foran said of the song.

Throughout his adolescence, Foran held tight to that dream of becoming a songwriter and musician. He knew he was destined for the spotlight. The following years saw Foran become a master improvisation guitarist as he began to find his sound on his own. Eventually, he went on to expand his knowledge and hone his professional craft at Berklee College of Music, where he studied jazz and contemporary music theory. Time was also spent at Trenton State College, where he learned all he could about classical guitar and voice.

At the latter, a professor helped Foran stretch his vocal range, showing him how to effortlessly transition from low, bluesy tones to high, powerful pop notes. Though Foran admitted he became something of a “jazz snob” during college, he stayed true to his early rock roots. While learning classical theory, he was also practicing Van Halen riffs.

After graduating from Trenton State College, Foran began traveling throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York performing cover sets. Fate was on Foran’s side while in the Big Apple, where he stumbled across award-winning studio musician, singer and teacher Ann Ruckert, who continues to serve as a mentor. Ruckert provided the bright-eyed Foran with numerous pieces of advice, but one in particular struck a chord with him — get yourself a weekly gig.

Though Foran took a nearly 15-year hiatus from the music industry to focus on raising his children, he never forgot those words Ruckert bestowed upon him so long ago. After enjoying early success of Foran Policy in 2013, his first release after reentering the music scene, local venues began to take notice. That same year, Havana New Hope approached Foran about establishing a weekly showcase series that would feature him and other regional artists. He was immediately on board.

Since then, the series has evolved into the Pat Foran Showcase, an acoustic show that features a handful of singers each week playing original music, not covers.

“There’s not a lot of original music venues anymore,” Foran said.

The showcase is a “volume-limited show,” according to Foran, which means friends can hear each other speak in the relaxed, intimate setting. In the span of a few hours, they’re able to get a taste of multiple artists, an experience he said is perfect for any concert-goers who get bored easily. Foran opens and closes each show in addition to serving as the host. For him, it’s an honor to provide a platform for up-and-coming artists who may not have enough original music to fill multiple hours.

As he continues to grow the showcase, Foran is working on a follow-up to Foran Policy alongside Los Angeles-based A&R consultant Rob Figarola, whose roster includes Grammy-winning artists such as Imagine Dragons and Macklemore. Figarola is helping Foran find a happy medium between the type of artist he wants to be and the type of artist a record company seeks. For example, the singles Foran plans to drop later this year will be a radio-friendly three minutes in length as opposed to his usual five-minute tracks.

Despite the shortened time span of the songs, Foran stressed his new music will still be relatable, with the lyrics talking about the everyday ups and downs of life. While he’ll remain true to the acoustic songwriting style fans have come to know him for, Foran is incorporating more electric guitar into his creations. As someone who grew up on Led Zeppelin and The Doors, he’ll always be “rock and roll at heart.”

For more on Foran, visit patforanmusic.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com