Do you look back fondly on that period of your life?
Of course! It was the Summer of Love, 1967-1968. I was in a hit rock & roll band. It was amazing. Of course, Dunhill Records bent us over the sink, along with the Mamas and the Papas and Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf and everybody else. But you can't be bitter about that because it hurts you. So I just let it go. I let it go.
Do you play guitar on "Midnight Confessions?"
No, none of us are playing on "Midnight Confessions." I played on "Let's Live for Today" and all of the Feelings album. "Midnight Confessions" is a great song, though. It's kind of like prog rock, in a way. It's got weird chords. People don't understand how weird those chords are. We were a folk-rock band, but we went in a Motown-y direction there and somehow it worked fine. We were a pop factory, let's face it.
Is there one moment that stands out in your head as the high point from your time in the Grass Roots?
Probably the first time driving down Sunset Boulevard, not long after I got my first Porsche. I turned on the radio and I heard "Let's Live for Today" on four different stations. That was pretty amazing. I had to pull over. My heart starting beating so fast. It was pretty darn amazing.
The other was walking onstage at Oxnard when the song "Feelings" was on the charts, in the top 10. That was a song we had all played on, and the audience was singing along with it. As an artist, I felt fulfilled.
Let's move on to your new album Tell Me About It. What made you want to tell your life in a three-act concept record?
I've been doing my live show for years where I do original material. In between the songs, I talk about how the songs came about and my travels through Europe and whatnot. I was thinking about doing an off-Broadway show that incorporated that stuff. And I was writing songs with a bunch of people, and my producer Dave Way said to me, "You know, this sounds like an audio biography. You're telling the story of your life, the ups and the downs." I realized he was right. We broke it down into three acts.
It'll be available as a download and on vinyl if people want.
Walk me through some of the parts of the album.
It starts out when I got my first guitar and the elation that I felt. Then all of a sudden this stardom hits in my mid-20s, and then the downward spiral with the drugs and the alcohol and the unemployment lines and the crazy acid trips. There's comedy in between, too. I have a comedy bit with P.F. Sloan. Rainn Wilson comes on at the end and does a bit with me about the Emmy Awards. It's pretty funny.
Do you ever think about what might have happened to your life if you hadn't landed on The Office?
I try not to. [Laughs] Well, I worked as a caterer into my 50s, and my back was hurting because I had to bend over to get things. I'd been doing stand-in work, getting bits on Bernie Mac. I was getting some lines on that show. So conceivably, something would have happened. I believe I would have found a niche somewhere in the acting world. But who knows? That's a possibility that had The Office not happened, nothing would have happened.
Now that The Office is done, are you hoping to land on a new sitcom? Are you open to that?
I am, but I am not ready to jump . . . Everyone else seems to be jumping right into projects. If it's right for me and feels right, I will do it. But I'm not . . . I'd like to just kind of be able to play some music and just do a couple of independent films, and then get back into it again. But if it's a part that I know I can knock out of the park and make people laugh, of course I'll do it.
It's going to be hard to top The Office.
That's a scary thing, to let people down. To do a standard sitcom would be a mistake . . . I probably wouldn't want to be so far down the line in the cast, maybe the third or fourth banana, but nothing like the lead guy. Let the young guys do the heavy lifting.
I heard rumors a couple years ago about The Office staying on the air after the main cast left and carrying on with new lead characters, but keeping you and Oscar and Kevin and many of the others.
They didn't do that because . . . I guess the talk is that some of the actors wanted to get out and not do it anymore, but they said they'd do one last year if it was the last year of the show. That kind of prevented some of us from continuing on. That's OK, though. I thought we should have left when Steve Carell left, myself. I thought the show had hit . . . that was as good as it got for me.
Do you still think it was a mistake to carry on after he left?
No, not after this last season. We've done some really good stuff. It just took us a while to get our legs back.
How do you think the fans will react to the finale?
They're gonna love it. They're gonna cry. They're gonna laugh. We're gonna tie a big, syrupy, mushy bow around the whole thing and tie it all up. It's gonna be great.
And TBS and other channels always show the reruns, so it's really going to live forever.
Yeah, it'll live forever. And we're all in a really good position because of that. That's another reason I don't think people should rush into anything.
I take it that means you get points on the reruns.
We get residuals from SAG. We make a good amount of change from that.
I guess it's not like the old days, where Gilligan didn't get a dime for the millions of reruns.
They didn't pay them anything! Even Lucy never got anything like that. But we get money from SAG every time it's played, and it really adds up. It's only on the second season in Ireland and England. It's just starting up. So when I'm 80, I figure I can go over and capitalize on that.
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