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Larry King Live
John Tesh Discusses His Faith and MusicAired April 11, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's a lightning rod for critics, but a huge star in the world of new age music: John Tesh is the guest for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Great pleasure to welcome John Tesh to LARRY KING LIVE tonight. He'll be our guest for the full hour.
And a new CD called "Pure Movies II," all variations on movie themes. That's due in April from Garden Cities. That's one of his three labels. He's become an entity unto himself.
John Tesh, we begin by I guess congratulating you -- this is weird -- on keeping your name.
Want to explain this?
JOHN TESH, MUSICIAN: Yes, we've had this Web site called "tesh.com" for about five years, and we started making plans to expand it and do this whole family Web site with all of these different categories, which I'll explain later. But when we searched for Johntesh.com, somebody put that in, it went to a thing called Celeb Sites, which is a celebrity Web site thing with a whole bunch of celebrity's names in there, and we couldn't find them. So we had to file suit in federal court to not only find this company that took the name, but to ask for the name back. I guess it's called "cybersquatting."
KING: So who do you sue?
TESH: We sued Celeb Sites, and said, you know, give...
KING: Who has the site?
TESH: Right, who has the name. So if you take the URL and you put in "johntesh.com," it goes to another site. So I have my name back. It's very exciting for us.
KING: By the way, haven't there been some suits in this area that have been lost?
KING: That said I have the right -- I can start a Clark Gable suit and his heirs can't sue me.
TESH: I am not sure about that, but I do know that Brad Pitt and Kenny Rogers have both gotten their names back in the last two or three months here. So there's a lot of talk about it. The cybersquatting thing is people who just sit at home and go on the Web site Network Solutions or some of the other ones where you file domain names, and they go, you know, "larrykinglive, larrykingtoday, larrykingstore," and then they just keep doing that, and then when you go to start another business, they go, well here, give us 50 grand, and you...
KING: Years ago when we did interviews with you on radio and television, we talked about your music, and we talked about "Entertainment Tonight." The word "Web site" never came up.
TESH: I know, nor did URL, yes.
KING: Now it's everywhere.
TESH: This is weird for me, because I am used to seeing you like this. You're my Stairmaster hour.
KING: Oh, I see. With Bob Dole I'm his treadmill hour.
TESH: Oh, is that right?
KING: So you feel like bouncing up and down?
TESH: Yes, it's the best way to learn -- watch LARRY KING and stay on the Stairmaster.
KING: What are you doing with the Web site? What's the purpose of the Tesh Web site?
TESH: It's mostly Tesh.com, pathetically named, is basically a music site. But what happens is we do about 60 concerts a year, and we stay really close to our fans, who are mostly women between the ages of 30 and 85 who drag their husbands to these ostensibly romantic concerts. And we found out, through bounceback cards and whatever, that what these people wanted, the next step, and that is we want information for our families. And so we said, OK, let's make this an intelligent family site. What we did was we thought, what's the most intelligent person we can think of to help us?
So about a year and a half ago, I started sucking up all MD monikers, so we have healing MD, parenting MD, family MD, you know, marriage MD, everything, mature MD.
KING: Tap in with questions?
TESH: Well, the idea is we -- and this is just getting started, but we interview the most intelligent people in the world on various subjects. Healing MD, for example, is an alternative medicine Web site, herbs and alternative therapies. So we would interview an MD, we'd interview a chiropractor or a massage therapist or a nutritionist. And if you asked about low back pain on the Web site, you would get not only a little radio program that would come up there hosted by "moi," or you would get these, you know, four or five people with information to give you intelligence on that particular area.
KING: Isn't that a stretch from John Tesh musician?
TESH: You know, it would be -- yes, it definitely is, but you and I have known each other for years. I started at CBS News in New York, and then you know, worked at NBC and all these local stations around, as an interviewer, and as sort of me going back to my roots. I will never stop playing piano and love touring and releasing records, but this is a chance for us to sort of stay in more contact with our fans and also do it in a way that I find enjoyable.
KING: And all you do is hit -- what? -- John Tesh...
TESH: Just "tesh.com," yes.
KING: Let's go back to the thing that you mentioned -- why would you give up a franchise like "Entertainment Tonight," which continues, right?
KING: You gave it up in its what year? You were its first host?
TESH: Like in its 12th year. I was not its first host, no. I was there for 10 years. The very first host I believe was Ron Hendren. Remember him?
KING: I remember him.
TESH: And the legend is -- this may not be true, but the legend is that they were the only act in town at that time, and now there's "Access," and "Extra" and all the rest of that. But he asked, apparently, for a helicopter to fly him in every day from wherever he was, and they bounced him. That's -- I am not sure if that's true.
KING: And you went to work with Mary Hart.
TESH: I did. I followed Robb Weller, who was after Ron Hendren, and I was there for 10 years.
KING: Why did you give up that franchise, is the only way to call it?
TESH: Yes. I had a blast doing that show, Larry, but I was -- I always considered myself a musician first. And when I had an opportunity after this big live PBS show called "Live at Red Rocks," when I had the opportunity to tour full time, and record full time and could actually support myself -- this actually came at the same time I had met Connie, my wife, it was just like this, this is what I want to do, and so it just seemed like a natural...
KING: The first time I interviewed you on radio years ago, you were doing that thing with "Tonight" and music.
KING: Go to the recording studio, go 3:00 in the morning, and they you'd go to "Entertainment Tonight" and go back to the recording -- right? So you did both?
TESH: You have a good memory. Yes, and it was ridiculous because I had no time for anything, and when we had my daughter 5 1/2 years ago, it was like, you know, forget it, there was just no time for anything. Plus I was touring on the weekends. You know, I'd come back Sunday night late, then get back to work on Monday.
KING: So no regrets over having giving that up? You don't have days where you see it and say, oh, I could still be doing that, it's nice money.
TESH: I miss sitting where you sit, you know. I miss doing the interview thing, I really do, because it's exciting, and it also is a way to learn. I mean, I am sure you learn a bunch of stuff that you wouldn't if you were...
KING: Every night.
KING: So I do miss that, but I like being in control of my own destiny.
TESH: You're doing it on Web sites -- would you like to do John Tesh interview specials kind of thing, where you get back into it, at least a touch...
TESH: Maybe, yes, I think so. I think that, you know, people like you do it well enough, and I am a big fan of people like Matt Lauer and those guys, you know, that -- it would be difficult for me probably to get back into it.
KING: Because you've got to miss it?
TESH: You've got to have the chops, though. You have to do it every single day. You see the people who think, OK, I am going to do a talk show now.
KING: John Tesh is our guest for the full hour. Lots to talk about.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: John Tesh is our guest.
There's lots of things to cover. A little blue card our producer put together -- I'll run down some of them, only because -- I guess it begins with what's difficult figuring out: Why are you controversial? Why do people get angry at the name? Some people get angry at John Tesh.
TESH: Yes, yes.
TESH: I don't know, but if you just search the Web site, you'll see "John Tesh Sucks," you'll see "I hate John Tesh," you'll see a bunch of things I can't even say on the air.
KING: Why do you think that has happened?
TESH: I don't know. It doesn't bother me as much as it bothers our fans, the people who will write in...
KING: Making fun of them in a sense?
TESH: Yes, probably.
KING: Do you think it's the new age thing.
TESH: It could be. It could be.
KING: But there are other new age artists who people don't kid like you?
TESH: Yes, it could also be the thing where when you switch jobs, maybe somebody doesn't want you to succeed. That could be possible as well.
KING: Do you think they're bitter that you did well?
TESH: That is -- that's possible, but what I like to do is just sort of go toward it. You know, when Jay Leno every other night, you know, makes fun, the next night, we'll do a skit together, where I make fun of him or I make fun of myself on the show.
KING: So you're easily -- you don't take it home with you?
TESH: I think the reason for that -- no. No, I think the reason for that is because I've been in the business long enough to know that I have done that to other people, sitting in the chair. So I think it's just part of what you sign on for. But you're right, it gets to be vicious.
KING: Do you know what made it, since you're not some -- I can understand someone controversial if you say racist things or you say things that upset people. Is it just the music? Is it just the fact that you're good-looking, and you married a very beautiful woman, and you seem so happy? Is that -- what's the crux of it? TESH: I think it could be disgusting romantic sometimes. I think that that turns people off. I think Dennis Miller said it best, when he said, you know: "John Tesh has the No. 1 new age record in the world right now. Isn't that one of the biblical signs of the end of the world?" Just like, you can't buy that kind of comment right now. I don't know what it is, but there's -- maybe people see me as being a goody two-shoes or something, I don't know.
KING: Do you see yourself that way?
TESH: Not really. I don't think my wife would paint me as that. She has the chance to see me, warts and all, but I do believe in family. I am a Christian. I do believe in trying to be a better person, you know. And I think that the whole new age, romantic thing that happened in "People" magazine, the way I proposed to my wife, all the rest of that stuff, it may be just choking people to death. Maybe that's what it is.
KING: In a perverse way, is it kind of helpful? By that, I mean is the criticism kind of helpful in that it sort of adds to making you -- spell the name right?
TESH: Yes, yes. I think it's important to galvanize. I think it's important not to be in the middle somewhere. So I would much rather be beat to death than be ignored, you know, because what it does, too, is it really -- a polarization -- it really galvanizes my fans. You know, if we didn't play in front of a 125,000 people a year or sell a million records year, it would -- I think I'd take it a little bit differently. But the fact that you've got those people coming night after night saying, you know, why is this happening? You know, we're defending our guy here. It's fine. It is a little weird to sit up late in bed and all of a sudden -- is you hear yourself. It's like a joke, you know.
KING: Do you think the Christian thing is a part of it? Because you don't call yourself born again, do you?
TESH: No. No. Yes, it probably is. I think when you're honest about anything, I -- you've taken a fair amount of criticism yourself.
KING: Well, let's take like Laura Schlessinger gets criticized because she's very Jewish, very orthodox even.
KING: Do you think that rubs people wrong? I mean, why -- the fact that you're a Christian and openly say it, that's not a bad thing to be. In fact, it's kind of nice.
TESH: I don't think so. I haven't quite figured it out yet. Maybe you have an opinion. I don't know. But it definitely is there. We've established that fact.
KING: I am really curious about it, because I like to look at things, just -- the ridicule I don't understand. I just...
TESH: Yes. "Ridicule" is probably a good word for it.
KING: For example, you've been called -- Howard Stern...
TESH: Oh, great, you're quoting Howard Stern. OK, let me get my blue cards out.
KING: Let me give you an example of chutzpah. Howard Stern goes to an awards ceremony expectantly. That's what -- but no, he called you a "white Frankenstein, a latter-day Liberace, a male Kathie Lee Gifford, the Lawrence Welk of the Dockers generation." Is...
TESH: Yes, I like that.
KING: Do they think you're square?
TESH: Yes, that's probably what it is.
KING: Do you think you're square?
TESH: I don't think the people at my -- at work, at my record company would describe me as square. But when I'm on stage and the audience there, it's definitely a family atmosphere, so yes, I think I would probably be described as square. By the way, it's "blond Frankenstein," not "white Frankenstein." You know them all right? The only reason I remember that is I was in the Macy's Parade, and it's sort of, you know, you're there and you're waving and all of this thing. And all of a sudden, you know, I've got a piano there and all of that, and all of a sudden, out of the crowd you hear, there's like a little choir, and you hear "Hey, blond Frankenstein!" That's a great moment in history for me.
KING: Also if you're criticized by Howard, though, you're on a list that's a mile long. Who does he like?
KING: Has anyone hurt you, where you've heard something that you can say, "That hurt"?
TESH: I'll tell you, the only thing that really makes me angry is reviewers who don't really come to the concerts, you know.
KING: They bring -- they come with an agenda?
TESH: Exactly. I mean, a lot of times newspapers will send reviewers that are like punk reviewers or stuff like that, not punks themselves, but they review punk music. And I think the people who have really gotten it, the reviewers, are the ones that have sat there and actually seen what the audience is doing.
KING: We're going to ask John in a minute to explain -- you've been seeing clips of what he does -- what he does and why what he does is so unique.
We'll be right back.
KING: Our guest is John Tesh. Always good to see him. Always good to have him with us.
How would you explain what you do? What is John Tesh music?
TESH: Hopefully, it's passionate music. That's the way it has been described. The way I like to describe it is the way the people who write us e-mails or whatever describe it. People have said it's useful music. You know, you'll have people say that they use it to conceive a child, for...
TESH: Romantic music.
KING: You say it's family, too. Now, is family contradictory to romantic?
TESH: Well, I think the meaning of family might imply safe. But there are a lot of couples out there, whether it's boomers or it's younger couples, who don't live in Los Angeles or New York, and who are really honest about not only about their faith, but they're also honest about their conviction as family people, and who really want to keep their families together. And they're not running off, you know, and leaving their spouses and all of that. So I think those are the kind of people who come to the concerts, and those are the kind of people who have an honest reaction to the music.
And I would say the kind of music I like to write, two parts: One is the real energetic, Olympic-style sports music, and the other is the, you know, more passionate, 60-piece strings-type music.
KING: But it's not Cole Porter.
TESH: No, no, no.
KING: It's not Sammy Khan. It's not Irving Berlin. It's not rock.
TESH: Yes, I see what your question is.
KING: Give it a class?
TESH: Yes, it's probably somewhere between neoclassical and pop. You know, my chops are and my training is basically classical and rock. And the groups I listen to, like Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Stravinsky, you know, those have all been inspirations for me, and Rachmaninoff.
But what I try to do is piano-base. I don't sing, thankfully. And I try to give sort of maybe an classical motif, an orchestral classic motif to melodic pop music.
KING: Are words ever put to it?
TESH: Yes. As a matter of fact, I have done some songs not only with Cindy Morgan, who's a Christian artist, but also with Point of Grace and a couple of songs with James Ingram, great R&B singer. So yes, I've done those collaborations.
KING: As a Christian, what do you think of music that is borderline pornographic, or that deals with the macabre and a lot of hard rock?
TESH: You know, I don't actually -- I am not one of those people who think you should put a warning label on the music. I really don't. I feel like you should spend more time with your kids and spend more time with your family talking about it and being prepared to deal with it, because as soon as you slap that warning sticker on there, all it is, is a lure. It's a thing where the local newscaster says, you know, what you're about to see, your kids...
KING: You don't watch.
TESH: Yes. So you grab the remote and turn it up as loud as you can, right? So yes, I don't go in that direction.
KING: Did -- is everything you play yours?
TESH: No, no, no.
KING: If I go to a John Tesh concert, is it only Tesh music?
TESH: Yes, at the concerts definitely. But I like to do project records. You mentioned one at the beginning of the show, movie...
KING: "Pure Movies II," which you wouldn't have written, right?
TESH: Absolutely. We -- there are obviously great melodies that I haven't written, and I am a big fan of movie soundtracks and movie themes.
KING: Like John Williams and -- absolutely, all those guys.
TESH: And also, you know, things like Phil Collins just wrote for the "Tarzan" movie, which is on this record.
KING: Do you put a Tesh touch to that, though?
KING: So that your fans would say "That's John playing."
TESH: I try to. I definitely try to. When you spend enough time -- I mean, if you played me a song -- three songs and one of them was a David Foster song, I would be able to tell you which one it was. I mean, I think it's important to have that.
KING: Then it is a label put on the music.
TESH: Absolutely. I think it's important to have that type of signature.
KING: In concert, though, it's only your music.
TESH: It is. And a lot of times our concerts are pretty crazy. People say -- mostly men will say, oh my gosh, this is not what I expected, because there will be Spanish dancers, flamenco dancers. They'll be, you know, Celtic whistlers. There's a 60-piece orchestra, you know. There's a crazy violin player, you know, all of this stuff. So...
KING: There's humor?
TESH: A little bit of humor, yes, stories, family stories, stories that people can relate to.
KING: Why does -- see, that surprises me. I thought it's just you and kind of smoke coming up.
TESH: Well, I am a Liberace fan.
KING: Are they out of the seats?
TESH: No, it's pretty -- I think you do what is exciting and interesting to you. And what I like to do on stage -- I mean, we bring up a Lollapalooza-like light show. I want to make you come to a concert.
KING: Because it's unfair to judge something without having seen it. Yes, and you say people are surprised. So you're saying a critic going in open to this is going to have a good time.
TESH: Right. We've definitely turned some crickets. I think the way we did that before was the PBS specials, "Live at Red Rocks," "Avalon," and then the current one, "One World."
KING: Get a chance to see you.
TESH: Yes. Yes.
KING: Do you like the stage? I mean, do you like performing as much as you do recording, as much as you did broadcasting? Do you like walking out on that stage?
TESH: I do now. I used to have unbelievable stage fright. I used to have stage fright so badly that I would lose the feeling in my left arm. I literally could not feel my left arm. I could barely play. And I went to a therapist for about a year, and this guy worked with string players mostly and orchestras, and worked out some little things that you can do. And then you get to the point where you get hooked on it. It becomes an obsession.
KING: Because as we know, a lot of broadcasters, you put them out in front of them -- they see people -- down.
TESH: Yes, exactly. Yes, it's a big difference. It's big difference.
KING: John Tesh is the guest. This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with John Tesh.
Now let's talk a little bit about sports music. They gave you a rough time at the Olympics, even though you wrote the NBA theme.
TESH: Right, yes.
KING: How did that come about?
TESH: The NBA theme?
KING: The NBA, and then we'll get to the Olympics.
TESH: Yes, I was in Europe covering a bike race, used to cover this Tour de France bike series, which is a great way to write music, because it forces you to write very energetic music, and I got a call from a friend of mine, saying, hey listen, NBC is looking for a new theme so they're taking submissions. So I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I don't have a keyboard with me. I woke up in the middle of the night in France and I got this idea, and I called my answering machine -- they actually had tape back -- and then and I go, you know, here's a message for me, here's an idea for the NBA theme -- then called back with like a half hour later with the orchestration.
Two weeks later, I get home and some madman has left this -- you know, from Europe. I think this is interesting. So actually I put this thing on top of my answering machine, on top of my piano, figured out what the chords were that I had played, put it down, got my band together, and then I went into the studio and had an orchestra play it.
KING: So on specks?
TESH: All on specks, yes. And then sent it in under "John Frank," which is my middle name, because I knew if I sent it in under "John Tesh," it would get the obvious reactions, which being, you know, Tesh is an announcer, he's not a musician, so how could he possibly have written this? And sure enough, I had my phone number on there, and I get a call from, I think it was Tommy Roy back then, who said, hey, I'm calling about this music, I'm looking for John Frank.
And I said, it's me, it's John Tesh, I wrote it. And he goes, well, we just selected it to be the NBA theme, and that was gosh, about 10 years ago.
KING: Now what about the Olympics? What did you do -- why did it cause people to...
TESH: Hate my guts again?
KING: Howard Rosenberg -- I gave Howard 10 seconds...
TESH: Oh, Howard Rosenberg.
KING: Called him "hammy." Kornheiser, The Washington Post, described "overwrought, simpering dope."
TESH: "Simpering dope" is good.
KING: For doing what?
TESH: For doing this: There she is, Svetlana Boguinskaia. You know the story. Tatiana Gutsu, Levini Milosevic (ph), Wan Wadong (ph) and Li Xiauxong (ph) have all gone before her. There she is, 3-feet high, 3-inches wide, ready to make history. That's what I did.
KING: Not bad.
TESH: They hated me.
No, I love drama. I love the drama of the Olympic games. I did the same thing in Barcelona. There was a microscope right over the Atlanta games, and I had the guys at NBC in my ear going: This is fantastic stuff, keep it up, keep doing it.
And that's the way I pretty much do everything. I love the drama. I love the passion everything. And I got hammered, you know.
KING: Why do you think?
TESH: It was probably too dramatic. I didn't know what they were doing in swimming. I didn't know what they were doing in diving, and track and field...
KING: So you were starkly different than Costas...
KING: ... and the rest?
TESH: In fact, Costas -- Costas went on I think it was "The Tonight Show" and just ripped me to shreds. And I wanted to just pound him. You know, I said, well, hey, I thought we were working for the same -- the same network here.
Yes, he wasn't happy about it either, but who really cares.
Anyway, I had a good time doing the Olympic games, and they asked me to do Sydney again. I couldn't do it because I'm touring.
But Ebersol was like, you know, hey, this is fantastic.
KING: So you want to work with Costas again?
TESH: Yes, really. Then I would have a chance to pound him.
KING: Have you ever written Olympic music?
TESH: Yes, I have. In fact, they used -- for the last three Olympics, NBC has used my music. I love that sort of...
KING: Is there a secret -- there are those who are very good at this -- to writing sports themes? Remember "Here's to the Winners," Gerald Pozner (ph)...
TESH: Yes, yes. Gerald's amazing. I think there is. I think there is. I think it's about knowing...
TESH: Well, I think it's about knowing...
KING: Got to know sports?
TESH: Yes, you have to be there. You have to have been there. When you see, you know, Bill Johnson going 65 miles an hour on one ski and you're standing right there and he goes right by you and you're announcing it and you have that feeling, you know what it feels like when you're standing, you know, up by Alp Duwez (ph) and 140 cyclists are coming by you, you know, at about 12 miles an hour and Greg LeMond is at the front with a yellow jersey on and these French folks have hiked for four hours just to scratch their names on the -- you know, on the highway where these cyclists go by, you know. And there's like this eerie fog hanging there over by the Pyrenees as well -- you find something to write about.
KING: Our guest is John Tesh. When we come back, we're going to ask him about two things: finding music. He mentions in the middle of the night and sleep, and getting up and discovering a basketball theme, and finding faith.
(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)
KING: We're back with John Tesh. Let's talk first about finding music. Is that explainable? You're sleeping, you wake up, you find a theme for basketball. Is that explainable?
TESH: I think it's just like having an idea. If you -- if you...
KING: You don't know where it comes from? TESH: You don't know where it comes from, no. I think it's really important to carry a tape recorder with you at all times, you know, because it can happen at any time and you lose so many of them when you don't have it.
You know, people like -- I mentioned David Foster before, you know. David Foster is one of my, you know, my other friends. I have a friend, Charlie Bishrat (ph) who's like this too, violinist. And they can just write right down, like that, because they have perfect pitch. For me, I need to sing it into a tape recorder.
KING: But does -- Erol Garner (ph), the late Erol Garner, told me that he was humming "Misty" in a car with a friend. And the friend said, that's pretty, and he said, yes, I heard it somewhere. And the friend said, I never heard it.
So it came into his head from somewhere...
KING: And it was so familiar to him, but he had written it there, right there.
TESH: I can be...
KING: Does that happen to you?
TESH: I can remember being in writing sessions, especially with James Ingram (ph), where we'll be sitting there and we'll write something together, and it just clicks. And the next thing you do is, is that something? And you call three of your friends who are publishers, and you play it over the phone and you go, is this something? Because you think you've all of the sudden written something that you heard somewhere and you're going to end up getting sued for it. And we know that can happen.
So when it clicks, it -- it immediately sounds familiar.
KING: And what about that -- remember the suit, the guy, that the Beatles lost. She's so fine, my sweet lord.
TESH: Right, right.
KING: And the first time I heard "My Sweet Lord," I said that's "She's So Fine." And he said he'd never heard "She's So Fine."
TESH: It's entirely possible. I -- I know wrote a song, a theme for the Pan-American Games in 1993, and it was this big -- like an 80- piece orchestra thing, and they were playing the Pan-Am Games. And I'm flying to Europe about six months later, and all of the sudden I'm listening to a Yes album -- I hope these guys aren't watching. And I listen to this middle part of one of the songs that Rick Wakeman (ph) does. And I said, oh, my gosh, I ripped this off. And I had no idea that I had done it.
But if there's something that really -- if there's a melody, that's like you pick up a line in a book. You can, you know, plagiarize by -- just by accident. So you have to be real careful.
KING: Music does a lot to you?
TESH: It does. You know, it's a great way to communicate, especially instrumental music, which gets a bum rap. But the cool thing about instrumental music, Larry, is...
KING: Works anywhere in the world.
TESH: Exactly. And it's also interpretation. There's a song that I wrote called "Bastille Day," very, very simple song.
I have letters from people who say they used it to propose to their -- to their significant other. I have people who said they used it to try and heal themselves from cancer. I have a letter from a -- person who says they love to vacuum to it.
I mean, you know, so people are saddened by instrumental music and they're also lifted up by it depending on what your particular mood happens to be.
KING: What happens to you when you write it? Does it affect you in ways?
TESH: Yes, I think the biggest thing about writing a song is that when you're in the middle of it you have the tear yourself away from what other musicians are going to think. You know what I mean? You have to think about what do I think about this song, because a lot of times the songs that I get the most reaction to are songs that I would consider really simple. You know? And a lot of times I'll be playing a song at my piano at home, and my wife -- I think it's like awesome, and my wife will say, what the heck is that? You know? And then the next day I'll play something that I think is just totally simple, and Connie will say, that's beautiful.
KING: Everything you write is to piano?
TESH: Yes, yes. Yes, definitely. I'm a bad guitar player.
KING: Does Connie continue to act?
TESH: Yes, yes. She's, you know, she's getting ready to do a bunch of different projects. Her biggest project this year was getting -- help getting our 5-year-old into kindergarten and my 18- year-old stepson into college. So, that was a big...
KING: She had a son from a previous marriage.
KING: Do you like being a stepfather?
TESH: I love it.
KING: Hardest role of all.
TESH: It would have been if Gil Gerard hadn't made it simple for me. You know, he really did.
In fact, I had a book that I was reading in the bathroom. It was "How to Be a Better Stepparent."
KING: Hardest thing.
KING: You have no power.
TESH: And he grabbed that out of my hand and he said, you don't need this, and threw it in the garbage. And that was when our relationship really began.
KING: Is it difficult, you working and Connie working?
TESH: It isn't, because we try to plan it so that when I'm on tour she can either come with me with the baby or that, you know, when she gets ready to do a movie, I make sure I carve out that time.
We're not really both as crazy as some Hollywood couples.
KING: Would she want to do a television series again?
TESH: Yes. In fact, we were just watching "Greatest American Hero" the other day, because Prima (ph), who's five, had never seen it before. She'd never seen "Hotel." And we figure she's old enough now, so had a little film festival. And...
KING: The world had a crush on her.
TESH: Oh my gosh. I mean, "Greatest" -- and "Greatest American Hero" was when I fell in love with her.
KING: Did you love her before you met her?
TESH: Oh yes. I was totally intimidated by her. I mean, I met her in a health club. I was never going to talk to her. I was walking out, and she said something to me. And I was like "Oh, hi." So...
KING: What did she say?
TESH: She said, "Oh, John?" And I turned around and said, "Oh, Connie." I knew who she was. I knew that she was in there, but...
KING: Was it like instant?
TESH: For me it was instant, yes, but you know, you can relate to this as a guy. We're way out of my league.
KING: Yes, married over your...
That's taking a step up. We'll talk with John Tesh about finding faith right after this.
KING: We're back with John Tesh. Were you raised Christian?
TESH: I was. I was raised Baptist first and then...
KING: Religious all your life, or did you rediscover it?
TESH: Religious by rote, you know, where you go...
KING: You have go to church.
TESH: You go to church on Sunday. I played organ in the church. I sang in the choir on Wednesday nights. It's the potluck supper. Every -- every summer I went to church camp, you know. But I wasn't -- I was just sort of reciting what they were telling me to recite.
I think probably when I met Connie...
TESH: ... about 10 years ago.
KING: Were you then disbelieving or agnostic or just didn't think about it?
TESH: I was probably a lazy Christian, I would say, you know. And when I met this -- through Connie, I met a guy who's now my best friend, Lewis Lapidos (ph), who is a -- who is our pastor, he approaches it very intelligently. He's not a preacher. He -- he is a teacher, and that made a big difference to me.
KING: What -- what did you find?
TESH: Accountability. I think it's really important to be accountable. I think it's important to be accountable to God first and then your family and especially your pastor, because I think when we go out there and just do whatever pleases us and whatever we find is good on the day -- and I know there are certain religions that practice that -- that this unaccountability is something that's really dangerous.
KING: So when you say accountability, do you believe that there is someone keeping score on John Tesh?
KING: You're being judged? TESH: Oh, absolutely.
TESH: I'm being judged on many different layers. I'm being judged by God. I'm being judged by Jesus Christ. I'm being judged by my pastor, hopefully not too badly. I'm being judged by my family as a father and as a husband.
If you're not accountable, be accountable to your friends, you know. If you're in AA, be accountable to your sponsor, you know. You have -- you have to be accountable to someone, otherwise you're just blowing in the breeze.
KING: Now Connie brought this to you?
TESH: Yes, she really did. I have to give her full credit. Connie is a good woman. I lucked out here.
KING: And she was a very believing woman then?
KING: And she took you -- and the pastor had a lot to do with it too?
TESH: Yes, absolutely. Lewis is -- again he's a teacher. And it's not -- I mean, Christians can be scary, scary people, as you know. Christians should not be judgmental. Christians should not be proselytizing to the point where they just beat on you.
KING: If you're gay, you're terrible.
TESH: A lot of that it's not our job to judge. It's my job to try and be as good a person as I can, and that's enough work for me. I don't need to worry about you.
KING: Is it hard or easy?
TESH: It's impossible. It's impossible to be a good Christian. If you think it's easy to be a good Christian, then you're not really trying hard enough.
It's like my coach in lacrosse at North Carolina State once said, "If you can breathe, if you can talk, then you're not working hard enough." Same deal for me.
KING: So therefore, do you feel that you fail in faith?
TESH: Oh, all the time! All the time.
KING: What's that like, though?
TESH: Well, you don't know?
(LAUGHTER) KING: No. Well, I guess it's because I'm agnostic. I don't know that feeling of failing in faith. You've got to have faith to fail in.
TESH: Yes. Well, failing is great because you know you're always going to get another chance. You know, failing as a Christian is great, because you do -- you know you're always going to be, with certain limitations, you're going to be forgiven, as long as you repent. And we can get deeper on that, which is dangerous.
KING: Do you doubt your faith ever?
KING: Do you see, you know, a flood kills 5,000...
TESH: Yes. I hate that. A plane crash, you know, kills 83 people. Absolutely. It's horrible. And then the talk show hosts get on there and they start saying, hey, where's God now? You know, there's about 10 or 12 books out there titled, you know, "Where's God When It Hurts?"
KING: Why do bad things happen to good people?
KING: And isn't that the hardest part for you, to reaffirm, reaffirm when that plane goes down?
TESH: Absolutely. I'm choking to death. Excuse me.
KING: Are you moved?
TESH: No, I'm just choking to death.
KING: We'll take a break and unchoke him.
KING: Didn't know faith did that. We'll be right back with John Tesh. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with John Tesh. He's cured, by the way, a little coughing thing...
TESH: That's got to be some sign, don't you think?
KING: Choked up...
TESH: I don't know. Really. KING: Why three music labels?
TESH: Well, it's really interesting, interesting to me anyway. I like writing different types of music. I like writing Christian music. I like collaborating with Christian artists. We have a Christian following. I love writing kids' music. I have a 5-year- old kid, so we're partnering up with Disney. And I like, you know, doing my own stuff. So we figured we'd divide the record label into three parts and we'd be able to, you know, to service all those areas.
KING: Define Christian music.
TESH: Christian music is music that lifts you up. It's music...
TESH: Yes, well, it doesn't have to be sacred, you know. I mean, there are different parts of Christian music. There's contemporary music. There's gospel music. There's sacred arias.
KING: Are there new hymns?
TESH: Yes, I think so. I mean, you know, I play in my little church band, and we're making up hymns all the time. But there are classics that, you know, we grew up with that will always be classics, and I think that, you know, the contemporary Christian music now -- there's a huge movement right now.
KING: I know.
TESH: Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Jack Velasquez (ph).
KING: It stirs you, right?
KING: It's meant -- it's designed to stir you?
TESH: Yes. Christians, just like anybody else, want to have an impact on their lives. And if you can find music that helps you have an impact on your family, on your faith, on yourself, then that's the kind of music you want to listen to.
KING: Writing for children, isn't that hard? You're not a child, so how do -- how do you know what that 5-year-old is going to like?
TESH: I think -- I think you know that. It's -- it's -- you have to listen to -- kids, I think -- at least Prima, my daughter, likes to listen to other kids sing. So the first couple of songs -- albums that we'll do will be, you know, kids' songs sung by kids. I mean, they like the "Teletubbies" and the "Barney" stuff and all that. But they like songs that are easy to, you know, to remember, and they want to hear kids singing.
KING: And they like to hear them repeated a lot. TESH: Oh my gosh.
KING: Sing it again, sing it again.
TESH: Absolutely. I mean, you know, where -- if there were any -- if there still were grooves in -- if there were still vinyl, it would -- it would be gone. That's the way it was when I was a kid.
KING: They're also the most honest audience, aren't they? They don't fake it. A kid will not give you a smile unless you bring a smile.
KING: You have to bring it to the table.
TESH: Well said as a new father.
KING: I mean, you know what that -- they don't perform for you.
TESH: No, they definitely don't. I mean, you're going to hear, you know, exactly what they're feeling, you know, about everything.
KING: Marvin Hamlish, our dear friend who has at time, as you know, goes schizophrenic when he can't write...
Honest. Marvin has discussed that with me. Are there times you go cold? You sit down and nothing's happening?
TESH: Yes, and that's why I like to write on assignment. I like to say -- instead of just saying, OK, I'm going to write, you know, today or I'm going to write tomorrow or whatever, I like to say, OK, this new album, "One World," or two movies or whatever, especially something like, you know, like "Grand Passion" or one of those records that's all original music, I want to say, "I want to release this record in, you know, September of 2000"...
KING: Put yourself on a schedule?
TESH: Put myself on a schedule and say, OK, I have to do this. I'm better that way.
KING: It's hard: You can't just say, I'm creative today.
TESH: Right, right. And what happens too, you just start playing and you start -- you don't finish your song, and at least for me anyway. I mean, somebody like Elton John can write two albums worth of songs in a week. I'm not like there.
KING: We'll take a break, come back with our remaining moments with John Tesh right after this.
KING: When you tour -- do you have a tour coming, right? You're going to Nashville, right?
TESH: We're going to do some dates, yes, but normally we do like a 60-day tour.
KING: You have -- isn't that the hardest?
TESH: It's, yes, it is.
KING: I mean, Monday night Memphis, Tuesday night Sacramento.
TESH: Different city every single night, and it's, yes, it's amazing. It's exhilarating, but it's definitely one of those things you have to train for.
KING: Ever forget where you are?
TESH: Yes, I have it written on the stage. Yes, I swear to you, I have it written on the stage.
KING: But that's easy to happen, right?
TESH: And it has happened. In fact, one of the simpler things I did was I was in Dallas, and I said, hello, Fort Worth, and I got, you know, booed for like the next 15 minutes.
KING: Are there nights you're off?
TESH: Oh, for sure. And there are also nights when you're in the middle of playing, and all of a sudden you're like doing your taxes, and you're thinking, what am -- you know, what am I doing? There's 25,000 people out there and I'm doing my taxes.
So you have to -- focus is a big, big deal. And if you want to get back to faith, that's where prayer comes in for me.
KING: You've prayed?
TESH: Absolutely. During the show, before the show, after the show, on my knees. I'm a very thankful person. I've been through a lot of stuff, and I've been blessed with many, many successes, and I'm very thankful.
KING: When your prayer is not answered or answered in the negative, how do you explain it?
TESH: It's important for me to be put through a little bit of pain right now, you know? I've been through years and years of therapy. I've been seeing a therapist, a Christian therapist right now who is a brilliant guy. And he -- what he tells me is, if you have a choice between pain or pleasure, go to pain every single time and you'll be a better person for it, and it will be the right decision. Pain for you, not pain for others.
KING: Make you a better father?
TESH: Yes, yes. I mean, it's -- planting rose bushes with a 5- year-old is -- is what it's all about. I'm starting to realize that, you know, I need to sort of stop everything, you know, one -- at least once a day for a couple of hours and just say, nothing touches this, I'm with my daughter.
KING: Something you want to do, John, you haven't done?
TESH: Yes, I'd like to have another kid, which -- I'm going to give you Connie's phone number after this, and I want you to call her and tell her that we have to have another kid.
KING: I'm having another one.
TESH: Are you really?
KING: Yes, June.
Would you like to play Carnegie Hall?
TESH: I have played Carnegie Hall! I have played Carnegie Hall, so just shoot me through the head, I'm done.
KING: How do I get there? Practice.
TESH: Exactly. Thank you. It was a pleasure. I'm a big fan.
KING: John Tesh -- me too. Always great to see him. Thanks very much for joining us on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." From Los Angeles with John Tesh, good night.
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