Get to Know Tony Suraci as The Highwayman
This Saturday, the Outlaws of Country collide inside the M Pavilion in Tony Suraci, as the Highwayman, a rousing tribute concert to the pioneers: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. We spoke with Tony to get the inside story on him and his love for the outlaws.
Why the Outlaws of Country? What attracted you to their music?
I went out with Willie Nelson’s daughter, Paula. At the time, I didn’t know anything about his style of music. Paula and I were on the balcony of a hotel in Los Angeles visiting Willie when we saw him and his manager get into a convertible and drive away. At the time, I said to Paula – your dad is funny – the way he sings and the way it sounds and then I imitated him singing “On the Road Again” – kind of trying to make fun of him. In that moment, when I sang it, I actually had an epiphany. I sounded like him and I felt something special.
How did you get your start singing these four guys’ music?
One day my mom came home and told me she had gotten me and audition at a restaurant called Texas Looseys – a honkey tonk kind of place – a franchise in Southern California. I went to the audition and played a couple original and Eagles songs. They gave me the job, but said I didn’t know enough cover material.
So I called Connie Nelson, Paula’s mom. I had a song book of 101 country hits of the 7o’s that had come in a piano bench my mom gave me years prior. I went through the list with Connie on the phone. She told me which ones to learn and half of them were Willie Nelson songs. Eventually, I learned that Willie covered Kris songs and so I started to listen to Kris and fell in love with his stuff. Then a friend of mind said that I must play Luckenbach, TX (Waylon Jennings) if I was going to play any Willie, so I did. I had picked up “Ring of Fire” along the way as it was a frequent request. So, for years I had been playing all four of these guys. Then one day it crystallized that I should put together a tribute act for all four of them.
You perform a tribute to several of the outlaws – Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson – who’s songs are your favorite to perform?
Willie Nelson’s songs are my favorite. I’ve been playing “Angel Flyin’ Too Close to the Ground” and “Always On My Mind” for many years and I always love the feelings they emit and the melodies – more so than any other music.
Who is the most difficult to perform?
I’d have to say Johnny Cash. Johnny sung very relaxed and I have an A-type personality. I like to scream, shout and push. I’m kind of hyper…Sometimes it’s hard to get Kris’s whiskey voice down if I haven’t partied enough the night before so I’m always careful about that priority.
You’ve been performing The Highwayman Show for six years. What have you learned in that time?
That people do love this music the way I do. Like me, some people would choose this music over any other if they had to pick one genre. Also, like me, people who don’t really like country music are surprised to learn that they love this outlaw stuff after seeing the show.
This will be your first show in Las Vegas. What excites you about playing in the city of lights?
Having my name on the billboards is very exciting! My dreams are coming to fruition right now. From the beginning of starting this show, I’ve always known that this music is a perfect fit for Vegas. I’m looking forward to adding female saloon-styled dancers with feathers in their hair in cages – that sort of thing. There are a lot of great ideas for this show. I have to keep some secret…
An awesome cast of outlaws with instruments, plus a star rockabilly guitar player and a beautiful female lead singer named Holly Palmer, with a voice from heaven. Holly sings Patsy Cline, Janice Joplin and June Carter in the show.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Holly and I sing backstage to get warmed up. Others join in. I think the party atmosphere is the best thing for me. It keeps me spirited instead of worrying about details. Things always turn out smoother when you’re having fun doing it.
If you love the Outlaws, you won’t want to miss this concert. Tickets start at just $19.50 (plus tax and fees) and are available at the Box Office or by phone (800-745-3000). OR you can head over to our Facebook Page and get exclusive 2-for-1 tickets there. So, go ahead…wander on over to our page and get your tickets. See you Saturday!