Bettendorf native Tim Stop started something special when he played a brief opening solo set last June before the pop-rock band Chicago took the stage at Moline's iWireless Center.|
The 30-year-old graduate of Assumption High School and Wake Forest University (whose given name is Tim Stopulos) was asked back to open for Chicago last fall a few more times, and Tuesday night made his Canadian debut opening for the group in Montreal. Mr. Stop is touring with Chicago through March in Canada and will return as opener this summer as part of its U.S. tour.
"We stayed in touch; it just worked out," the humble musician said this week from the road. "They were kind enough to bring me on. They don't need an opening act. They have plenty of material, plenty of time. They've been very gracious to have me on and keep me."
A Chicago resident for about six years, Mr. Stop originally nabbed the high-profile gig last June 17 in Moline because his aunt is a good friend of the band's longtime manager, he said.
"It was blast playing that. I never played a venue that big before," Mr. Stop said. "It was cool to do it. I got an easy out there, I'm guessing the crowd from the Quad-Cities took it a little easy on me, being from Bettendorf."
The previous time Chicago played here was in October 2011, when they had no opener. "I'm really excited for the opportunity. I feel lucky to do this. I've been very impressed, seeing them working," Mr. Stop said last June. "They have so many great songs."
A guitarist and piano player, he calls his music "piano-based pop rock," and his main influences include John Mayer, Coldplay, Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder. Mr. Stop got to see Chicago record in Nashville a few years ago and met the band and their producer, the late Phil Ramone.
"I didn't know a lot of their music early on -- they have this very big sound, a lot of horns," he said of the band, whose many hits include "Saturday in the Park," "25 or 6 to 4," "Make Me Smile," "Color My World," and "Hard Habit to Break." "I have a lot of respect for their music. I've seen them live so many times, what fabulous musicians they are."
In the fall of 2012, a year after the release of his independent debut album, Mr. Stop teamed with producer Aaron Johnson (The Fray, Colbie Caillat) in Los Angeles to record his new six-song EP "Across the Atlantic." He had a CD release party for it this past September at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island.
"I wanted to incorporate the universal nature of the songs," Mr. Stop said, noting one of his originals is called "London," and he's playing London, Ontario by chance on tour. "You're seeing things on the other side, physically the Atlantic. All these songs are about feelings that are very universal."
"I feel like my songwriting has developed a lot, working with Aaron," he said. "It's a lot cleaner, more ambitious in terms of songwriting, and fairly accessible. It's pretty clean and to the point."
Though he's shared the stage with guitarists, Mr. Stop again is flying solo for the Canadian tour, at venues between 5,000 and 10,000 seats. His set is about a half hour, he said.
"I'm a little intimidated, in Montreal. I don't speak a lick of French," Mr. Stop said. "But I feel pretty comfortable. I've got this confidence playing with these guys a handful of times. It's been really positive.
"You meet people on these tours you never expect. Being associated with the band, the legendary Chicago, I think it helps," he said, noting he's working on new songs for a future record. And unlike driving solo on this tour, he will get to travel on the Chicago tour bus this summer. (The closest the band will get to the Q-C is Madison, Wis., on April 28, and Milwaukee April 30 and May 4.)
To hear Mr. Stop's music, and for more information, visit timstop.com.
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