Writing team LYONS&PAKCHAR discuss an album to #Love, Mormon inspiration and their mark on musical theatre

lyons pakchar

The dynamics of musical theatre are constantly changing, with shows ranging from jukebox musicals, to rock operas; to the classic show tunes of Gershwin and Rogers and Hammerstein. An unlikely duo made up of an actor and a musician, are determined to continue to break the mold. Ethan Pakchar, a composer known for his talents on the guitar, and Douglas Lyons, a successful musical theatre actor coming off The Book of Mormon national tour, make up LYONS&PAKCHAR, and they are changing the way music is made with their experience, creativity, and passion. The two collaborators sat down with Stage Door Dish to talk music, friendship, and #Love.

SDD: What inspired the two of you to collaborate?
EP: It was sort of a slow process. Towards the beginning of our tour in Denver, Doug approached me with a song he had written pretty much in his head. We figured it out together with me on guitar and within the hour or two sessions, had a complete song that we both really enjoyed. A week later he approached me again with another song…I was off in LA so we picked it up again in San Francisco. By the fourth or fifth song it was clear that we were becoming a team—bouncing ideas back and forth—smiling and arguing—all of the indicators of a writing team.
DL: I believe the environment of tour with The Book of Mormon set up the collaboration. Tour life has its share of down time and with Ethan’s background as a musician it seemed like the perfect fit. At first we started as something more causal with jam sessions for fun, but I think we quickly realized what we were creating a sound that had its own point of view to share with the world.

SDD: Describe the professional and non-professional relationship the two of you have.
EP: Non professionally we are great friends and enjoy each other’s company. I couldn’t imagine voluntarily working with a person whom I did not respect. Doug is insanely talented and a gentle soul. Professionally, things get serious. We (naturally) have egos and want to have to have the final say. He wants one chord, I want another. But musically we trust each other completely. So we each make our compromises and we’re always happy with the product.
DL: Our collaboration began as a friends. Sensible dinners, beers and excursions in Denver, CO. The music came next and was a connection for the both of us. It’s been a true lesson in friendship to balance the working relationship. Who we are and how we are is just as important as the music we produce for the duo. Sometimes I have to stop and say “ Ethan, how’s everything aside from the music”? That’s key to healthy working relationship.

SDD: Tell me about your current project- an album entitled #Love
EP: #Love is designed to be digested in many forms. Each individual song tells a story and can stand alone. Together, we think of them as a song cycle exploring every angle of love. There is also room for a show to include many of the songs that is in the works.
DL: #Love is a song cycle exploring the good, bad and awkward in love relationships. It’s Pop/R&B written for the theatre. Hopefully there is at least one song on the album that each listener can relate to.

SDD: How has musical theatre impacted your music and decision to record an album?
EP: My first professional work as a guitarist was with theater and I’ve stuck in it since. I’ve seen great comradely, open-mindedness and simply a warm community in theater. It seemed natural to make our debut in that world.
DL: I’m a graduate of The Hartt School B.F.A. Musical Theatre Program. Needless to say I am completely obsessed with the art form. The decision to explore writing aside from acting came out of curiosity and a tiny ounce bravery. We initially were just going to do a 6 song EP, which then turned into a 9 song album and by the time we get to August it looks like it maybe 10-11 songs. The sound of Musical Theatre is changing with the tides, and because the community is embracing to new work it feels like the perfect platform.

SDD: In your own words, what is Broadway Unlocked and what is your role in it?

EP: Broadway Unlocked is amazing. It’s a night of theater performers coming together in a concert for a great cause (Crime Victims Treatment Center) that can be viewed live anywhere where there’s internet!
DL: Broadway Unlocked is a sector bringing music and charity into the light. It was a complete honor to be apart of that night. Not only was our music heard for the first time, but it was for a fantastic cause. We need more organizations like Broadway Unlocked here in NYC!

SDD: Douglas- what has been your favorite role to perform and why?
DL: TOUGH QUESTION! I will say one of my favorite roles I’ve learned the most from was playing Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird at Hartford Stage Company. The production was directed by Michael Wilson and Atticus Finch was played my Matthew Modine. It was the first show I had done professionally without any singing. It taught me to truly trust my acting chops and stand on stage vulnerably open without song.

SDD: What are your hopes for the album?
EP: To make great music and have a great product for the world to enjoy. Whatever comes from that is bonus.
DL: Hopefully this album will put us on the map as a composing duo. Listeners of Pop/Theatre and anything between will hopefully take a listen and add us to their playlists.

SDD: What is your favorite style of music?
EP: Probably anything that pops up on the Ray Charles Pandora station. I enjoy many types of music.
DL: The first music I ever sang was Gospel so that always stays true in my heart. But I dig everything from Motown to Broadway to Indie Pop and Soul. I listen to whatever makes me feel good in the moment.

SDD: What is your favorite musical theatre song and why?
EP: THAT is tough because there is a LOT of great theater music. Over The Rainbow isn’t just my favorite theater song but in my opinion it’s the greatest song ever written. Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof is amazing.
DL: Man thats tough. I’ll say Heart and Music- A New Brain. I love a good group number and ight harmonies and a sensible riff. There are so many more, but you said one!

SDD: How did each of you get into musical theatre?
EP: I got my start subbing for the guitarist at Wicked on Broadway in 2011. That started the ball rolling for me in theater.
DL: I had always been intrigued by the lights and stage of the theatre. At 10ish I was in the children’s chorus of a touring production of Joseph that came through my hometown of New Haven, CT. Later played Tony in West Side Story my senior year of High School. Yes Tony, don’t ask.

SDD: When do you find time to write?
EP: On tour, aside from matinee days you have all day until 7 or 7:30 to accomplish anything you desire. The discipline for me is the hard part.
DL: When on tour I’d often right before shows during the day. But melodies come to me in the most random places like the elevator or subway- when that happens I pull out my phone and record the vocal line on my voice memo so I don’t forget it.

SDD: How does being on tour affect the process?
EP: Now that Doug is off the tour, things have changed but we both have very distinct roles and goals that need to happen so we can, at the moment, work individually on the same project.
DL: When I was on tour we would meet between shows in hallways and write. It’s a little different now that I am not on the tour, but having more time to myself has opened the door for me to write more.

SDD: How would you describe your style of music?
EP: Pop, R&B, Theater
DL: It’s as if Beyonce, Musiq Soulchild and Jason Robert Brown collaborated to create an album together!

SDD: What can we expect next from you?
EP: Hard work and passion. We love writing pop songs and we would love to do a show. Who knows!
DL: As Ethan said Hard work and Passion! We are hoping to use this album as the platform to create our first show! The road is open!

About Wendi R.

I love Broadway, entertainment, and journalism, and am trying to make a career out of all three. Tweet me: @TheReelWendi

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