Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik
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GLENN: You've probably heard Five for Fighting before but -- and you can sing along with it but if you're like me, you just don't know the group's name and that's because, you know, jeez, I'm busy trying to keep my kids off crack right now. And also you just don't expect, so many times you just don't expect rock groups to, you know, at all reflect some of the values that you have and you're like, I don't care, I don't want to know anything about them. Well, you are going to want to know about John Ondrasik. He's -- well, John, you are the voice we know for Five for Fighting, right?
ONDRASIK: That's true. Thanks, Glenn.
GLENN: Gosh, it's good to talk to you. You are doing something with a bunch of other stars. You are doing it with Trace Adkins, who is a good friend of the program, Josh Groban, Allan Jackson, Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Three Doors Down. And it's a gift for the active and veterans, right?
ONDRASIK: You are exactly right. It's a free CD of popular songs from the superstar acts for our troops. This is our second version this year. We got our CD for the troops too and as you said, it's a thank you to those folks who take care of us, some of the biggest stars in the game are giving their songs away for free and it's the least we can do for the folks who take care of us.
GLENN: How did you get involved with this?
ONDRASIK: Well, you know, I was asked a couple of years back to contribute one of my songs called Two Lights which is about our troops' families to a group of local bands who are sending music over to Iraq and I thought, you know, what a great idea and why can't we do this and take it to another level, and I called a few folks I know and the first one we had, you know, we had Billy Joel gave me Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, one of my favorite songs when I was a kid and we had a great lineup. Melissa Etheridge down the line on the last one and we printed up a couple of hundred thousand, sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan and put them on the website and the folks seemed to appreciate it. So we're back with Round 2 and I think we have another great lineup.
GLENN: So, you know, what's great because I don't know your political leanings at all, John, and I don't really care. I mean, it was great to hear that, you know, Billy Joel, Melissa Etheridge, et cetera, et cetera who, you know, are not exactly Barry Goldwater, it's good to hear that there are people from the left and the right that are involved in doing something to support the troops.
ONDRASIK: Well, I think you are exactly right and to me that is the actual power of this project, the fact that we have Brooks and Dunn and Melissa Etheridge on the same CD. You can't get further apart from that, Glenn, and I think that's the important statement. And I agree with you. Look, sometimes it's an embarrassment, embarrassing to come out of Hollywood. Some of the folks out here say some crazy stuff. I don't need to tell you that. And sometimes you scratch your head and you wonder what they're thinking, but I think this is an example of people from across the political spectrum coming together and saying thank you, with a song or with a gesture to those folks who deserve it. And I wish more projects like this came out of Hollywood but, you know, we'll start with this and see where it goes.
GLENN: John, I think it's fantastic. You also have performed at Gitmo in 2007 for the service members there, right?
ONDRASIK: Yeah, that was actually a real surreal experience. My first performance was actually right next to the prison and I was, you know, I was on the Cuban shores and the waves are crashing. You have the National Guard in front of you and you've got the spotlight for the prison kind of floating around and you can see the guard tower, so the Cuban guardsmen in the background. Down there, Glenn, there's a little bar called Club Survivor and I'm sitting there and I'm singing this song, Freedom Never Cries which basically talks, you know, that freedom's not free, and I never loved a soldier until there was a war. And I looked up above the Club Survivor and the moon silhouetted the American flag. And I thought to myself, you know, this is real. This is not a concept I'm writing about here in Los Angeles, not a documentary I'm watching. This is the real deal. These folks here are allowing us to do what we do. My children's future depends on them, and it really hit home with me and I'll never forget that moment.
GLENN: Is it weird to you at all, John? I mean, I don't -- just knowing the little bit about you from just a couple of minutes of conversation, are you struck at all by the times that we live in and that you're actually playing a role in those times?
ONDRASIK: It is incredible times. I mean, truth is stranger than fiction, you know? We got Tony Soprano as the governor of Illinois, we got -- you know, I'm going to be the representative from the music industry asking for our next bailout. It's crazy. It's strange. We have a new President. But, you know, with all the kind of crazy stuff that's going on -- and I'm not just saying this as a cliche. We are fortunate to live in the greatest country of all time and our troops are the best of us, you know. With all our problems, where else would you want to go. So I try to keep that in perspective as well.
GLENN: How do you get along with other, you know, with other creative people, you know, going down and playing in Gitmo where, I just read a story yesterday where there's -- you know, the guy who wrote the "I Love You" Barney song who considers himself a musical artist was upset that his music was being used as a form of torture in Gitmo. I mean, he doesn't know that it's torture? I mean, it's been torturing me for years. How do you get along, how do you fit in? Do you find it difficult?
ONDRASIK: I don't get invited to a lot of parties, but I'm not that guy anyway. You know, I've always kind of been somewhat of an anomaly and some of my friends out here, you know, obviously a lot of my friends are liberals and they scratch their head and they get to know me and go, you know, we kind of thought you were a nice, normal guy but we don't necessarily understand all your world view. But I do think for whatever reason maybe with the election of Barack Obama, it will prevail and we'll get back to that place where, hey, we may not agree on everything but we can have a discussion.
GLENN: I hope so.
ONDRASIK: You know, you are not an evil guy, you don't necessarily fall in line with the group here.
GLENN: I certainly hope so. Let me ask you, available only for service members?
ONDRASIK: Yes, if you go to aafes.com, if you have a military ID, just put it in. You get to download all these songs for free. You can go to www.CDforthetroops.com. If you are a family member, we'll shoot you one of these for ourselves but, you know, thank you to all our troops. We've got you in our hearts, front and center.
GLENN: We wish you all the best. Can others make a donation and get a copy of the CD?
ONDRASIK: You know, it's not for sale. There are so many great organizations, Operation Homefront, Operation Pinecone. You know, there's plenty of places if you want to make a donation, send a gift. Now's the time to do it.
GLENN: John from Five for Fighting. We'll talk to you soon.
ONDRASIK: Thanks, Glenn.