The legendary guitarist spent a few minutes with Front Row recently to talk about his involvement with ESPN’s Baseball Tonight theme music covers project. His version of the theme debuts Thursday, June 16, at 10 p.m. ET on the show.
Morello also reveals why a horse is among his favorite athletes, how playing one sport almost hurt his music career, and his unique tie to an infamous moment in baseball history.
FR: How did you originally get involved in the Baseball Tonight theme music project?
TM: I’ve been a big fan of baseball since I was a wee lad. ESPN approached my management team. They knew I was a big fan, that’s how it started.
FR: Are you a fan of Baseball Tonight?
TM: Of course. I watch and TIVO Baseball Tonight.
ESPN MLB Theme_Morello Style_3.28.11_01 Master-Loud
FR: How did you approach your rendition of the Baseball Tonight theme music?
TM: It was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t really know how how to approach it at first. It’s one thing to play it note for note. But, I wanted to make it sound like the MLB theme and at the same time, I really wanted it to sound like it’s clearly me playing it.
FR: You are widely considered an innovator who developed a unique style of guitar playing. Are there any athletes you admire as unique and innovative in their sports?
TM: It’s funny you should mention that. I will sometimes cite athletic achievement as a huge inspiration as a guitarist. The one achievement I cite regularly is the Triple Crown by Secretariat in 1973 — the Belmont race in particular. It’s not so much being the best at your sport, or training hard to be among the best at your sport, it’s the athlete who can destroy the sport. Whether it’s sports, art, comedy or film — it’s artists or athletes who don’t just excel, they redefine their fields.
FR: Who is your baseball team? Do you have any favorite baseball memories?
TM: The Chicago Cubs. I started going to Wrigley Field at four years old. My favorite player was Billy Williams during that classic Chicago Cubs era. There are many greats. We used to go to Wrigley a dozen times a year as a kid back when tickets were five dollars a seat. I was at Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (the infamous Steve Bartman incident). When they show the replay of the Bartman interference, you can see me holding up a sign that says “We Can Do It” with the Cubs “C” for ‘Can.’ People joke about the curse, but it honestly feels real. Some Morello will be alive when we finally win the World Series.
FR: I read you were once a championship touch football player at Harvard?
TM: I’ve dabbled. I also have a few Little League championships under my belt. In terms of touch football, I’m somewhat retired. I used to play touch football every weekend for 10 to 15 years even after college. However, it became career-threatening. I broke a thumb and a couple other injuries and being a guitarist, I couldn’t risk it anymore.
FR: What will you be working on next?
TM: There’s a lot. A very busy summer. A month ago, I released a record called Union Town. It’s available on iTunes. I also have my Night Watchmen album called Worldwide Rebel Songs coming out in early September (www.nightwatchmanmusic.com. There is also a big Rage Against The Machine concert at the L.A. Coliseum on July 30.
For more on ESPN’s connection to music, click here.