Feature: O.A.R. at the LC

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From the February 2, 2012 edition

Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Consider Youngstown native Jerry DePizzo’s rationale for enrolling at Ohio State, where he joined O.A.R. and went on to tour the world and sell a million records.

“I was going to OU,” DePizzo said. “I was dead locked in. My uncle went there and loved it. I used to go there as a kid. It took one buddy of mine going, ‘Who the hell do you know that’s going to OU? We’re all going to Ohio State!’ That was the flip of the switch. It seemed like a good one.”

DePizzo ended up living in Morrill Tower with Marc Roberge, Chris Culos, Richard On and Benj Gershman, childhood friends from Rockville, Maryland who had enrolled at OSU together in 1997 to keep their high school rock band O.A.R. intact. By 2000, DePizzo had joined the band on saxophone and guitar.

The next dozen years were a whirlwind of constant touring, which, in conjunction with the explosion of online file sharing, helped O.A.R. become arguably the most successful unsigned band in America. By the time they inked a deal with Lava Records in 2003, they had already surged to No. 156 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 2002 live album “Any Time Now.”

Things only got bigger from there, including a spot on the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour with N.E.R.D. and The Roots in 2003 and a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in 2006. Along the way, the bandmates settled in different cities across the Midwest and East Coast; only DePizzo, who now resides in Worthington, remains in the Columbus area.

“It’s probably not the most productive model that we could have ever thought of, but when we moved to all those different cities we were touring incessantly so we were on the road more than we were home anyway,” DePizzo said. “We don’t know any better. Even when we were all at Ohio State going to school, constantly on the weekends we were out on the road, just kind of constantly widening the radius of the touring cycle.”

When he’s off the road, DePizzo stays active in Columbus music. He just co-produced the next album by Columbus indie rockers Karate Coyote and has worked with local singer-songwriter Jared Mahone. He’s also helped out with his friend Matt Crumpton’s charity, Music Loves Ohio, which provides instruments for public school music programs.

“The ability to be provided that education, that’s important,” DePizzo said. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now if I didn’t learn the saxophone in the fifth grade.”

With O.A.R. still in the thick of promoting 2011 album “King,” DePizzo won’t be home a lot these next few months, but he will stop through with the band Wednesday for a show at LC Pavilion.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played the inside of the LC,” DePizzo said. “It’s always nice to come home.”