After playing Spider-Man on Broadway for three years, Reeve Carney can empathize with Peter Parker. The 33-year-old often has been torn between his day job as a high-demand actor (currently appearing as Dorian Gray on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” series and up next as Riff Raff on FOX’s “Rocky Horror” reboot) and his alter ego in music, where his entertainment career started a decade ago.
“I wanted to try to get back to my roots of what drew me to be a performer,” he admits of piecing together his first-ever solo album, set for release in October and highlighted on a short tour this month. The album carries on from his early days fronting the eponymous rock band Carney with guitarist brother Zane. The project picked up a decade ago with a Monday night residency at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in Los Angeles.
By 2010, with the addition of bassist Aiden Moore and drummer Jon Epcar, the band had signed with Interscope Records to release “Mr. Green Vol. 1,” a fusion of jazz, blues and rock that possessed the finesseof the Beatles and the swagger of the Stones.
The music caught the attention of theatrical director Julie Taymor, who attended a Carney show in New York and approached the frontman afterward about a lead role in the highly publicized “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” musical, which promised the young singer coveted exposure and the chance to work with Bono and The Edge on the original music.
REEVE CARNEY When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16 Where: SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston Tickets: $10-18 Info: evanstonspace.com; (847) 492-8860
“I grew up listening to U2 so it was incredibly exciting to get to work with them,” says Carney, recalling the “surreal” experience of collaborating in the studio on the song “Rise Above,” which they later promoted together. “[Bono] was incredibly kind to me.”
Though the remaining members of Carney were hired for orchestra positions within the production, the band eventually fractured. Zane most notably went on to work with John Mayer, and Reeve was left to his own devices.
“I really wanted to continue playing music, but it was difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules,” he admits — including his own. During his off time in “Spider-Man,” Carney would be diligent about returning to his off-Broadway apartment, where he had set up a makeshift studio and tracked everything himself.
“I’ve been known to do things the hard way, but I grew up playing a number of instruments so it felt natural to me,” he says. In fact, both of Carney’s parents were in music — his dad wrote jingles for ad spots, his mom was a session singer — so it was only natural that he and his siblings (also including vocalist sister Paris) would pick up the craft.
“My mom laughs about it now, but when we were kids, she and my dad both would whisper in our ears, ‘Doctor. Lawyer.’ They told us from the beginning this is a hard life, but also realized there was no stopping us from being artists.”
Another highly influential family member was great uncle Art Carney, with whom Reeve had a good relationship until the “Honeymooners” stardiedin 2003. “According to my family, he’s the first person who made me laugh uncontrollably, but he was also shy by most accounts,” he recalls. “I actually tried to draw from him for a few scenes as Riff Raff. I hope that fans of my uncle will see a hint of that.”
When it comes to acting, Carney says he’s drawn to character roles, and one of his most anticipated will be playing Jeff Buckley in “Mystery White Boy,” a biopic that will tell the tragic story of the acclaimed singer who drowned inexplicably at the height of his career in 1997. It will be executive produced by Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, though for now the project has been shelved.
“I really do hope it happens,” says Carney, “but I will say I’m glad it hasn’t yet because I’ve had so many other roles to draw from that I didn’t have under my belt five years ago when I was first cast that I think will ultimately help the character.”
The singer is just as appreciative for the growth spurt Broadway provided for his music. “I’m so much more grounded in my voice than the last time I was touring. And the intention behind this work really was to take back anything that may have eroded along the way and pull it back into something that’s as pure as possible and do it strictly for the love of the music. If you love what you’re doing, that is the most important thing.”