The longtime leader of the Little River Band likes the layers that unfold with its music, and he’s happy to help keep that fabric ironed.
The quintet, formed in 1975 in Australia, will close the Mayfest on Main in North Myrtle Beach on Saturday, taking the stage at about 4 p.m. Its loads of pop hits include “Help Is On the Way,” “Reminiscing,” “Lonesome Loser,” “Lady” and “Cool Change.
In an age where groups – such as America, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, and Kool & the Gang – outlast time with some personnel changes but continue their core sound, Wayne Nelson said he’s helping carry the torch for the Little River Band.
“There is no question of that,” the singer and bassist said, looking at more than 30 years in the band. “We’re carrying the torch for a whole lot of people. Parents and grandparents have passed that on to kids who like that style of music. They like our style, which has some layers to it, some textures to it – lots of vocals and horn and guitar melodies intertwined.”
Speaking by phone Saturday, before a concert at a casino in Minnesota, Nelson reiterated how he and the band count their “blessings” that people used “to those layers of sound” want to keep hearing it.
“It’s gratifying to have really younger people, as well as their older family members, enjoying that style of music,” Nelson said. “So, we’re proud to do it.
“The other part is … we don’t take any of that for granted. We are fortunate to have a career that has gone as long as we have, that is totally dependent on that interaction with people and their memories. … Every show is another great opportunity to spread the work a little.”
Shouldering a question about how music helps comfort people with the inevitability of aging, Nelson declared his fountain of youth.
“From the neck up, I’m still 25,” he said, explaining how staying active and touring across the country all year means “we have to stay healthy to do it.”
‘Thanks for taking me back’
Keeping a younger mind-set works for Nelson, sharing his own memories of the band’s consistent chart presence in closing the 1970s and opening the ’80s.
“When we were in our 20s back then,” he said, “and at that time, musicians were dying in their 20s and 30s. You didn’t think you’d be in a band for two or three years at a time. I just passed age 60. The Rolling Stones are still doing it in their 60s. Is it music keeping us young, or being young to keep our attachment to memories?
“People say every night, ‘Thanks for taking me back to high school,’ and ‘Thanks for taking me back and making me feel 16 again.’ ”
A resident of Nashville, Tenn., the center of the country music universe, Nelson complimented acts such as Little Big Town and Rascal Flatts.
“They’re making some great music,” he said, “and keeping three- and four-part vocals alive.”
Reflecting on Little River Band’s catalog of hits, Nelson realizes the history fans attach to them after their spontaneous recordings in their time.
“As they live,” he said of fans, “they bring more with them.”
Saluting everyone who turns out for concerts, Nelson said “some of it has to do with military people: what the music meant to them when they were serving our country and in danger.”
“And with family members passing,” he said, “those were things that we did and think about when we were 18.”
Nelson brought up a poignant element to performing and the value of songs.
“You eke out a little emotion every time you see it connect with people,” he said. “That’s from the emotion of the music.”
As technology and the quality of work people hear from artists has changed, Nelson said the Little River Band doesn’t play its work in all its original form.
“We’ve lifted the hood on many of the hits,” he said, “and we haven’t messed with the emotion, but we have messed with the presentation.”
More discoveries result from going deeper with the music, through live shows.
“We have a new solo in one song,” Nelson said. “It also might be a new introduction, or a new way to get out of the song.”
Mindful that “young ears hear different things,” he said the band tries to keep the emotion intact, “but the icing on the cake is 2013 icing, not 1977 icing.”
Nelson said the group keeps up the variety of concerts, from festivals to a 50th anniversary party last month for a city in Florida, and the band always gets up for a regular gig, “a 300-seater in Annapolis, Md.”
“Word of mouth sells it out every time,” he said. “People are sitting at our feet, looking up our nose, and the contact is amazing.”
He grasps the “amazing” contrast from that type of venue from an outdoor party for thousands of folks at a festival such as Mayfest.
“Nothing is more intense than people looking at every twitch of yours that they can see and feel,” Nelson said of the former.
Aware of being adjacent this weekend to North Myrtle Beach’s northern neighboring community of Little River, Nelson said the band has stayed various times there and seen many other places of the same name across the country.
“There are Little Rivers in all 50 states,” he said. “In North Carolina, Texas, Illinois … They’re all over the place.”