Rock legend Jim Peterik sits at the control panel of the recording studio in his Burr Ridge home, his head bobbing to the song being played back. His purple locks of hair, matching the purple shirt under his jacket, shake. His left boot taps to the vocals and rhythm.
“That was terrific. That was remarkably focused,” Peterik says into the headset of the young artist in the adjoining studio when the playback is completed.
On top of the control panel sits the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance for a Duo or Group he earned in 1983 with Survivor for the double-platinum “Eye of the Tiger,” a constant reminder that Peterik knows of what he speaks.
Giving direction to Larry Millas, his longtime band mate in The Ides of March and operator of Peterik’s control panel, Peterik pieces together the best of recorded lines and words of “Dying to Live,” a new song by Ariel, Zoey & Eli, a group Peterik has taken under his wing.
During the recording session, he has the Detroit siblings — Ariel and Zoey, 15-year-old identical twins, and Eli, who turns 13 this week — redo certain lines, giving them directions in a fatherly way after his ears, primed with more than 50 years of experience in the music business, pick up a line, word or bridge that can be done better.
And with each playback, Peterik bobs his head and taps his feet to the beat.
This type of instruction and recording work is nearly a daily occurrence now for Peterik, who does more producing and performing these days, even though The Ides of March will celebrate their 50th anniversary this summer with local performances. Peterik now works with artists such as Andrew Salgado of Darien; Mark Scherer, a tenor with a four-octave range; Pride of Lions, a band he also is the front man for; and Ariel, Zoey and Eli at his Burr Ridge studio.
For those who get to receive Peterik’s wisdom, it is something special.
“When the guy who wrote ‘Eye of the Tiger’ says things, it means something,” said Zoey Engelbert, a member of the Detroit-area trio that spent two days last week recording under Peterik’s tutelage.
Peterik’s work with Ariel, Zoey & Eli is not just for the ears; it is also for the eyes. The adolescents’ work with the Grammy-award winner is also captured on tape for “Steal the Show,” a program which airs Saturday mornings on NBC’s Cozi TV and on Zuus Country (as does a second AZE show, “Ariel & Zoey & Eli Too”).
For Peterik, working with the Engelberts is a chance to share his knowledge of the industry, to help lay the foundation for the next generation of performers.
“I love working with them,” Peterik said. “I can help them with so many things in the performing process. I will work with them and show them things.
“I can be a benefit to them,”
So twice a month, the Engelberts,with dad Matt, who also serves as executive producer of the trio’s two shows, behind the wheel, head from their home in Ann Arbor to Peterik’s Burr Ridge studio and stay in town for two or three days.
Matt said he talked to the kids individually at least once a week when they were just starting out, making sure music was what they wanted to do. They didn’t say they were ready to move on to something else.
“They really love what they are doing,” Matt said. “They’re happy.”
The home-schooled trio don’t feel they are missing out on anything
“We love singing and playing music,” Ariel Engelbert said. “This is fun. There is nothing else I would rather be doing.”
Peterik got involved with the Engelberts when a friend, Bobby Tarantino, co-founder of TheCoolTV music network, called him, saying he wanted Peterik to work with the youths. He asked the prolific songwriter, who was sitting in Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook at the time, if he had anything in the way of a bullying song.
Peterik said he did.
“Actually, what I had was the back of a napkin and a pen,” Peterik said.
He sat there and penned the start of “Hey Bully,” Ariel, Zoey & Eli’s first song.
The man who has 182 guitars in his Burr Ridge home — “They just follow me home,” he quips — says there is something special with the Engelbert kids.
“There is a blend you get with families being together, like back with the Bee Gees,” Peterik said. “There is a synergy present.”
If Peterik is right, more than just his purple locks will be bobbing to Ariel, Zoey & Eli going forward.