BURR RIDGE – Jim Peterik kicks back on a yellow sofa chair in the upstairs studio of his Burr Ridge home, surrounded by musicians spanning multiple generations.
Standing at the microphone near a control panel keenly located in front of Peterik’s Grammy Award are the three youngest musicians in the room – two 15-year-olds and a 12-year-old. Eyes closed, the embattled 80’s rocker sways approvingly as the children rehearse one of their newest songs – a tune that he helped the young musicians write and record.
It’s one of the first times all day that Peterik has actually stopped working, instead absorbing the music as a fan – bobbing his head of glamrock purple hair and tapping his foot along to the beat.
“When we were opening up for Led Zeppelin, I’m there with my mouth open watching Jimmy Page and Robert Plant,” Peterik said. “But it’s the same excitement as today and hearing you guys sing for the first time one of these new songs.
“It’s discovery. Holy mackerel, look at Jimmy Page play; holy mackerel, listen to how these kids sound on this song. No more thrilling than the other, it’s all one thing.”
Peterik is best known as a band member of Survivor and The Ides of March. But on March 26, he was helping out a new generation of musicians reach stardom.
AZE is a band composed of 15-year-old twins Ariel and Zoey, and their 12-year old brother Eli Engelbert. The Detroit siblings are not only part of the national music variety show, “Ariel & Zoey & Eli, Too,” but they also star in “Steal the Show,” a music reality tv series with Peterik which recently began filming its second season.
About six years ago, the kids started performing live concerts at major sporting events and military bases, then embarked on a variety show broadcasted on the now defunct “Cool TV,” according to the father and manager Matt Engelbert.
During the third season of “Ariel & Zoey & Eli, Too,” Matt Engelbert and AZE were introduced to Peterik by one of the co-founders of Cool TV, and two years ago Peterik helped them write the anti-bullying song “Hey Bully.”
Peterik said he was in a restaurant when he started scribbling down “Hey Bully” lyrics on a napkin.
“I did this primitive demo on the iPhone and the guy we were working with at the time said, ‘they’re never going to be able to hear that through the iPhone,’ and I said, ‘just wait,’” Peterik said. “[AZE] heard it, and that’s what’s great, you guys have the imagination.
“You see a completed [version] before it’s anything.”
From there, an ongoing creative collaboration between Peterik and AZE was born, as they would share lyrics and riffs, intermittently recording songs and demos.
“[Ariel and I] would put on our Disney princess dresses and go and sing all the songs and do concerts,” Zoey said, recalling her and her siblings’ first foray into music.
“We still do that,” Ariel added, with a laugh.
Peterik, a Berwyn native who helped Rocky Balboa defeat Mr. T with his Grammy-winning song, “Eye of the Tiger,” has come a long way himself. Over the years, he’s written and recorded radio hits, collaborated with rock and roll hall of famers and performed at major venues.
But Peterik said AZE is helping him connect with a different audience.
Now, when he performs with The Ides of March, Peterik receives comments from children of all ages who compliment “Steal the Show,” explaining that they enjoy seeing him and the young musicians work together in the studio.
“They inspire me,” he said. “It became a passion of mine working with them, really.”
Eli, Zoey and Ariel said they were always confident in their ability, but working with Peterik has brought out the best in them.
“I’m definitely more confident now,” Ariel said. “The first time I was pretty shy, but we’re all friends now it’s like a family.”