Free Reign is Filling Arenas Two Ways
By Naughty Mickie

It's Super Bowl month and many of us are fired up about football. Many of us also enjoy heavy metal music. Free Reign is a perfect combination of both interests. The band is comprised of Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen Marc Colombo (tackle/vocals and rhythm guitar) and Leonard Davis (guard/bass) and Cory Procter (guard/drums), plus Davis' high school friend and guitarist Justin Chapman, who works in the oil industry. It began as a garage band, just for fun project and within nine months they got serious and were signed with Riot Entertainment. Free Reign's album, "Tragedy"  (Riot Entertainment), was released Jan. 26, 2010.

Free Reign is affectionately referred to as "heavier than metal" for their intense style, as well as their size- the members all average 6'6" and 330-pounds. Davis is perhaps the biggest man in the NFL at 6'6" and 381 pounds. He played for the Arizona Cardinals 2001-2006 and has been with the Cowboys since 2007. Procter is 6'4" and 308 pounds and has been with the Cowboys since 2005. Colombo is 6'8" and 315 pounds and played with the Chicago Bears 2002-2005 and has been with the Cowboys since 2006.

Colombo was born in Boston, Massachusetts. In high school he played baseball and basketball and was in Drama Club. He obtained a degree in sociology from Boston College and played football while there. In 2002 he was in the band Blackmuff.  Colombo is married and has a daughter. He is also active in charity, giving support to the Salvation Army, the SPCA of Texas, Happy Hill Farm and making team hospital visits. His wife participates in the Cowboy Wives Christmas Party for The Family Place.

Colombo shares the decision on taking Free Reign from a garage jam to a serious band: "I think when our other guitarist joined the band, Justin, he's played in a few professional bands. When I say professional, I mean bands that have done well, especially in Texas and he brought experience to the band. We're all kind of new. I played in a couple of bands in Chicago, but nothing of this level and Cory and Leonard never really played in a band before, so as soon as he got in the band, he showed us what we were capable of and he will work one and one with each person because he's been playing music a lot longer than us. We still had to catch on and realized our potential and that would be the moment we realized we could do this for real.

"It was probably last summer," continues Colombo. "We headlined a House of Blues show, it was the last show before we left for training camp, and that's when we realized that if House of Blues would let us headline a show- we took it pretty serious then. We were in the studio around that time too doing the new album and now it's out. We're really happy with what we did in a short amount of time."

I ask about the band's writing process.

"It's usually me and Justin." Colombo explains, "He does most of the music and I do most of the lyrics. There's a few cases on this album where I've done the music and the lyrics and he's done the music and the lyrics. The first song ('In Your Head') I did, that was my whole song, and the last song, 'All in Vain,' that was his whole song, but all the other songs we write together.

"He's really talented and he comes up with the music aspect and he lets me write all the lyrics on top of that and if we like it collectively together then that's what we're going to record."

"Early on I was playing and singing every song, but it's dwindling away because of the level of talent Justin has. It's a lot easier to
take a microphone and sing a song than it is to play at the same time," Colombo goes on. "There is something to be said about singing and playing the guitar at the same time, it's tough to do, but at some point I loosen up when I have the guitar out of my hands and you get the crowd going a little bit."

So what inspires Colombo's lyrics?

"Everyday life. A lot of it actually has to do with just being in the sport I'm in. The trials and tribulations of the sport and life in
general, that's where I get most of my inspiration from." Colombo replies and shares his writing technique, "It just comes to me. If something's bothering me and I'm feeling the need to write, I'll just do it. But it's funny, I'll sit down and try to write songs at times and nothing will come out. Then all of a sudden I'll write three or four songs' worth of lyrics. It pretty much comes in bunches like that, more along the lines of that than sit out and grind it out. I don't like to force anything, I just let it come naturally."

As I usually do, I ask Colombo about when he first became interested in music.

"In junior high I was typical, I liked the hip-hop stuff and the typical stuff that was going on at the time and as soon as I hit my
freshman year of high school, that's when I went in the opposite direction, I started listening to early Metallica albums," Colombo shares.

"I picked up a guitar early on in college. I was a huge music fan and I actually started writing songs before I picked up a guitar, not
even thinking I would be in a band or anything, it was just writing down what I was thinking at the time. I did that for a few years, it
was before I hit college. Once I hit college I had three roommates that played guitar, so it's almost impossible to not want to learn.

"I grabbed the guitar," Colombo goes on. "They were into a lot of different music than I was into, but I had to start with the basics, they were into the blues, country. I'd take a song and say, 'Hey, teach  me how to play this' and it would be easy with three guitarists in the room."

He's so busy, I wonder about Colombo's free time.

"I have a two year old daughter, her name is Olivia, and that's pretty much my life outside of everything." Colombo bubbles, "She's awesome, she's great, I love her to death and I try to spend as much time as I can with her because football, especially when the season starts, it's really hard to get good quality time with the family. I spend as much time as I can with my wife and my daughter playing in the backyard, anything you can imagine with a two-year-old."

We discuss trying to find a balance between football and music.

"It's really tough," Colombo states. "It's nearly impossible to commit 100 percent to music just because of the fact that football is so prominent in our life and that's what we're getting paid to do, that's what I love, that's where I've made it career-wise in my life. I always said, going into music, if it was ever to interfere with football, I'd stop doing the band thing. That hasn't been the case, we've found a way to do a lot in a short amount of time.

"Last year was kind of tough because we weren't sure of what we had and we're trying to record songs and do all this stuff. Once we hit training camp it's over. It's over until the last game of the season and then we pick it back up. Once it's football season, football is six in the morning till six at night every single day. As far as the off-season goes, we try to keep everything to the weekends because of the workout schedule is pretty grueling. We have to keep our shows to a minimum, try to do big shows.

"It's tough getting together to practice too," continues Colombo. "We try to get together for one huge practice session each week and we iron out of all our details. Justin, our guitarist, he'll work with Leonard and Cory on the music side of things once a week, so we'll get that session in together as a band and then he'll go with those guys and work some of the new stuff during the week, which is pretty cool. It's tough, but being in a professional sport you learn how to balance it. Football's still first and foremost so we do everything we can to work around that and it's worked so far.

"Being in a band is more difficult than I ever imagined. It's demanding, you have to practice if you want to stay sharp. In football, we do all these things. No one works harder in the off-season or during the season than a football player. It's grueling, but we grew up doing it and you realize that you have to put some of that same effort into music. I always looked at music as fun and it started off that way, then you get into the business side of things. It's just like anything else, you've got to work at it and you've got to keep a level head. As far as music to football, I don't know if there's anything that music brings me that football hasn't already."

"Going into this we thought that music, not fun and games, we knew it was demanding, but we were just messing around and it got serious real fast and we adjusted along the way," Colombo goes on. "It came to a point where we saw and future and we were either going to do this or we're not. We were going to take that jump and we ended up doing it, which I think was the best move for us because we love doing what we're doing. I like taking chances in life and it seems to be paying off right now."

I ask him to what he attributes Free Reign's rapid success.

"I think it's our names that got us in the door. But after seeing that the music world is tough, it's like anything else, you have to
put out products and we put an album, which we worked our asses off for," says Colombo. "What we were doing before was going around playing songs and we didn't have any material to back it up. People were like, 'What are these guys doing? Is it for fun? Is it serious?' It got us through the door, but to stay here you need to work at it and we've proven, just by being around and making an album and planning to do another one."

Free Reign won't be playing gigs during football season, but will still get rehearsals in. Chapman and Colombo plan on e-mailing song ideas back and forth as they work on the next album, which should be wrapping up after the football season end and hopefully released by summer.

I make one final comment to Colombo, that I am quite impressed by the grace and style Free Reign has on stage.

"It's a work in progress, we keep getting better at it and we're trying to perform better for people," Colombo says.

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