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Kevin Eubanks knows his way around the kitchen.

Many struggling musicians have no choice but to cook for themselves, he admitted during a Thursday phone interview.

Eubanks is no longer a struggling musician. After 18 years as bandleader on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno", he's embarking on a solo career and headlines the Gettysburg Festival with a concert Saturday night at Gettysburg College. But he still loves to cook.

Diet-fearing friends seek Eubanks for guidance on how to eat smarter.

"As soon as you say 'healthy,' people say, 'yuck,'" he said. "As soon as you say 'organic,' people say, 'expensive.'"

Eubanks brings skeptics into his Los Angeles kitchen and teaches them how to prepare meals that makes them "feel good after they eat, not just when they're eating."

Those experiences were the catalyst for a TV cooking show pilot Eubanks is developing, even though his plate is already full.

You said goodbye to "The Tonight Show" May 28. What have you been up to the past month Working like crazy. (Laughs) I'm just kind of doing some gigs. I've been writing some music for an event at Berklee College of Music. I'm also recording a record, which is coming out this fall in October.

You started playing music as a child, right? I was held musically hostage by my family and had little choice. (Laughs) Sometimes, it's the best choice not to have any choice. (Music has) been kind of a no-brainer for me. I think for younger people, the sooner they know want to do, the better. Music was everywhere growing up in (Philadelphia.) I was just recently awarded a plaque on the (Philadelphia Music Alliance) Walk of Fame on the Avenue of the Arts. That was a really wonderful experience. I was the only one (in my family) who was lured to Los Angeles . . . specifically for the Jay Leno show. Now I've been here for 18 years. It's just starting to grow on me.

But you're still a 76ers fan? I follow all Philly teams. I'm even learning the rules to hockey. Considering how (the Flyers) started out, I'm proud of them for being in the (Stanley Cup Finals). I went to school (at Berklee College of Music) in Boston and have a lot of friends in Boston. I felt a certain amount of joy when (the Flyers) beat the Bruins.

Who are your musical influences? Other than my mother? (Laughs) Growing up, I was listening to rock and R&B like everyone else. When I got older, I started liking jazz music and classical music.

Who are your musical guilty pleasures? I really like a songwriter named Janis Ian. I think a lot of people would be surprised by that. In my car right now, I have the new Hanson record. I like this one quite a bit.

What was your most memorable moment on "The Tonight Show?" When President Obama came and shook my hand and told me how handsome I looked in my suit.

Are you going to miss The Tonight Show Band? We'll still be in touch and play together. We did a gig (Wednesday) night in Los Angeles. We'll still be really good friends.

What can people expect from your live shows? It will be all original music and pretty energetic. I think everybody will have a lot of fun. Other musicians (Marvin Smith, Gerry Etkins and Rene Camacho) will play with me (Saturday). We've been together for years and years. We know way too much about each other. (Laughs)

Will it be an adjustment for you to be out on the road? I'm not used to (touring) full time. I did it for 15 years before I started the Leno show and during the show, we went out and played gigs. The adjustment will be being able to play music all the time. You meet a lot of really cool people on tour.

Is music education important to you? I think that's really important. I'm a product of that. When you have students (who) are interested, it's nice to give master classes. I go (into Los Angeles schools) and bring all people from the music and dance departments and vocal departments together. We talk about music and write a song together. I want everyone to take part. We talk about how everything we do (during the class) is related to things outside of music. It applies to the society, government and neighborhoods. You have to participate and ask questions . . . and work together.

IF YOU GO

What: Kevin Eubanks

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: The festival main stage at Gettysburg College, 300 N. Washington St., Gettysburg. The rain location is in the college's Bream Auditorium.

Cost: $25 and $40

For details: www.gettysburgfestival.org

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