When working on Salting Earth, his 21st solo effort, triple-threat songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Richie Kotzen tossed convention on its ear by taking one step back in order to move two steps forward.
“It’s something I really needed to do in order to reset myself,” he says.
His “charge to recharge” was put into play following the success of the 2015–’16 tour behind the Winery Dogs’ sophomore effort, Hot Streak. And the guitarist’s reset manifesto wound up hitting all the right buttons; the proof is on display on Salting Earth.
I recently chatted with Kotzen about his writing process, gear and, of course, Salting Earth, which will be released April 14.
How would you describe Salting Earth in terms of its sound?
One of the things I love about this record is that the song selection really encompasses what I do as far as the pendulum swing. You have songs like “This is Life” and “My Rock,” which are centered more around the piano, but at the same time you have heavier things, like “Thunder” and “End of Earth.” Then you have songs like “I’ve Got You” and “Meds” that have a slinky, sexy kind of vibe. This new record of all-new material really shows me in the realm of what I do as far as being a recording artist.
What’s your song writing process like?
I approach my writing in a way that’s not held by any boundaries. I don’t think about when or where I’m going to write or record. It just happens. If I have an idea for a song and I’m nowhere near a studio, I’ll document it on the recorder app of my iPhone. Then at some point, I’ll go back and listen to these ideas and record them. If I’m at home with an idea, then I’ll go straight to the studio and start working on it. What ends up happening is that over the course of the year I may end up with 10 to 20 songs and ideas recorded, and at that point I start looking at what material works well together and what songs I can picture myself playing live. Then I can compile a record.
Is there a particular way you approach writing lyrics for a song?
Everything happens differently. It just depends on the situation. It’s interesting because there’s a song on the record, “Make It Easy,” that was sitting on my hard drive for a very long time. I knew it could be a cool song but I could never finish the lyrics. Somewhere along the line last year, I pulled it up again and as I was listening to it the lyrics just came to me. Sometimes the lyrics and melody can come simultaneously, like the song “I’ve Got You.” That was a song where the melody and lyrics came together all at once.
Other times you’ll have a song with just a riff. “End of Earth” is a good example of that. I originally went in and just sang the melody and made things up for that one. Then I went back and listened to what I had recorded and was able to take the sounds I created and turn them into words, lines and phrases. Then I could just fill in the blanks.
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