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‘Peach’: Larkin Poe’s Megan and Rebecca Lovell Discuss New Album, Songwriting

What originally began as an album of all-original material from Larkin Poe (which consists of sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell) quickly took a turn when they began recording and posting traditional blues covers on various social media outlets.

The result was millions of views and an overwhelming demand for an album of traditional American roots music. This prompted Larkin Poe to return to the studio for Peach, a compilation of blues covers and original material that harkens towards their Southern musical heritage.

Tasty covers of songs like “Preachin’ Blues” (Son House) and “Black Betty” demonstrate reverence for the original versions but are fused with the ladies’ own unique style. The songs stand up equally against originals such as “Freedom”, “Wanted Woman” and “Pink & Red.”

The Lovell sisters are no strangers to musical attention having performed as part of the house band for the MusiCares 2017 “Person of The Year” event honoring Tom Petty and opening for the likes of Elvis Costello and Bob Seger. In short, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

I recently spoke with the duo about Peach, their songwriting process and their current setup.

Where did you draw inspiration for Peach?

Megan Lovell: We wanted to pay homage to music of the South and the Delta and make it into a very American roots rock record. It’s a culmination of all the Southern influences we’ve received over our lifetime.

Was there a certain theme you were going for when choosing covers for this album?

Megan Lovell: We’ve been making videos of covers for social media as a way to keep pushing ourselves and people have really responded to it. When the time came to make this record, there was a great demand for them, so we decided to choose our favorites from the videos. That’s what you get on the album.

Rebecca Lovell: We cover Sam House on the record [“Preachin’ Blues]. If you read the lyrics to the song written almost a century ago, they’re fantastic. It’s music that plays to a timeless human emotion. A raw questioning of soul and spirit.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Larkin Poe by Clicking Here!

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Fozzy’s Rich “The Duke” Ward Discusses the Band’s New Album, ‘Judas’

Fozzy has always been a band focused on two things: a heavy groove and a good time. And when you have two high-energy performers like Rich “The Duke of Metal” Ward and Chris Jericho in the band, those grooves and good times come easy.

Ward is known for being one of the most prolific and underrated guitarists in rock and metal today. He’s created his own signature style of heavy riffs, melodic choruses and what’s become known as The Duke groove.

Fozzy’s new album, Judas—set for an October 13 release—is the follow-up to 2014’s Do You Wanna Start a War and reinforces the idea that the band is hitting its stride. Songs like the title track showcase Jericho’s enaging vocal delivery along with the infectiously familiar, in the pocket groove of Ward and drummer, Frank Fontsere.

Tracks like “Weight of My World” and the groovy “Drinkin With Jesus” follow a similar pattern, highlighted by the band’s inspiration and self-reflection.

I recently spoke with Rich Ward about the new Fozzy album, songwriting, gear and more.

How would you describe Judas in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of the band’s previous work?

I think the majority of people who hear it will see this as a big rock record with big guitar riffs and catchy melodies. The one strength about Fozzy is that we’re always able to stay relevant. We have an eclectic set of influences that make this band unique.

What was the writing process like?

We usually start with a blank sheet of paper and then Jericho starts sending us song title ideas followed by sheets of lyrics. I practice every day for a few hours and if I find something that seems interesting, I’ll record and catalog it based on something that would be influentially relevant to the sound I’m coming up with.

So, if Jericho sends me lyrics that have a dark, moody vibe I’ll go into my catalog to see if I can in a nice companion for it. Other times, it will be just us all in a room coming up with ideas collectively. A lot of stuff on this record was a real collaboration with our producer, Johnny Andrews.

We worked with him on a few songs on our last album. One of our goals going in was to have someone who was more involved in the process. Not just in creating sounds but also having a creative seat at the table. Johnny was the MVP of the studio.

Let’s discuss a few songs from the new album, starting with the title-track, “Judas”

That song has a great riff. As soon as I recorded it we all looked at ourselves and said if this comes off as good as it is right now, it will be the single of the record. It has such a classic, head banging groove and for us, that’s where we’re at our strongest. Our drummer, Frank Fontsere and I are at our best when we’re laying down pocket and that song plays right into the sweet spot.

Jericho really connected with the lyric in telling the story. The songs that stand the test of time are the ones where you hear an emotional connection in the delivery of a lyric. “Judas” is that song.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Rich Ward by Clicking Here!

‘Light In The Dark’: Doug Aldrich Talks New Revolution Saints Album

Photo by Johnny Pixel

For Light In The Dark, the sophomore album from monster trio Revolution Saints, we find Deen Castronovo (vocals/drums), Doug Aldrich (guitars) and Jack Blades (bass/vocals) once again teaming up with producer/songwriter Allesandro Del Vecchio for an infectious compilation of inspired songwriting and tasty guitar work, highlighted by Castronovo’s amazing vocal prowess.

Light In The Dark [which is set for an October 13 release] continues to build off the classic, melodic rock style of the band’s debut and their collective musical resumes (which includes Journey, Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, Dio and Whitesnake), but fans should also prepare for a more unique set of performances, as we all as a few surprises.

In this interview, I spoke to Aldrich about Revolution Saints, his gear and The Dead Daisies.

How does Light in The Dark compare to the band’s debut album?

It’s similar in that everything is representative. It’s a little bit heavier in some songs but it’s still got the melodic rock guitar sound and a real riff rock feel. Overall, it’s a little bit edgier.

I like it because we all had a chance to write on this one. I brought in a bunch of guitar parts and arrangements and Deen threw down an mp3 of him playing guitar that I got a few riffs out of as well. Jack also wrote on a few of the songs and Alessandro co-wrote pretty much everything except for one of the ballads.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, beginning with the title track.

That originally started out as a song that Allesandro had with simple, blocked down guitar parts, a verse and a chorus. I worked with him on an arrangement and started out by taking the guitars in one direction.

Once I got to Italy to record and started playing against the real drums I changed the riff a little bit to toughen it up. It’s right in the same vein of the last record and a good leadoff track.

What about “Freedom”?

I had brainstormed a song that was kind of our version of Phil Collins’ track, “In The Air Tonight.” That was the initial inspiration behind it. Deen had sent me an mp3 of a drop D riff he had recorded and I took a little piece of that and simplified it. In the end, it has a little flavor of “Separate Ways” by Journey with how the three of us played it.

“I Wouldn’t Change A Thing”?

That was a song written by Richard Page, the singer from Mister Mister. When I first heard it I was excited to see what I could do with it. Allesandro had done a rough demo where the guitar solo broke into a melody. I really liked it but when I picked up the guitar and started to play around it, I got a hit for a completely different melody that really set well with the vocal. I’m happy with how it turned out.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Doug Aldrich by Clicking Here!

Guitarist Lindsay Ell Discusses Her New Album, ‘The Project,’ Touring with Keith Urban and Brad Paisley

Photo by: Ford Fairchild

Guitarist Lindsay Ell describes her debut album, The Project as what you get when you combine Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Keith Urban into one musical blender, which isn’t all that hard to imagine.

While Ell’s vocal style is reminiscent of Crow’s, she’s toured extensively with Urban and even used Mayer’s album, Continuum as a starting point for recording the album. The result is a tasty collection of guitar wizardry, inspired songwriting and heartfelt emotion.

Produced by Grammy-winner Kristian Bush (Sugarland), The Project is also the first group of songs Ell’s recorded where she says she feels like herself. I recently spoke with Ell about The Project, songwriting, gear and more in this new interview.

What was it like working with Kristian Bush on The Project?

It was amazing to work with someone who’s already been the artist, songwriter and producer. He understands so many different sides. I called the record The Project because it actually felt like a science project in trying to discover my identity.

Tell me how you used John Mayer as a pre-requisite for this new album.

In one of our first meetings, Kristian asked me what my favorite record of all time was. After I told him Continuum by John Mayer he said, “Ok, perfect. I want you to go into the studio and record that whole album. The only rules are, you only have two weeks and you have to play all of the instruments yourself.” So, for the next 14 days I recorded Continuum.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing but had enough faith and trust in Kristian to know that there would always be a purpose behind it. After two weeks, I handed over the CD and told him how much I had learned about the way John played guitar, about how I play guitar and most importantly, how I’d love to hear a band recorded in the studio.

That’s when he said, “Well, now it’s time for us to go in and record your album.” It was a crazy thing but really laid the groundwork for us in finding the sound for The Project.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It depends. Every song is so different but the guitar is a huge part of who I am. I’m inspired a lot by a guitar riff or musical idea first and the rest of the song will usually grow from that.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Lindsay Ell by Clicking Here!

Greg Howe Goes Back to His Roots for Blistering New Album

Described as his most personal work to date, Greg Howe’s new album, Wheelhouse—which will be released on September 1— marks the guitar legend’s highly-anticipated return to solo instrumental work.

Tracks like “Tempest Pulse” and “Throw Down” showcase Howe’s infectious tone and fretboard wizardry while eclectic tracks like “2 In 1” combine a funk-infused vibe with Forties swing. But perhaps one of the biggest highlights on Wheelhouse; and one that long-time followers of Howe’s career will certainly find appealing, is the track, “Shady Lane”.

A song originally written by Howe and his brother back in the early Nineties, on Wheelhouse, “Shady Lane” is given a 21st century spin with an emotionally charged vocal performance by Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big). Kotzen also complements his fellow Shrapnel alumni by contributing a blistering guitar solo to the track as well.

Wheelhouse is an album that will once again raise the bar for guitarists, and a fitting return for one of the genre’s most dynamically diverse artists.

I recently spoke with Howe about Wheelhouse and more in this exclusive new interview.

How would you describe Wheelhouse in terms of its sound and maybe as it relates to some of your previous work?

From a guitar perspective, I’d describe it as an almost higher quality of the type of tone I was getting on Introspection. It’s very clean and there’s a lot of gain behind it but it doesn’t sound like it. I was also getting a little more into single coils and more “Strat” kind of tones, so it’s a different kind of expression. As far as direction, I feel like it’s a little more honest.

I can get carried away in the studio sometimes, and then I’ll listen back to what I recorded and decide to scrap it and end up writing something that’s either really complicated or putting together solos that border on unrealistic in terms of what I would sound like. I really wanted this to be a lot of one-take stuff and the material to sound like something I would want to play over. It’s a very natural, honest record.

What’s your writing process like?

There isn’t really a process. It ranges anywhere from going through drum loops and finding something cool that inspires the riff to waking up in the morning with a song idea already in my head. Sometimes, if I’m searching for inspiration, it can come from just watching a movie, thinking about something or connecting to something that’s happening in my life at the time. It’s a starting point that inspires and triggers the creative process.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Wheelhouse, beginning with “Tempest Pulse”

That song was one of the first I wrote for the album and has a slight Latin feel to it. I went through a phase where I was listening to a lot of Michel Camilo and that opened up some of this Cuban influence. There’s also something really festive and sexy about not hitting on the downbeat.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Greg Howe by Clicking Here.

Live’s Ed Kowalczyk and Chad Taylor Discuss Remastered ‘Mental Jewelry’ Package, Reunion and Band’s Future

Photo by Douglas Sanders

The recently reunited, original line-up of Live: Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums, percussion) have recently announced they’ll mark the 25th anniversary of their 1991 debut album, Mental Jewelry, with a deluxe reissue digitally and physically on Friday, August 11.

The newly remastered package includes an unreleased studio track (“Born Branded”) from the original album sessions along with two songs from the band’s 1991 Four Songs EP as well as a previously unreleased, 1992 concert from The Roxy in Los Angeles.

I recently spoke with Kowalzyk and Taylor about the album package, their reunion and more in this exclusive new interview.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Mental Jewelry was released. When you look back on that album now with so much perspective, what thoughts come to mind?

Kowalczyk: What’s been most exciting about the experience is not only listening to the original album but also the second CD, which is a live performance from The Roxy that we did back in 1992. Just to listen to that and realize that we were not fucking around. We were nineteen and swinging for the fences from the minute we stepped out with that album and tour.

What was the songwriting process like for the band back then?

Kowalzyk: We usually did a mixture of riffs and ideas to jam out and others where I might bring something in that was more fully-formed that we would tear down and rip apart. It’s always been that hybrid and I think that’s even the way we’re approaching our writing now.

Taylor: Because we were so young when we were writing, there were obviously no rules. It was a process of self-discovery. I can remember having conversations with Ed with my perception of how difficult it must be to write lyrics, and then he would tell me he was having problems putting together chord parts. But we always pushed each other.

Kowalzyk: One of the other things that strikes me is how much that energy at its core has never left the band. It’s been a constant, intense and visceral approach to performing. We throw down hard every time we’re on that stage.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Mental Jewelry. What can you tell me about “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)”?

Kowalzyk: I remember sitting in the practice loft of Chad Gracey’s garage and Chad Taylor was there playing this rhythmic groove. I was following his rhythm and started doing a chant over that. There are only two or three more chords but there was enough to get an emotion across. Then you add Gracey’s drumming and how energetic the song is. We wanted a song that would grab people’s attention right out of the box. It definitely did that.

Taylor: At the time, I had no idea I was even writing a song. I remember Ed telling me to keep playing and then he started singing overtop of it. That’s actually my first memory of a collaboration with Ed. The other funny story about that song is because it was one of the first songs we had written, I remember telling our manager that I didn’t think it should be on the album. I have to laugh at that now because it came out of the box and was the signature thing that started to build the band. But again, we were young and blissfully unaware of the business and were just trying to put our best foot forward.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Kowalzyk and Taylor Here

United We Rock: REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato Talks Monster Summer Tour with Styx and Don Felder

This summer’s United We Rock Tour features three juggernauts of classic rock: REO Speedwagon, Styx and former Eagle Don Felder.

These artists have provided rocking summer soundtracks for the past four decades—and they share a uniquely rich history; REO and Styx have toured together many times over the years and Styx and Felder just completed a five-night residency in Las Vegas. For United We Rock, Felder will open the show with a 45-minute set of Eagles classics along with a few surprises and special guests, while REO Speedwagon and Styx will alternate headlining sets.

But don’t expect the United We Rock triple-bill to be a “hits only” event; REO and Styx have added new material to their set, with Styx supporting their new album, The Mission, and REO performing their rocking new song, “Whipping Boy.”

I recently spoke with REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave Amato about the United We Rock tour, his gear and more.

With a tour loaded with guitarists, I suppose the first question is, who gets to perform “Hotel California” with Don Felder?

Well, Styx recently did a residency in Las Vegas, so Tommy [Shaw] has the seniority [laughs]. Actually, Tommy said he was going to play with Don on “Take it Easy.” He plays a Strat for the first half of the song and then switches to banjo. It’s phenomenal. I still remember when Don first asked me to play “Hotel California” with him; I got goosebumps. I’m not as nervous about the REO set as I am about Felder, because you can’t screw up that solo!

How did REO prep for the United We Rock tour?

We had a few warmup gigs on the weekends for a few months and used those gigs to change the set list around, figure out how to transition into songs and try to do something different. After 28 years, it’s still fun challenging yourself.

Styx has a new album, The Mission, and there’s a new song in REO’s set as well, “Whipping Boy.” What can you tell me about it?

It’s always good to have new music to keep going forward. That was Kevin [Cronin’s] song, and we each added our own two cents to it. We worked on the song on the weekend gigs to get it sounding really tight. It’s actually not even recorded yet. We might record it sometime in the fall.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

Bon Jovi Guitarist Phil X Discusses New ‘Hired Gun’ Music Biz Documentary

Vision Films has partnered with Fathom Events to bring a riveting new rock documentary, Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows Into the Spotlight, to select U.S. movie theaters this summer, with an exclusive one-night theatrical event set for June 29.

The feature-length doc, which has been screened to critic and audience acclaim at SXSW Festival, Glastonbury Festival and Calgary International Film Festival, introduces fans to several unsung heroes of the music industry. These artists have played with legends such as Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Alice Cooper and many more.

Guitarist Phil X (Bon Jovi, the Drills) is just one of the artists featured in the documentary. I recently spoke with him about Hired Gun, his role in Bon Jovi, the Drills, his gear and more.

How did you get involved with Hired Gun?

[Producer] Jason Hook and I go back to our teens outside of Toronto, Canada. He moved to LA a few years before I did, and we later started putting a band together and making music. We went on to different things and ended up in the “side guy” realm of life. When he was presented the opportunity to make a documentary, he had the idea of getting all the people together he knew who were hired guns. So it was a no-brainer for him to call me up and say, “Hey man, you just toured with Bon Jovi. You want to be in there?” [laughs].

Was having a career in music something you always aspired to do?

For me, there was no choice. I feel that if you’re truly passionate about making music, you can’t do anything else. You’re always making music because it’s in your heart. Everyone has a dream of being in a successful band, but for some reason, my bands always happened on a small scale. The hired-gun thing started in the studio and by meeting people and then playing guitar on their records. Two years later, around 1999, I was asked to come in and play on Tommy Lee’s solo record, Methods of Mayhem. It started snowballing after that.

How did you wind up getting the gig with Bon Jovi?

It happened very quickly. I was doing my session thing at Henson Studios, and John Shanks had a studio there. John co-wrote and produced a lot of the recent Bon Jovi records, and I’d run into him a lot either having lunch or walking down the hallway. What changed the game was one day he came up to me and told me he couldn’t stop watching my YouTube videos.

We hit it off, and a few weeks later he called me up and told me about a gig he had. He told me about a band that was having some issues with their guitar player and that I might be the guy to get called in to do some shows when he can’t. I said, “Ok, who are we talking about?” and he said, “Bon Jovi. Do you want to do it?”

So they gave me the material to learn the two-and-a-half-hour hour show and told me I’d be in the reserve tank. That meant I might get a call or I might not. Then it happened: April 14, 2011. They told me to go to New York and rehearse with the band. I was on hold again, and then “on hold” became “Let’s go! We’re playing New Orleans in a few days and there will probably be 50,000 people there.” That was it!

Read the rest of my
Interview with Phil X by Clicking Here!

Lou Gramm and Michael Staertow Talk Foreigner, Touring and Memorable Moments

Photo courtesy: Michael Staertow

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Foreigner’s eponymous debut album.

The record—fueled by the hits “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Cold As Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time”—launched the band into worldwide stardom. It would be the first in a string of consecutive multi-platinum monster releases that included Double Vision, Head Games and 4.

Much of the credit for the band’s success can be attributed to Lou Gramm, whose songwriting skills and emphatic vocal performances played a monumental role in the band’s hook-laden formula. In fact, he and Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by none other than Billy Joel.

Although he’s been out of the band for more than a decade, Gramm continues to write, record and tour the arsenal of Foreigner hits with his Lou Gramm band. And as Foreigner prepares to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a new tour this summer, there’s word that Gramm will once again be joining Jones at a yet-to-be-determined Foreigner show.

I recently spoke with Gramm and his guitarist, Michael Staertow, about Foreigner, Lou’s solo career, music, gear and more.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first Foreigner album. When you look back at that album now with so much perspective what thoughts come to mind?

GRAMM: Working with Mick [Jones] was a very creative situation, and I remember how much fun it was to write those songs and record them. Even when we weren’t at our most imaginative; instead of just putting everything away, we plugged along, putting down different ideas. Before long, we were right back swinging again. It was a very positive time.

Can you tell me the origin of the song, “Long, Long Way From Home”?

GRAMM: That was the very first song Mick and I wrote together. He would always play me cassette tapes with guitar riffs and told me that if one of them tweaked my ear to let him know and we’d work on it. I heard that great guitar riff that started the song and we began working on the verse and B section. The chorus was a little tough to crack but we did. Lyrically, it’s the story of me coming to New York City.

There’s been talk of you joining Foreigner for their 40th anniversary tour this summer for at least one show. Can you confirm this?

GRAMM: Yes. It’s being planned. Right now, we’re trying to pick the best night and venue. I’m not at liberty to say where it could be, but I can say it’s going to be a ton of fun.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Lou Gramm & Michael Staertow Here!

Styx on a ‘Mission’: Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young Talk New Album and United We Rock Tour

Photo By Jason Powell

The Mission is classic rock giant Styx’s 16th studio album and their first disc of new material in more than 14 years.

The concept album—which will be released June 16—is an adventurous, 43-minute thrill ride chronicling the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs of the first manned mission to Mars in 2033.

From the hopeful drive and classic Styx sound on tracks like “Gone Gone Gone” and “Hundred Million Miles” to the stargazing machinations of “Locomotive” and the elegiac optimism of the closing track, “Mission to Mars,” The Mission succeeds in delivering the good from a band that continues to fire on all cylinders more than 45 years after signing their first recording contract.

Styx features Tommy Shaw (guitars/vocals), Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals), James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass) and Chuck Panozzo (bass).

I recently spoke with Shaw and Young about The Mission, music and the band’s upcoming United We Rock Tour with REO Speedwagon and Don Felder.

It’s been more than 14 years since Styx’s last studio album, Cyclorama. How did The Mission begin?

SHAW: Things have changed so much in just the past decade. It used to be you’d spend a lot of time in the studio and then go out and tour for three months. Now, it’s in a way that’s favorable to having band like us recording again. Even though radio has disappeared, so many different ways to get to your fans have opened up. It made sense for us to get back into the recording business again.

YOUNG: We also knew we were coming up on the 40th anniversary of The Grand Illusion, which for me was our most productive, progressive time frame and our most successful as well. There’s elements of that album as well as Pieces of Eight on this record.

What was the songwriting process like?

SHAW: For me, the best songs are the ones that come to you. It’s like you just walked into a room and they were already playing on a radio. This album started out as a little acorn that fell to the ground and took root. That acorn [“Mission to Mars”] was an idea that came to me in a dressing room playing around on a warm-up amp. It had a setting with a little echo and I started playing this guitar riff. I liked it and recorded it on my phone and then later built a demo around it. One thing Styx is good about is talking about things you’re going through in life. No matter what the subject is, there’s always a human element to it. That’s when I realized this was something Styx could do.

What can you tell me about “Gone Gone Gone”?

SHAW: That was another dressing-room idea. James Young is one of these guys where you always have to pay attention when he first puts his guitar on, because a lot of times he’ll spew these amazing ideas out when he’s warming up. It’s like they come out of thin air. He had been playing this riff for a few days, and I finally asked him to show me how to play it. So, we started playing it together and then Lawrence walked into the room and he said, “Alright, somebody make this into a song!” We knew all along that this had to be the [album’s] opening song. It’s the perfect way to open the album and start the show.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Tommy Shaw and JY Young Here

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