By Tracy Dietlin
Rolling Stone ranked Paul Rodgers #55 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time.
The platinum selling vocalist and co-founder of the British rock group Bad Company will be performing at Spotlight 29 Casino on Saturday, February 14 at 8pm. He enjoyed much success during the 70s and 80s with Bad Company earning them 6 platinum albums.
After leaving Bad Company, Rodgers pursued a solo career and had a musical collaboration with guitarist Jimmy Page in the group, The Firm. Rodgers also had a five-year venture with Queen, and most recently has been touring with a Bad Company reunion show, as well as playing solo concerts.
The record label will be re-releasing both the albums Bad Company and Straight Shooter this year, along with Rodgers album with the band Free, which includes the stellar single “Alright Now”.
For me, as a teenager in the 70s, Bad Company was my first favorite band and Rodgers’ voice had the ability to transcend me to a place where I could imagine all things were possible. He had the vocal skill to hold you in the palm of his hand with one song and make you want to rock out with the next. The title track to Bad Company’s self-titled first album still resonates with people today as hard rock band Five Finger Death Punch did a remake of it a few years ago. That album along with Straight Shooter will forever be part of the soundtrack of my life leaving an indelible mark on my soul.
Paul Rodgers recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
CVW: You’ve had such an amazing career and body of work. During this solo tour will you be doing songs from all of your bands?
PR: I will be doing songs I’ve written from all of those bands and solo material from my latest album which we recorded on analog called The Royal Sessions. I like to put a set together that is dynamic and interesting and involves the audience where they’re taken on a journey really. I have a great band and they play superbly and it’s such a great joy to be with them. The whole band is rock solid. On guitar I’ve got Howard Leese who is one of the founding members of Heart and he’s been with me for 15 years. And I’ve got Todd Ronning on bass and Rick Fedyk keeping the beat.
CVW: How do you keep it fresh when you’re performing songs you’ve been doing for over 40 years?
PR: This is the first show of nine shows and my first in 2015, so this year I’m playing a limited amount of shows. Back in the 70s Elvis sent me a note and said ‘take time to live’. And I thought ‘what does he mean by that’ and I realize now that to keep it fresh and enjoy it I need to not do too many shows so that each one remains special and I can enjoy life a little more.
With each new town is a new audience and for them it is new. And I love it when the audience will start singing the lyrics to the songs… say, like with “Shooting Star”. There’s such a recognition factor with the songs. And with “Alright Now” I sing it different every night. A lot of people don’t know that I didn’t sing that song at all for many years. When I left the band Free and moved on with Bad Company I just left it behind. Then I was with The Firm and it wasn’t until years later when I discovered the power of that song. I was playing Blues at the time and Jason Bonham was in the band and it was a tribute to Muddy Waters album that I did and Jason was always behind me saying ‘do “Alright Now”’ and one night the audience heard him and they started calling for it. So we played it and it was a bit rough but the audience loved it and it’s stayed in the set since.
CVW: Are you continually still writing new music?
PR: Yes, absolutely. I’m writing with my producer from my last album, Perry Margouleff, and we’ve got a lot of tracks that we plan to do something with this year.
CVW: Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with?
PR: Well…collaboration is something that happens naturally. I will gravitate towards certain people. That’s what happened with Mick and I when we started Bad Company. We were both in other bands and we started writing together. Same thing with Jimmy Page, we were hanging together in the studio and he was listening to some of the things I was working on and we started gravitating towards each other. And that’s the way it works for me.
CVW: What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
PR: Well… I’m passionate about everything that I’ve done and everything that comes along is the number one thing in my mind for the duration. But recently I did a skating special for ABC and they had all these Olympic Champions skating to our music while we played live. They were all such amazing athletes and humble people. And when they do the backflips right in front of you… you really get the power of what they’re doing. It’s on YouTube: Pandora’s Special Moments.
CVW: What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
PR: There have been so many but one would be standing at the Royal Studios and singing “How Strong My Love Is”. It was so awesome to me to play with the Reverend Charles Hodges and all the guys and hear them in my head phones and for me to be singing with them. It sent shivers up my spine.
And meeting Nelson Mandela was a pretty awesome experience. We played for the support of AIDS and the Queen and I went down to South Africa.
CVW: When you were singing with Queen how did it feel singing Freddie’s (Mercury) songs instead of yours?
PR: It was interesting because the deal was that they played my songs too and so it was a fantastic relationship. They played my songs superbly. Their production is massively gallant…with these huge bombastic lighting effects. I’m much more minimalistic in my approach so it was interesting. I did it for 5 years and then it was time for me to return to my own band… but I was happy to have had a hand in resurrecting Queen.
CVW: Who do you most respect in the music business today?
PR: I have a lot of people through the years that I have respected and loved, like my first manager Joe Bradley who could really see a spark of talent in those early days when I was 14. Ahmet Ertegun, who was the head of Atlantic Records, he was an amazing guy who was very old school, mogul of rock, but he was very nurturing. We didn’t even realize we were being nurtured when we signed with Atlantic/Swan Song.
CVW: What do you think about the landscape of music today?
PR: It definitely has changed… but I’m not sure at all that technology has improved music. In some ways it’s cheapened it. It used to be when we would buy a vinyl album it was a precious thing. It was an experience. You didn’t just download it. And the sound was so much better, which is why we recorded the last album analog on vinyl. It’s only going to be the music that comes from the heart that will stand the test of time and have deep meaning. The 70s were a very special time and I find playing live that it does recreate that excitement.
CVW: On a personal note: I shared with Rodgers that when my daughter was a little girl I would sing “Shooting Star” to her every night and before she was 3 years old she could sing the complete song and how much that song means to both of us. His response was quite genuine when he said:
PR: That’s beautiful. That’s a great story. Would you mind if I shared that with people? Because people often ask me if I have any stories about the songs. I’ve had people tell me that their child was conceived to “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and christened to “Seagull”. It’s very special to me.”
CVW: I read that you are a big supporter of the animals.
PR: Yes…and by the way my wife and I love your Pet Place column. We read it all the time. We do support an Animal Sanctuary in Scotland called “Willows” and they have 98 horses, 60 cats and dogs and countless other animals so when we heard about their struggle we felt we needed to help them so we do what we can. Actually the show we did at Albert Hall, all the proceeds went to them.
Don’t miss Paul Rodgers’ special Valentine’s Day performance on Saturday, February 14.
Tickets for the show are $45, $65 and $75 per ticket, and are available at www.Spotlight29.com, Star Tickets (800) 585-3737, or the Spotlight 29 Box Office and Gift Shop. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m.