The e-mail came from out of the blue last week: “Hey, D! Forgot to ask you…you up for doing a phoner with Michael Sweet?” Uhhh…YEAH!! It was a little over a year ago that I spoke to the man while he was frantically preparing the Thanksgiving turkey and since then there has been his solo record (I’m Not Your Suicide), a STRYPER live album, and now his latest teaming with none other than Guitar God George Lynch for the aptly named SWEET & LYNCH, whose album Only to Rise is coming soon via Frontiers Records. Once again we talked about his songwriting and what gets him going musically, so check it out:
Amps: Let’s recap…STRYPER Live at the Whisky, your solo record, and now SWEET & LYNCH…is there anything you DON’T do??
Michael: Yeah, I wouldn’t attempt an opera or a jazz album (laughs), but in terms of this stuff, this style, this genre, this type of music there isn’t anything I don’t or won’t do. I love it, I love to write; I would love to do more. I’m capable of more. It’s about a six-week process, so I could easily do four albums a year, with writing, producing, performing, and still find time to tour. If I was given those opportunities you’d hear a lot more from me.
Amps: Does the Michael Sweet train of songwriting ever stop?
Michael: The way I write is this: I’m not one of those guys, well…a lot of writers are always writing. Me, when an album’s needed I write it. For example, I just wrote the STRYPER album in the last eight days. It’s all done, but I’m making little tweaks, the drum groove here, or cut out a bar there, but for the most part it’s done. And it went really fast. And now that that’s written I won’t write a song until the next project. If that project’s in a month or four months, I may not write a song until then. And I think that’s what helps me, as weird as it may sound, to take a breather from it. Then once it’s time to write I’ve got all these ideas flowing out of me. It works for me. Songwriting’s never been an issue for me; I’ve always got a riff or a melody in my head 24/7. I drive everyone around me insane. My wife is trying to talk to me about a bill or my daughter’s trying to talk to me about school and here I am going, “Uh huh, uh huh” while I’m playing a guitar riff for a song. It’s just such a part of me that it’s a double-edged sword. It’s a blessing and it’s a curse at times because it’s always there.
Michael: Oh man, that’s awesome. I really like that one too. I’m not sure what makes everyone’s favorites but I really love “Dying Rose”. I also love “Love Stays” in the dynamic and the production state. I really love how it turned out. But I think all the songs turned out really cool and I’m pleasantly surprised because the way George and I made this album was kind of thrown together. It could have turned out where there was only one or two good songs on it, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
Amps: My friend Reggie over at The Front Row Report was gushing over this album not too long ago!
Michael: That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool to hear. He just gave us a really good review. And I appreciate what guys like you and him do for us. The support helps more than you know.
Amps: Yeah, he and I are either in sync, or like night and day, but we tend to agree on all things Michael Sweet!
Michael: Thank you, thank you so much. That means a lot. Love me or hate me, I try. I give my all. And if you hire me for something you’re gonna get my best, and I’m gonna give 110% of myself, I’m a perfectionist.
Amps: But at the same time your music transcends generations. I’m 41, Reggie is 27, and I brought my writer Hannah, who’s 20 to see you in June, and we all agree on how powerful the music is.
Michael: That’s incredible, man. And I think it comes down to the songs. If you’re a kid and you’re into the new music out there you still can’t deny an older band, or an artist who’s been around for thirty years releasing a good song. Age has nothing to do with it at that point, it’s just a good song.
Amps: And you’ve had a career full of them. As do your partners in crime, here: George Lynch, James Lomenzo, and Brian Tichy who is one of my favorite drummers on the planet…what on Earth were the writing sessions like?
Michael: You know, the writing sessions were a little boring. Basically I would call George when he was going in to do writing sessions and riffs and I’d say, “OK, here’s what I’m lookin’ for. Gimme somethin’ a little VAN HALEN-y, gimme something a little JOURNEY-ish”, and he would send me “Dying Rose,” “Only to Rise,” and “Rescue Me”, you know the riffs that became those songs. Just a drum machine and a guitar. Then I would take those ideas and say, “Dude, these are awesome! I love it! Send me more!!” And I would take the ideas and I would arrange them with bridges, pre-choruses, whatever, and then write the melodies to them. And that’s when I’d start getting really excited. Then we went in and tracked Brian and James and then added my guitars and vocals and sent that to George, and then he’d call and say, dropping about ten F-Bombs, “Dude, I can’t F’in believe how awesome this turned out!” And then once we mixed it all I sent it to everyone in the band and Brian and James were amazed. Even the label contacted me to tell me they thought this stuff was unbelievable. The reaction was the same for everybody, you know?
Amps: With everyone’s other commitments, is doing any type of tour a reality, or maybe some one-offs at least?
Michael: I don’t know about a ground tour where we go out and do a month or two months at a time; I don’t think that’s a reality. But we are gonna do a select city run, you know, 12 to 14 select cities. So if you DO wanna see the band, you need to come and see us because it may be your only opportunity. We’re trying to put that together now, but it’s tricky because everyone has so much going on.
Amps: Well, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of musicians to do a record, right?
Michael: I know, man. The rhythm section is stupid, and George’s playing is stupid, and everybody delivered on this album, they really did. And the thing I like about George’s playing on this album is it’s the OLD George. It takes you back to the old days, which some people have missed.
Michael: Just that they’re inspired by the music and the message, man. And they put it on and it makes ’em go “Wow!” That’s the whole point of music, to make people feel good. And George and I wanted to accomplish that with this album, and I hope it does. What’s sad is there’s a lot of people who won’t hear it. We live in a very strange world right now and an album that I feel so proud of, and George feels so proud of…we might sell five, six, seven, or eight thousand copies the first week out, and I’d love for fifty thousand people to hear it. I really hope it gets out there to the masses.
Amps: Now you also produced two songs on Veronica Freeman’s upcoming solo record Now or Never, and I understand you’re working with the phenomenally talented Gabbie Rae, no? I’m actually gonna see V in three weeks. And Gabbie is just such a talent, it blows me away. You’re working with some awesome ladies, Michael!
Michael: Well, be sure and give Veronica a big hug for me, okay? And right now I’m slotted to co-write and produce Gabbie Rae’s record. When and if that happens it’s gonna be a slammin’ album. The plan is to make an album that takes you back to the old HEART and PAT BENATAR albums, that classic female rock and that’s what Gabbie and I are gonna do. When that album happens, it’s gonna blow your mind.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans worldwide?
Michael: What I’d like to say from the bottom of my heart is how sincerely grateful I am that I’m still able to do this. I wake up every day and I thank God that I’m still able to make music. And I’m thankful for the fans who make this happen, who support what I do. They buy what I do, and they want more, and because of that I’m able to do more. The fact that I’m still able to do this, I tell you, I never take it for granted. And I am so appreciative of that, it’s unbelievable.
This is twice I’ve sat and talked with Michael Sweet and both times I came away feeling inspired and motivated. He really is the nicest guy in rock and metal. It’s hard to put into words how I felt after our conversation. All I know is I couldn’t stop smiling. When someone like him thanks you, and I mean sincerely thanks you for all your support, it truly means something. SWEET & LYNCH’S Only to Rise will be out on January 27, and I’m calling on all of YOU, dear readers to pick this one up!