As many of you know by now the one and only RICHIE KOTZEN has just released solo album number 21 in Salting Earth. You may have also read my glowing review of the record as I feel it’s one of the best released this year. So when the chance came to chat with the man himself and get a look inside his process came up I jumped at it while at work. Yis, this is another of my “Hiding in the storage closet” interviews, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. So pull up a chair and join us:
Amps: I listened to Salting Earth for the first time this morning. Would you like to know what I did after listening to it for the first time?
Richie: Yes, tell me.
Amps: I listened to it a second time. And after that was over, I listened to it a THIRD time! It’s been going since I got to work today at 8 a.m.
Richie: Omigod, that’s great! I appreciate when the music connects with people for sure. I put a lot into it, and when I put it out there, I never know what’s gonna happen.
Amps: There’s a very familiar, old school vibe throughout the record, especially on “My Rock” which really took me back to my childhood in the 70’s. And “This Is Life” has such heart and passion.
Richie: Those are two of my favorites on the record. We just did two rehearsals this week, and we played both of them, and I think they’re gonna be great live. I’m doing a lot more keyboard stuff live than I have in the past so it’s gonna be a nice change to the dynamic of the set.
Amps: “Cannon Ball” has some clever wordplay on it, too.
Richie: We’re playing that one live, too. I really like all the songs on this record. In the past I’d make records and there would always be a song or two where I’d go, “Ahh, don’t love that one” but for whatever reason it would go on, maybe a record label was involved. But the last couple of albums have been great for me because I’ve been able to pick the songs that I want without anyone telling me otherwise. And that just leaves such a more honest presentation of what I do as an artist, you know? I’m happy with the selection. I usually have 15-20 songs I’m looking at, and until I’ve got 10 or 11 I really love, I don’t put a record out. It’s really a simple process.
Amps: No two albums sound the same from you. Here we are with #21. How do you manage to keep it so fresh?
Richie: It’s interesting, because as a year goes by, and whatever I’m doing that year, whether I’m touring or I have off, I write from time to time. I might have a month where i write two or three songs. I might have three months where I write nothing. But usually by the end of a year I might have five to ten compositions written, or ideas for compositions, and at some point I’ll get in the studio and start working on them. Sometimes I record an idea right away, and sometimes I let it sit. And what hapened with this record is I would write three or four songs within a year, then those would excite me and I’d go back and look at some songs I never finished.
So what will start happening is I get the ideas to finish the old songs, three or four new ones, and in that process I might start writing some other things. So you kind of get into a flow, and by the end of it you realize, “Well, I’ve got the foundation here for a record.”
It’s a process of new material and archived ideas that you suddenly have the inspiration to finish. I’m not a typical writer. Some people go into a mode and say, “Okay, we’re booking a studio for X amount of time to make a record.” I don’t work that way, I’m very loose and free when I have an inspired idea.
Amps: I’m already calling it that Salting Earth will be one of the Top Albums of 2017, and I guarantee I won’t be the only one who thinks that.
Richie: Well, that’s a nice compliment, thank you. One thing I’m looking forward to is getting out and playing. I took some time off after the last album cycle ended with THE WINERY DOGS, so I’ve really been home and doing things unrelated to music. So now I’m shifting gears and getting back into it. Things are sounding really cool at rehearsal, so I’m ready to do a long tour. I love it.
Amps: As far as THE WINERY DOGS go, two smashing albums, and two awesome live experiences, good sir!
Richie: Oh man, thanks! I think if you enjoyed that, then you’ll be equally if not more excited for what we’re doing on this tour. We have moments in the set where our bassist is gonna play some upright bass, we’re doing some acoustic stuff, three or four songs where I’m at the piano, and of course we’ve got the over-the-top jam sessions. We’re putting something together that I think is really gonna eclipse anything that I’ve done on any of my tours in the past. This is also the first time I’m doing this many songs from a new album. Usually I do two or three at most, and this time we’re doing at least seven.
Amps: So then how hard is the rest of the setlist to put together?
Richie: It hasn’t been tough, believe it or not. I’ve pulled out a couple of songs that I always wanted to play live and never did. And I’ve been with this band for five or six years now, so we know so much material of mine that we could do a slightly different show every night.
Amps: What do you think or hope people will take away from this album?
Richie: That’s a hard question to answer because to each his own, you know? Somebody might hear the record and connect with it, they might connect with the lyrics, or the energy of a track. Like you said, the groove on “My Rock” took you back to a different era in time.
Everybody’s gonna have a different feeling but what would be nice is if what happened with you happened with everybody. That they hear the record and wanna play it again and get deeper into it. That is something any artist would like to hear.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there in the world?
Richie: Well, I’d like to let everyone know that I have a new record coming out called Salting Earth. And we’re starting our tour April 21, we’re going across the country starting in California and we’re gonna end up all the way back in the Philadelphia area. Check my website to see where we are playing near you. Can’t wait to see everybody!
RICHIE KOTZEN…at this point what’s left to say about the guy? He’s super-cool, insanely down-to-earth, and a fantastic artist. I’ll be at his May 10 show in Lancaster, PA and I can’t wait. And I strongly urge each and every one of you to pick up Salting Earth and go catch Richie on tour! I’ve made it easy for you to find the dates, people.
PHOTOS: JULIA LAGE