Bob Seger: Living up to his "promise"
"How will I be remembered, will my critics be unkind," reflects Bob Seger in the introspective lyrics that frame "The Answer's In The Question," a song culled from his latest CD, Face The Promise.
Bob Seger clearly has nothing to worry about. At age 61, Bob Seger's track record speaks for itself. A 2004 inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, Seger is celebrated as one of classic rock's most talented and successful elder musical statesman. A remarkably gifted songwriter, Seger's work is beyond reproach. This man's string of hits, from "Beautiful Loser" to "Night Moves" to "Old Time Rock 'N' Roll," reads like the ultimate classic rock jukebox.
Blessed with a soulful, whiskey-flavored voice, Bob Seger's songs spin like little movies, full of sweeping cinemascope vistas and colorful small town characters that came alive in the grooves. A consummate storyteller, Seger's music resounds with authenticity, weaving all the signposts of Americana into a sizzling musical stew. His impeccably crafted songs embody a decidedly American slant, drawing together weighty blue-collar struggles, ambitions, frustrations, hopes, heartbreak and dreams of the everyman.
A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bob Seger has been kickin' out the jams in the Motor City since the early 1960s with such outfits as The Decibels, The Town Criers and The Omens. May of 1966 saw the release of Bob Seger and The Last Heard's first single, the local hit, "East Side Story" on Hideout Records. Signing to Capitol Records in 1967, Seger's anti-Vietnam anthem, "2+2= ?", failed to make a ripple except in his hometown of Detroit. Slowly building a reputation for his incendiary live shows, Seger's became a rising star grew through the heartland bolstered by the # 17 placing of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" (also the name of his debut album) and modest regional hits, "Ivory," "Lucifer" and "Heavy Music." Forget James Brown. Bob Seger was the hardest-working man in show biz, routinely undertaking a punishing tour slate of over 250 dates a year. A succession of albums, Noah, Mongrel, Brand New Morning, Smokin' O.P.'s, Back in '72 and Seven attracted little national interest, but Seger wasn't about to pack it in. He forged on, unrelenting in his burning drive to make it at whatever cost and whatever price.
1976 was the year of the live album. And it was that bicentennial year when fate smiled on this "overnight sensation" that was over 10 years in the making. Like KISS and Peter Frampton, who also hit paydirt in the same year with their breakthrough live albums, Alive! and Frampton Comes Alive, the artist rocketed to national stardom with Live Bullet, an explosive tour-de-force showcasing the commanding power of Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet band.
Not long after Live Bullet resuscitated Seger's career from extinction came a career defining album. 1976's Night Moves was a magnificent record that deftly illustrated Seger's growing talents as a highly expressive and evocative songwriter, as displayed on the classic nostalgic hometown paean "Mainstreet" and the sweaty raver "Rock & Roll Never Forgets." 1978's Stranger In Town and 1980s' Against The Wind delivered on the artist's creative and commercial promise resulting in more gold and platinum records and sold out tours. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Seger continued to create magic in the studio with the albums Nine Tonight, The Distance, Like A Rock, The Fire Inside and It's A Mystery.
2006's Face The Promise, Seger's 19th album and his first new studio album in 11 years, is a confident and impressive return to form that ranks among the artist's best work. Mining a winning swath of rock, blues, country and funk, the album is an extraordinary 12-song cycle. The elegiac ballads ("Wait For Me," "The Answer's In the Question") and down and dirty rockers like "Simplicity", "Face The Promise," "Between," and the Stonesy "Wreck This Heart" all demonstrate Seger's gifts as a top-rate songwriter are undiminished. And proving there's some fire left in this 60-something, Seger also hit the road for his first national tour in over a decade.
Sitting at a makeshift table inside the famed Capitol Records studio in Hollywood where such legends as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole recorded seminal sides, in conversation, Seger is a natural storyteller whose hearty, contagious laughter peppers his compelling tales of over 40 years of life in the rock and roll trenches.
Goldmine: When did you realize music was the only thing you wanted to do with your life?
Bob Seger: It hit me when I was really young. I remember in Ann Arbor high school my best friends were so envious of me. They said, "You know exactly what you want to do" and they had no clue what they wanted to do. When I was 15 years old I played my first gig at the junior prom. I was a sophomore in 10th grade. But I actually played the 11th grade prom and that was the first time I was ever on stage. It was just me, a guitar player and a drummer, and that was it. We didn't even have a bass player [laughs]. I was the singer. We did songs like 'Peggy Sue," "Summertime," Elvis and Fats Domino songs.
GM: You weren't an overnight sensation, it took a good 10 years or more before you made it. What kept you going all of those years in the face of all the obstacles you faced?
BS: I had some small successes along the way like "Ramblin' Gamblin Man" and then we had local singles that did well. We were able to play 800 to thousand seaters and fill 'em. So we were able to make a little bit of money. I remember looking at my income tax form for 1972 and I think I made $8,200 and we probably played 200 shows [laughs]. And then I probably spent $7,000 of it on equipment [laughs].
I just felt that people liked us. No matter where we played we never got a tepid reaction. I was always a high-energy act and we rocked and people that liked rock and roll liked us. It's as simple as that. I felt like a success because the crowds liked us. We didn't have the record company interest that we wanted. I guess at that point I wasn't much of a songwriter because I played all the time. I didn't have any time to write songs.
I can't tell you how disillusioned I got and how tired I got of not making it but I never gave up. After everybody had gone and the venues were empty, I remember some nights looking back at stages when I was so disillusioned and said, "You're not gonna chase me off that stage and I'll be back next time." My bass player, Chris Campbell and I drove many many miles together. He's the one who's been with me the longest in the Silver Bullet Band.
GM: You built your reputation opening for such acts as BTO and KISS.
BS: In '73 and early '74 before we did the Live Bullet shows, so many of the opening acts we played with were so nice to us, people like BTO and KISS. They got us on the big stages and we got our feet wet in front of huge audiences, and got used to the sound. Before that we were playing much smaller places [laughs].
BS: I'll never forget playing with KISS in Philadelphia. We used to start with two, three songs in a row and try to get the crowd on our side by really hitting them hard with some good stuff. After the third song, instead of (imitates loud cheering) "Yay!!," it was more of, "KISS, KISS, KISS!!" [laughs]. There was some cheering but it was also, "Let's get to the other guys" [laughs]. They had some really avid fans. The big thing we had to worry about was losing our hearing. We'd go watch KISS do the first couple of songs and we had to find out where the explosions and pyrotechnics were so we weren't damaged [laughs]. I was very fearful of losing my hearing. Playing with KISS was very helpful to us. We were able to get in front of huge audiences. When people ask me "What was it like opening for KISS?," I always tell them that they were the nicest guys. They were fair. Even if they were running behind, they made sure we got a soundcheck, which was unusual. They were really really good to us. I thought the KISS show was really strong. I'm always still cheering for them; I'm happy they're still doing well. I've always told anybody who will listen, from Kid Rock to the Eagles, you take care of your audience by showing up and you continually show up. And KISS does that really well. They keep going out and people wanna see you and if you show up they are so grateful. If you care about your fans and you show up, you're gonna be beloved. I think that's the way it is with KISS. They've had that army since '75 and they have treated them well. It's a great lesson. A lot of people get big and don't want to tour. That's the wrong way to do it. Serve your audience. They can tell when you care about them. KISS were like me; they weren't a super gifted musician like John Lennon. They worked hard to come up with their hooks and they deserve all the success they got. KISS knows what their audience want, and they deliver it. If it was easy everybody would do it. Anybody who slams them has never done it. I totally respect them. They're the best at what they do, history has proven that.
GM: The record that broke you nationally was Live Bullet, which reflected what you did best.
BS: We were definitely a better live act than we were making records. Basically Live Bullet, which was done in September of '75 and came out sometime in '76, was just the Beautiful Loser album live. "Katmandu," Beautiful Loser," Travelin' Man," "I've Been Workin'" are all off of the Beautiful Loser album. We also did "Ramblin' Gamblin Man," "Let It Rock" and "Turn The Page," which was from an album called Back In '72, which came out before Beautiful Loser. It was everything we'd done up into that time. In '73 we did 265 shows. You play 265 shows in 365 days and you're gonna be pretty tight as a band. When we finally hit at Cobo Hall, we were snappin' tight. We were ready to be heard as a live band. I had no idea if Live Bullet would be successful. I'd heard my stuff so much I had no objectivity. Of course, the Frampton Comes Alive thing had come very close to that and had done huge numbers as had KISS Alive! So I was hoping it would be successful. Live Bullet went platinum in six months. Then Night Moves came out about six months after that and they both went platinum on the same day. And suddenly we were off and runnin'.
GM: Knowing that you had a national audience at that point, as a songwriter did that instill more confidence into you?
BS: What it gave me was the ability to look at my record company and my manager and say, "OK, we've reached this level. Now leave me alone for six months because I have to write good songs." Not songs that I wrote on a bus or in a station wagon [laughs]. I need to take my time and develop my craft.
GM: Did your writing change at that point?
BS: I think so. Glenn Frey, who'd made it with The Eagles before Beautiful Loser, heard the initial tracks for the album. Incidentally, Glenn Frey sang background on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," that's how old a friendship we had. He was a big booster of mine. He even told me when The Eagles first started out, even before they were backing up Linda Ronstadt, they were playing a few songs of mine like "Lucifer" and "Big River." Glenn came back after he made it big with "Take It Easy" and the first Eagles album and he listened to the songs on Beautiful Loser and said, "Now you're starting to write. Now you're starting to get it." He said, "Now you take your time. Take the time it takes to write good songs." He was kind of my mentor even though he was three or four years younger than me. With Glenn, the son became the father in a way. I said, "You're right, I've gotta sit down and take my time and write better songs." Seeing how hard Glenn and Don (Henley) worked on their stuff inspired me. Don would just kill himself over lyrics and Glenn would kill himself over music. Watching the two of them first-hand you could see how committed they were to their music. Look at The Eagles Greatest Hits record. It's the biggest-selling album in history! It's passed Michael Jackson. The Eagles Greatest Hits is the biggest selling album of all-time. So it didn't take a genius to realize these guys are really working hard on their stuff.
BS: Yeah, but that was much later.
GM: Was there as much meticulous attention to detail going into The Eagles' songs when you worked with them?
BS: Oh yeah. You listen to Don's lyrics. He didn't lighten up. You listen to the stuff they did in 1980 and it's as good as the songs they did in 1975. "Heartache Tonight" started with me and Glenn at his house. I was playing bass and he was playing guitar. He had this little thing, "Somebody's gonna hurt somebody." He wanted to write a shuffle. So we're playing that groove and Glenn's singing the verses and suddenly out of the blue, which happened to me with "Wreck This Heart" on my new album, the chorus came into my head. [Sings] "There's gonna be a heartache tonight, heartache tonight, I know." I started singing that and Glenn goes, "Yeah!" I took what he was singing about and jumped right into the chorus. Then Glenn called (Joe) Walsh. Now it's like one o'clock in the morning. He calls Walsh and he gets up and comes down and starts playing guitar on it and Walsh comes up with the bridge. Then J.D. Souther came in right after Walsh that same night. He'd help Glenn with lyrics. The next day (Don) Henley chimes in and goes, "Oh yeah" and he starts writing a lot of the lyrics. So that's how that song happened.
Several months later they were stuck. They didn't know how to make a chorus sound different. We were up in Aspen and we were all celebrating New Year's Eve together. They played me the basic track and I started singing something completely weird and different melodically in the song, (recites lyrics) "We can beat around the bushes, we can get down to the bone. We can leave it in the parking lot but either way there's gonna be a heartache tonight, a heartache tonight I know." And Henley sad, "Wow!" [laughs] because that just came off the top of my head.
GM: You often write about characters in your songs. What inspired that mode of writing?
BS: I think narratively I really admired people like Kris Kristofferson. You listen to something like "Me & Bobby McGee" and you know those characters. You know what they're like. Or a song of his like "Sunday Morning Coming Down." You know that those people are living the road life or living the blues. I really admired that. Of course (Bob) Dylan was a huge influence on everybody.
GM: How about Springsteen?
BS: Yes, later. What I really gleaned from Bruce was passion. Just tremendous passion in his lyrics. You also get that from (Don) Henley and Dylan, too. Bruce is a great writer. Back then (Don) Henley was a little unsure about Bruce and we're friends. I said, "Well, listen to this line [recites lyrics] "They'll meet 'neath that giant Exxon sign that brings this fair city light" (Ed. Note: the lyrics are from Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland"] and Henley said, "OK, I'll buy the album" [uproarious laughter). He didn't know if the guy had it. I tell him the one line and he goes out and buys Born To Run.
BS: You never really know it's right. You just say, "I think that's good enough." But I hear lyric writers who are so much better than me. I can give you Tom Waits, I can give you Joni Mitchell, I can give you Dylan. I can give you Leonard Cohen. These are people that write stuff that I can't even get close to. I do the best I can with what I got. It's very hard work and yet you don't want to make it so strident.
Henley would describe it to me and say, "Rhymes with dignity. Stay away from the 'Canyons Of Your Mind" shit.'" That's what Henley used to say. It was easy to ape Dylan with some sort of a vague sensibility to your work and call it art, whereas I think Henley had a great BS meter for stuff like that. And that was inspiring to me.
You'd go to Don's house and he had a huge kitchen table and on it stacked a foot high were lyric ideas. Things he'd written down on the road, things he read and wanted to say. The guy was such a dedicated lyricist and you can hear it in his songs. He's a very deep thinker. I just said, "That's the way to do it." A lyric that Don and Glenn really liked of mine was a little song called "No Man's Land" from Stranger In Town that didn't have much of a melody but it had a great lyric. I played it for them and Don was like, "Yeah, you hurt yourself on that one, didn't you?" [laughs] And I did. Henley used to call it "blood on the page." You just torture yourself when you write songs. Basically you're sitting there staring off into space. You're running schemes in your head and you have a rhyme you want to work. OK, a rhyme doesn't work you drop it and go somewhere else and get a different rhyme that still fits with all the other pieces of the puzzle.
GM: The song, "Night Moves" could be a movie.
BS: It was inspired by the movie American Graffiti, which was when I grew up; '61 through '63, that was my life. It was all about cars and peg pants and rolled up T-shirts with a cigarette pack up here and stiletto pointed shoes. That's how I grew up, that was my high school years. It was the easiest song in the world to write but the hardest song to finish. It took me six months to finish it. I had the first two verses. Then I'm listening to Born To Run and I notice in "Jungleland" Bruce had a double bridge. I never thought of two bridges in one song. So I have two bridges in "Night Moves." There's actually two separate bridges in there. You can't do that but he did that [laughs]. He did two different bridges, what a cool idea!
People at Capitol Records told me after they heard the song "Night Moves" that I had a career record. They said, "This is a song that you're gonna have to play for the rest of your life." It's a song like "Me & Bobby McGee." It is a gift. "Night Moves" took me a long time to write and I played it for the label and they said, "That's the first single on Night Moves."
BS: Yeah, definitely, plus I was always in contact with my best friends in music, The Eagles and was hearing Henley's writing and I'm saying, "God, this is great!" Then Leonard Cohen came along with "Suzanne" and all that great stuff so I picked up on him. I've listened to Joni Mitchell since '67 when Tom Rush was doing her songs like "The Circle Game." Then there was Paul Simon and so many other great songwriters. Those are my influences and my heroes and they all inspired me. I just wanted to write really good songs.
BS: Yeah. "Simplicity" is a nod to my R&B roots. I grew up in Ann Arbor. I'd listen to this R&B station, WLAC, and I'd hear Wilson Pickett and James Brown. I'd go to James Brown concerts. That's purely an energy and soul influence and blues and R&B. I tried to sing like those guys. In the case of a song like "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," (Don) Henley said, "It's not really all that great a song but your voice makes it sound like a great song."
I actually sat at a drum kit and wrote that drum beat. I sat there and figured out how to do it. I wanted to have a slammin' high-hat, I want the beat on the two and the four. What do I do with the kick drum? (imitates kick drum) It took me five hours to syncopate it [laughs] I'm driving myself crazy. Then I taught my drummer saying, "This is what I want you to play" and it took him another five hours to learn how to do it. The basis of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" is the drum beat.
GM: Today, is it easier or more difficult to write a song that pleases you?
BS: I think it's always difficult. You can get technical enough to write a song relatively quickly but finding the muse and the inspiration for something special, that's so mysterious. You don't know where it comes from.
GM: How long did it take to write all the songs on Face The Promise?
BS: About five years. The oldest one is "Face The Promise." I wrote four of them this year. I wrote "Simplicity," "No Matter Who You Are," "Won't Stop" and "The Long Goodbye." The other eight were written over four years and the other four were written his year.
GM: Having written so many great songs, you must throw away a lot of material that doesn't make the grade.
BS: Oh yes! I probably threw away 60 to 80 songs to get to these twelve songs on the record. Easy. I recorded 40 songs for the record. It could be my fault but I find I never get locked up if I finish everything. I know that sounds a bit over the top but I'm a finisher. If I like anything about a song no matter if it has commercial potential or not, I will finish it.
Sometimes in finishing a song in the last verse you'll come up with some great phrase that you can use in a different song if that song really doesn't have any legs. And that's how I pick 'em. The ones I pick are the ones that I still like three months later. I think Face The Promise is my best album in a while. I think it's right up there with Against The Wind and Stranger In Town.
GM: When you're getting ready to write a song, is it scary to sit down in front of a blank piece of paper?
BS: Not really I guess because I wrote so much I'm not intimidated by it. The hard part is knowing when to stop. It really is. Tom Petty did an album several albums back and he said he felt like he was overwriting things and he decided the first version is gonna be the one he's gonna use. I'm tired of killing myself overwriting. Sometimes it is the best version. There's a second bridge to "The Long Goodbye" and I went back to the first bridge. I recorded it with the second bridge but I went back and said, "The first bridge is better." But I got tired of it because I'd heard it so much.
GM: From the new album, "Between" has my favorite bridge.
BS: Oh I love that! The lyrics on the bridge are so true. (recites lyrics) "We talk on the phone because we're alone and everyone knows it."
People take advantage of that. Some lonely person gets a telemarketing call and you end up buying something you don't even need because you just want to talk to somebody on the phone. How sad is that? But it is true. And the melody of the bridge is cool. First, I did the counterpoint stuff with the guitar and then I did it with strings. I remember Mike Boila, my engineer, was in the studio. He's my publishing guy, too, so there's nobody more familiar with my catalog. Mike knows when I'm good and he knows when I'm better than good. He was like, "Wow!" It's just a straight rock bridge but we added all the counter melody to it. I really love that.
BS: I called Patty Loveless and I was almost apologetic. I said, "There's something about this song that I love. I'm telling you right up front that it's not a hit record. It's just a song I really like." If it's a hit record it's the goofiest hit in the world. But it was just something I hit on. So with great trepidation I approached Patty. She'd done these great duets with Vince Gill, "Go Rest High On The Mountain," these fabulous soaring vocals. I said, "Here's my little song. It's kind of like a folk song. It's not a hit but what do you think?" and she loved it. Then I played it for Mike (Boila) and he fell over. He's my publishing guy and he's heard everything I've ever done.
I actually got the inspiration from Dylan. I heard him in an interview and he told the interviewer "the answer's in the question you just asked, I'm not even going to answer that." Dylan had an attitude because he didn't like the question. It's just like Henley stacking stuff up on his table. I remembered it and said I have to write a song called "The Answer's In The Question." And the first line, [recites lyrics], "Will you be home late again?" Right off the bat, you know. You don't ask something like that unless there's something wrong. I really love the song.
GM: So many artists lose the plot as they grow older. But like Tom Petty, you're still writing great songs.
BS: In my case it is hard work. It might come easier to Tom (Petty) but in my case it's definitely hard work. I love all the stuff Tom writes, including the Wilburys stuff. He's just a great, great writer. But I can't speak for how Tom does it. In my case it's just, "Write another one, write another one, write another one" and keep the muscle flexed. Then when you finally get something that jumps out at you you know when it's good.
GM: The riff for "Satisfaction" came to Keith Richards in a dream. Have there been any songs that arrived like a gift?
BS: The closet one is probably "Hollywood Nights" because I usually have a guitar or a keyboard nearby. It's very seldom that I'm driving in a car and something rolls into my head and that song did. I was out in Los Angeles and I was just beginning to record Stranger In Town. I had a house out in the Hollywood Hills just above La Cienega on Miller above Sunset Strip. I could see the city from my house. I'd be driving up there in the Hollywood Hills just driving along and then suddenly [recites lyrics], "Hollywood nights, Hollywood Hills, above all the lights, Hollywood nights." It just came right into my head. So I turned right around and drove home [laughs] and I'm singing this in my head thinkin', "Don't forget it, don't forget it! Don't turn on the radio!" [laughs].
I get home and I sing it into my little cassette recorder. OK, that's a good start. It's high energy and it's gonna be fun and the girls are gonna sing it like crazy (Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy). I've been singing with these gals for the last 38 years, ever since "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and they're gonna nail it. That was one that came out of nowhere.
GM: Many songwriters explain that writing a rocker is much more difficult than penning a ballad.
BS: It is. A song like "Rock 'N Roll Never Forgets" is just slammin'. When we play that song live people go nuts. At that point in my life I was 31 years old and as you know the first 10 or 11 years in my career I was makin' six, eight grand a year [laughs] and just doin' it because I loved the music. So I'm writing for Night Moves and I just felt grateful. Here I am and I'm starting to make it. You know, rock and roll never forgets. You build up goodwill over 10 years and you set the stage.
"Rock 'N Roll Never Forgets" is a grateful song. I'm grateful to all the people I played for in those small clubs, on the top of cafeteria tables standing and playing in a cafeteria [laughs], in gymnasiums and in hockey rinks. Suddenly all those people came out and bought my records and said, "I remember him. I saw him at the high school or hockey rink."
Jimmy Iovine used to tell me, "The hardest thing to find is a rock and roll hit." I said, "Really?" He said, "Think about it. If an artist is looking for a hit they put out a ballad." I've had hits with rockers and ballads. I think writing a rocker might be harder because it's so familiar for us. When you're a rock act and you go out and play at night, maybe you take those rockers for granted. You might think, Paul McCartney wrote "Yesterday" and Bob Dylan wrote "Blowing In The Wind," I wanna write a song like that and then I'll have a hit record. That's not necessarily true.
A good example is my friend, Kid Rock. I said, "What's the hardest song for you to write?" And he said, "A good rap song because I'm so close to it." It's very hard to write something that sounds fresh.
GM: Speaking of Kid Rock, you sing a duet with him on a track from your new CD, "Real Mean Bottle."
BS: That's a Vince Gill song. It's a perfect combination for me and (Kid) Rock because he reveres the country masters, people like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. He reveres those people and I do too. To write a song about one of them, in this case Merle Haggard. Leonard Cohen reveres Hank Williams and Leonard's a pretty good songwriter there [laughs]. It just made sense to do a Vince Gill song. Rock loves country and so I thought let's do a song about someone Rock loves. He brought the enthusiasm to the project actually.
I thought he wanted to cut it country like Vince's version. He came in and changed everything and I just said, "You're on a roll. Take the wheel buddy! Here you go, it's your studio. I'm just here" [laughs]. After we were done with the song we brought Vince in and he said, "That's great!" Later that week he was going to England to record one of his songs with Eric Clapton. He said, "I'm having a great week!" [laughs]
GM: It's a prerequisite for every rock star to watch the film, This Is Spinal Tap.
BS: [laughs] I love that film. The most Spinal Tap moment in that film is when they say "C sharp minor is the saddest musical key" [laughs], you know, trying to look profound (laughing) when there's absolutely no reason to be. That's what I loved about the movie. I play golf with Alice Cooper and he said, "There's two things I've gotta live with the rest of my life. One is "Hit it Alice' because the putts too short" and "We're not worthy' [laughs]. When Alice appeared in Wayne's World he started talking about physics and stuff as if we're supposed to be like that. We're not smarter than anybody else [laughs]. Sometimes you get a little full of yourself and try to act smarter than you are and that's hilarious.
I've had some Spinal Tap moments in my career &emdash; equipment failures, of course. Girlfriends, big time! Girlfriends messing up the band, oh yeah! [laughs] A girlfriend wants more influence on the band and the member bends to that influence and suddenly it starts a movie.
GM: How are able to remain connected with your audience?
BS: It's just me. It's the way I am. It's my sensibility. It's what I like. I love rock and roll. I love the Stones. That's what it sounds like to me in "Wreck This Heart." If anybody compares me to The Stones that's the biggest compliment in the world. I'm channeling The Stones a little bit there on that song. I have these influences that are just me. On the song "Simplicity" it's a total R&B song. As I get older I get more and more plain spoken in my lyrics and more to the point. Everybody loves a good metaphor but sometimes they can get in your way and make things to cloudy.
GM: "Wait For Me" is a quintessential Bob Seger song.
BS: I remember when I played it for the musicians in Nashville. We cut six songs over two days and the last one was "Wait For Me." I said, "You guys aren't gonna like this one, it's about my kids. You're gonna hate this." But they all had kids and they all got it. They said, "Not gonna like it? That's the best song you brought in!" [laughs] It was one of those rare sessions where I felt, "I'm gonna do something a little different with these session players; I'm gonna bring in Laura (Creamer) and Shaun (Murphy) and we're gonna sing live."
So suddenly it sounded like a Bob Seger song. In fact, every song we did like that sounded like a Bob Seger song. Laura and Shaun are a signature part of my music and it stoked the players. You open up you mouth and you hear, Shaun, you hear Laura and you hear me. We've been singing together all the way back to Night Moves and they sound exactly like they have for 30 years. I think what people respond with [in] "Wait For Me" is it has a pretty good chord structure. But what stays in your mind is the wailing by Shaun and Laura. They're just so good [laughs]!
BS: I'll tell you a song that Don Henley really likes of mine and nobody ever played it on the radio. When I played it for him it knocked him out and it's a song called "The Ring." I think it's on my album, Like A Rock. It's a six-minute ballad and it deals with a specific subject matter about a failing marriage out in a rural area and the restlessness that is setting in. The marriage has gone to pot and the ring doesn't mean anything anymore and they're trying to hold it together. The characters are very sharply drawn and nobody ever played it on the radio but I love it. To me it still stands up.
BS: Yeah. That and another one is is "Somewhere Tonight." I wanted so bad to put "Living Inside My Heart" on my Greatest Hits, Volume 2 record and I fought and fought and fought and my manager said, "No, that's a movie song." I said, "No, I want it on there." It's beautiful. I was so bummed when they wouldn't let me put it on there. I was actually working on my new album and let that one slide and I wished I had worked harder on that Greatest Hits, Volume 2 package because there were other songs that I really wanted on there.
As far as bums I'll go back to my early stuff. "Vagrant Winter" was a bum [laughs]. "Chain Smoking" was a bum [uproarious laughter]. Oh my god, I hope nobody ever hears them [laughs]. There's a bunch of songs on Back in '72 that are bums. People keep saying, "I want to hear that album" and I go, "No, that's OK."[laughs]