Contributor’s Note: It was a great conversation with this guitar virtuoso who is currently riding a serious wave of momentum and success with the trio supergroup, The Winery Dogs, and is translating that success into his 21st solo album entitled “Salting Earth”, which is slated for release on April 14th. Richie Kotzen will also be touring to promote “Salting Earth”. In this interview, you will get to experience the methods and the madness to what goes behind the creation of a Richie Kotzen song and album. Check Richie Kotzen out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/richiekotzen. Without further delay, here’s my conversation with Richie Kotzen. *Note* You will find the complete interview with the magazine I write for at MUEN Magazine! www.muenmagazine.net!
Matty: I want to thank you Richie for taking the time to interview with me for Madness To Creation. Tell us about the creative process of a Richie Kotzen song and album.
Richie: Thank you for calling me! Yeah, it kind of ties into something that I talk about a lot, which is balance, so what I mean when I talk about that is that you have, as a writer, you have input and you have output. Obviously, output is creating for me new music. In order to do that, I have to have some kind of input, which comes from living life and doing things other than music, when you go back to music, you’ll feel inspired again. What has happened on this record is that I’m always writing, what happens in this situation is that you have songs and you get to pick and choose what you want on the record. The reality is that I have had this record(“Salting Earth”) pretty much finished way back in August, and so I had it in my back pocket, I knew it’s been busy, so I decided to take some time off and get away from music completely. So I didn’t do any writing for four or five months. I didn’t even really pick up a guitar. The one time that I did pick up a guitar, and there was a jam session with me, Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tom Morello. That was the only time. I took a break from it, and then I said that I’m going back and I’m going to listen to this record, if I really like it, and it stands on its own, then I’m going to release it. If I don’t like it, then I’ll look at that as well. So, I went back and listened to it, and I decided that it really represented it the way I want it to be represented, so I decided to release it, and here we are. I finished recording with someone that writes, to take a break and get away from things, I wanted to come back for the real reason, and the real reason is that to write for the real reason and that’s to put your feelings into the way it’s supposed to be written.
Matty: Very cool, going back to the “Salting Earth” record. Take us through some of the songs and the inspirations behind the songs, such as “End of Earth”, “Divine Power”, “My Rock” and “Grammy”.
Richie: Sure, “End of Earth” is one of the newer songs on the record, “End of Earth”, “Divine Power”, and “Meds” were all written at the same time. There are other songs on the record that have been in the vault so to speak, have been dusted off. For example, the song “Make It Easy”, that song was originally written to be on the record called “Get Up”, which was released in 2004. I had recorded that track, and I never finished it because I never had any lyric ideas. I could never come up with anything to sing, I had the melody, I had all that, I had the guy vocals on there singing phonetics, not real words, but I couldn’t finish it, so it sat there for over ten years, and then once I started to compile the record, and realized that I had a couple of things that I liked, I went back to the vault. It’s a cool track, it has the typical Richie Kotzen type of groove, it just kind of hit me, and I finished it, I wrote the lyrics and I finished it. The song gets put together in all kinds of different ways.
The song “Grammy” is a whole other kind of thing. I literally wrote that coming out of a dream, it was 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning, and I woke myself up with this idea, and I just literally tracked the song that night. I was going to do much more, I was going to put it on the bass guitar and replace the drum machine. I was going to do much more with the track, but the more I listened to it, the more I thought, “you know, if you touch this thing, you’re going to ruin it, let it just be a cool, raw vocals and guitar”, so I left it alone. I’m happy that I did it. It just has a certain charm to it.
Matty: Fantastic! Is there any adjustments that you have to make with making a solo record to being a member of The Winery Dogs? I’m not a musician per say, so I wanted to hear your take on that.
Richie: Yeah, there are big differences, I mean good and bad of course, but I’ve been a solo artist my whole life. When I was 18, I was signed to a record contract to put out by Shrapnel Records, and I’ve been doing that consistently since then, obviously that’s what I am and that’s what I’ll always be. The Winery Dogs was something that came to me out of the blue. We decided to just come together and jam to see if something came out of it, and frankly I was not working to form a new band or anything like that. I wanted to do something different and I wanted to try collaborating with people. In the end, it came out much cooler than any of us anticipated, and we ended up having the luxury of touring around the world and do some really cool things. After that first record, I was just figuring it would be done and we go back to business as usual, but we just decided to jump right back in again and immediately put out another record and another cycle. The band actually did far better than any of us expected, we’re all pleasantly surprised.
Matty: “Salting Earth” comes out April 14th! One reason why people should pick it up.
Richie: I can’t tell them why they should buy it cause it sounds like I’m bragging, but I think if they want to hear, look, people that know who I am are going to pick it up because they follow me, and hopefully they’re excited the same way that I am excited about it. For somebody that doesn’t know who I am, if you’re a fan of blues based rock with some other influences, this might be for you. The record has a broad scope, it goes from everything from hard rock to r&b, if you listen to the whole record, you’re going to get a taste of everything, but at the same time, it’s Richie Kotzen, so there’s that common thread.
Matty: Tour kicks off April 21st in Agoura Hills, California, what can people expect from a Richie Kotzen show?
Richie: I’m going to get up and I’m going to play my music, we play the songs, and we also one of the things that I love about my band is that we do a lot of inspired jams where we improvise sections of the songs. I don’t know if you’ve seen the live DVD that we put out a few years ago, there’s some moments in the set where we don’t know what we’re going to do next and it all just kind of happens on site, so I think that is the most exciting element of what we do for the fans. Most bands get up and they follow the script and play the songs the way the songs were written and that’s that. I feel like that if you want to hear the CD, then just put the CD in your car, but when you come to a show, I think it’s nice to have something real and something spontaneous along with the melodies and the lyrics that brought you there in the first place, we do both. We’re playing the songs but there are moments where we go and do some cool jams. I think that’s a big part of what people like about the group.
Matty: I’m going to give you the floor to say whatever you want to say about where people can find you and anything you want to add about “Salting Earth”.
Richie: The record comes out on the 14th of April. We have premiered a music video for “End of Earth”. Our first show is in Agoura Hills at The Canyon Club on April 21st. We have shows all over, we’re covering the states, we’re going to South America, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Europe, so keep an eye on www.richiekotzen.com, we are adding shows there weekly, that way you’ll know if we’re coming near you, and if you decide that you want to come see us, that would be great.
Matty: Very cool, I will spread the word about the record and your shows. Thank you for your time.
Richie: Awesome! Thank you!
And there you have it! Check out the tour dates below!
Friday, April 21st- The Canyon in Agoura Hills, California
Saturday, April 22nd- The Rose in Pasadena, California
Sunday, April 23rd- The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California
Wednesday, April 26th- Brick By Brick in San Diego, California
Friday, April 28th- Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, April 29th- Blk Live in Scottsdale, Arizona
Monday, May 1st- The Oriental Theater in Denver, Colorado
Wednesday, May 3rd- Rascals Live in Moline, Illinois
Thursday, May 4th- Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois
Friday, May 5th- The Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan
Sunday, May 7th- Appalshop Inc. in Whitesburg, Kentucky
Tuesday, May 9th- Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Wednesday, May 10th- Tellus360 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Thursday, May 11th- B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York, New York
Saturday, May 13th- Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland
Sunday, May 14th- Havana in New Hope, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, May 16th- Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, Virginia
Wednesday, May 17th- Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Sunday, May 21st- City Winery in Atlanta, Georgia
Monday, May 22nd- City Winery in Nashville, Tennessee
Wednesday, May 24th- Gas Monkey Bar N Grill in Dallas, Texas
Thursday, May 25th- The Big Barn Dosey Doe in Spring, Texas