Glenn Hughes is known as the “voice of rock.” This month, Hughes released his first solo album in eight years with Resonate. Blues Rock Review Editor-in-Chief Pete Francis caught up with Hughes to discuss the new album, shed light on the upcoming Black Country Communion record and more.
Resonate is your first solo album in eight years. What were you looking to accomplishment with this album?
I had two knee replacements, the left one in December, the right one in January, so knowing that I would be home recovering and doing physical therapy amongst other things, doing the Hall of Fame in April. So, I was home recovering and I couldn’t obviously work. I have a studio in my house and what I’ve been doing for 20 years… when you’ve got a studio in your house that’s where you hang out. So, due to the fact that I couldn’t really do anything but physical therapy I found myself writing some songs that started to have a focus, a very sort of dark, heavier, more for the rock community. And as I started to write five songs, four, five, and six I’m going, it would appear to me I’m making a solo album. It’s been eight years since First Underground Nuclear Kitchen and due to the fact that Black Country Communion had taken four years from my life, etc, etc. I figured it was a good opportunity. I didn’t even tell my record company I was doing it. Of course, they were very happy when I went into the studio. This album by songs four and five I knew I was going to focus in on what a Glenn Hughes album should sound like today. And let’s be clear, it’s a rock band. I just wanted to make a record for my rock fans.
Was the entire songwriting for this album done in that time period then?
It was done between February and mid-May completely fresh. There was only one song, “Steady,” which was written for California Breed. I didn’t finish “Steady,” so I didn’t record it. What I like to do, Pete, if I’m gonna make a record I want to have the newest, freshest material. I knew four or five songs in I was into making a solo album. I love to record, don’t get me wrong, but I like to do projects where it’s going to be out there.
Is there a memory or moment that sticks out to you as particularly memorable from this process?
It was all real special because I was kind of directing the traffic as well as writing the album. This was the first time I actually stood in the middle of the room and produced a record knowing full well what I wrote and knowing full well what I needed to get it over the finish line. I have worked with producers that have been very good, but they didn’t have the vision to complete the song, so for me, I wanted this album to be something where I could say this is really a Glenn album. I should have done this 20 years ago, but I didn’t. And when I completed the album I said to myself now you know who is going to produce your next record.
How often do you stumble across that situation where you have a vision in your head for what you want that sound to be, but then you come across a stumbling block where you aren’t getting the sound that’s in your head?
I know when something is wrong. When I’m writing a song I can hear what kind of instrument I want. When we recorded, as I counted “Steady” off, if you listen to “Steady” you’ll notice Lachy (Doley) the keyboard player played this Hammond intro and as I’m counting the song off I yelled to him play an intro in G! And it was that simple that he had no preconceived notion of what he was going to do. I just said in G alone and it worked out. And the start of “Long Time Gone” I quickly changed it from being a band production to being me on the acoustic guitar. It was something that happened on the spot. I think spontaneity in the studio… I don’t know if you know this, but I only record songs once or twice both musically and vocally. I’ve worked with people who are, like, take 44! That is like kiss of the death! There’s no freshness, there’s no vibrancy, there’s no rawness, it’s not really organic. It’s not the world I like to live in.
You’ve been a pretty prolific writer for a longtime. How would you say your songwriting has changed from your early days with bands like Trapeze and Deep Purple to now?
It’s just insane. I say this to you, this is not a joke, but it kind of is funny. When someone is 18 and between 18 and 25 and they’ve had no life experience, after we listen back to the records from the late ’60s, and early ’70s, unless you’re, like, King Crimson or you’re playing something really out there, psychedelic, the lyrics were pretty impotent (laughs). So, when I look back at the lyrics I wrote when I was a child they don’t hold up today. I would consider myself to be a lyricist now, someone that really enjoys telling a story, and with the way I write songs and the chord changes I like to do, and I don’t really have any fear of the next indicated note both vocally or when I’m writing something. When fear gets in the way in any art form, trouble is lurking. So I like to avoid it.
Did you write with fear in your earlier days?
Oh, of course. As humans we are driven by a hundred forms of fear. Most of us wake up in the morning fear based. You get up in the morning and you’re like what is going to happen today? Then you kind of wake up and it goes away, but with writing I just think being completely clean and sober and having an open mind has really helped me to become a better songwriter and most definitely a better human being.
Black Country Communion split, but now the group is returning with a new album. What was the turning point there?
When the band broke up because there wasn’t any work, there was not going to be any touring in ’12, so I thought it would be best for me to break away as Joe was very busy. There was no falling out and I just said I’ve got to go do something else. I formed California Breed with Jason (Bonham). Over the course of the last four years, Joe (Bonamassa) and I have spoken. We’ve had dinner a few times, so we thought maybe the window was good to do a Black Country Communion record. The first three records were interesting and we just thought the time might be right for another one.
And you’ve starting writing for the new BCC record. How is that going?
We’ve done the music. Now I’m doing lyrics. I’ve got five titles and I’m going to set about writing lyrics over the weekend. We’ve got 14 or 15 songs, so I’m going to take my time getting the lyrics done before Christmas. We go in January the 3rd and the album comes out May 20. It’s a very important record for us and rock fans. I don’t think we would have gone in the studio, I don’t think we would have booked the time if we didn’t have the appropriate songs. The caliber of musicianship within the band and the writing has been really great from record one. Joe and I have spent a lot of time together at my house in the last six weeks and now he’s in Canada right now. He gets back December 17, he’s going to Australia for Christmas, and we get back together on the 28th of December. With Resonate now out and Black Country coming out I have two albums out in a year, so that will be cool.
You mentioned with Resonate the songs coming together very organically and in the moment. Has this been the case with the new Black Country Communion album, too?
Yeah, it was meant to happen. As soon as I knew we were going to do this I’ve been so bloody busy this year I started to think in my headspace of what we could do. I’m sure Jason and Joe will come in with ideas, but Joe and I have been at my studio working tirelessly to get what we consider to be the right composure of songs. There’s some faster songs on this record, of course there’s some blues stuff, but it sounds like Black Country Communion. We’re not trying to sound like anyone else.
Having such a busy year, what would you consider to be the highlight of your year?
Being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. The only thing with the Hall of Fame was my father died the same day, so it was a bit of a struggle for me because I was in New York on Wednesday, the Hall of Fame was on Friday and we knew on Wednesday that my dad wasn’t going to make it and he died the day of. I didn’t discuss this with anybody except my wife. I told David Coverdale the day after, so it was really difficult. The key moment was accepting an award with my father watching me from above and being graced on the stage with my band Deep Purple.
Interview by Pete Francis