Legend tells young rockers to 'feel it'
Paul Rodgers loves playing the hits in concert. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
A classic rock icon, Paul Rodgers is the creative force behind Free, Bad Company and The Firm. Joe Leary spent 24 Seconds with the music legend.
24: Your name is legendary in the world of rock. Going back, what was it that inspired you to pursue music?
PR: Thank you. I recently paid tribute to the music of Memphis on my CD, The Royal Session. That music was such an inspiration to me as a teenager and set me off on this musical trek as a singer and songwriter. Singers like Otis Redding, Albert King, Aretha Franklin, Sam Moore and so many others inspired me and continue to inspire me.
24: Being British and knowing the history and legacy of those that rose from the “British Invasion” era, did that place a greater emphasis on you?
PR: Free was part of that British invasion in North America in 1968 and in Japan. They still talk about the first time we stepped off the plane in Japan to thousands of fans and media. The only other bands that had visited Japan from the west, was the Ventures. Free was the first rock band to play Japan.
24: You hit the charts with Free in 1970 with the song All Right Now. It’s since become a classic rock anthem. Did you know at the time that you had composed something so timeless?
PR: I formed Free with guitarist Paul Kossoff, who sadly passed away 38 years ago. When writing All Right Now, I remember playing it for the first time and at the end of the night I asked for any requests and they shouted for that new song played earlier. I knew it was special right then. I recently received an award from BMI for four million airplays in the U.S. alone.
24: When a band breaks up, is there initially hesitation to form another one as you did with Bad Company?
PR: No. As a songwriter I’ve written a new catalog of songs with each of the bands I’ve formed, Free, Bad Company, The Firm and solo. I’ve never mixed the catalog until now as a solo artist. My solo set includes songs that I have written with my various bands through the years; songs like All Right Now, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Bad Company, Rock n Roll Fantasy, Shooting Star, Seagull, Radio Active and others.
24: How did you arrive at the name Bad Company?
PR: I wrote the song Bad Company first, then I thought it would make a great name for the band. The record company did not agree and so the band got cold feet and didn’t back me. But I stood firm and said, ‘No, it will be Bad Company!’ We were the first band to have a self-titled song and album.
24: You’ve had so many hit songs. What gets the most reaction from audiences?
PR: The audience really reacts to Rock n Roll Fantasy, Shooting Star, Bad Company and Seagull — the first three because they dig in and sing along, the latter, because it holds sentimental value for many. Lately, I have included a song from the Royal Session CD/LP, I Thank You, and it has also become a favorite sing-along.
24: How are performing the classics today?
PR: I limit the number of shows I play internationally each year to just 25-30, playing the classics remains interesting and challenging. I naturally sing the songs different from night to night, that is the beauty of playing music live and never using tape.
24: What brought you to Canada as a place of residence?
PR: My wife Cynthia brought me to Canada and we spend a good majority of our time in the wilds of B.C. I still do have homes in England and California, where we spend time as well.
24: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?
PR: At Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert at Hyde Park in London, I was asked to sign a brand new Mercedes that was later auctioned for AIDS Charity.
24: What advice do you offer today’s aspiring rock singers?
PR: Follow your heart and sing from your heart. Always keep it real and above all else, feel it.