Glenn Hughes Interview: Legendary Purple Frontman Digs Deep on "Resonate"
Image attributed to Glenn Hughes
English rock bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes has left his indelible mark on several musical endeavors and bands, including Finders Keepers, Trapeze, Deep Purple, Hughes/Thrall, his collaborations with Gary Moore, Black Sabbath and most recently with Black Country Communion and California Breed, just to name a few.
Hughes releases Resonate, his first solo album in over eight years, on November 4, 2016. It features his live solo band members Soren Andersen, Portus Engborg and newcomer Lachy Doley, in addition to long-time friend and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), who joined them in the studio for the opening and closing numbers. It might well be the heaviest sounding of his solo albums, but as his trademark, musical diversity shines through as well as that astonishing voice that is his calling card.
"The first time I sing a song is normally the way I want you to hear it. It’s the raw innocence, and it captures the soulful aspects of what the song is about. When I step up to the microphone and I look at my lyrics, it’s like an actor stepping up to read lines before he shoots a scene. It’s that kind of dramatic thing for me. I step into a role before I sing it."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great new music, Glenn! Wry did you wait eight years to work on a new solo album?
Glenn Hughes: I started to work with Black Country Communion in 2010. I used to release a solo album every 48 months, so I would’ve released one in 2010, but I was getting ready to release Black Country. Of course, we did three albums and a DVD, then I had a year with some surgeries, then I worked on California Breed. That took another 18 months, which led me to early last year where I decided I was going to come back and start doing solo shows.
Obviously, I knew that this year, while recovering from knee replacement, that I would be home and recorded some music. I went in the studio and wrote the songs you’ve heard for Resonate. That’s why it took so long. I just wanted to be clear headed and focused and to be ready.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What did you have in mind for the songs?
Glenn Hughes: I went in there every day with the canvas completely clear. What I did on this album, Melissa, was I wrote each day. I went in there in the studio and wrote a song musically and completely, then I had dinner. I went back upstairs, and I’d sit down and write lyrics for a couple of hours. Before I went to bed, I’d sing it.
That’s the first time I had entirely written a song in its entirety before moving to the next song. It was a new way for me to do it. The way I used to write was I’d take pieces of songs and string them together at the end of sessions, you know? But, with this one, I wanted a clearer version of what this album meant to me. By song three or four, I knew the only title I could call this album was Resonate because the songs are coming from so deep within me. I also think this is an album that wrote itself, in a way, because it was so easily written. It was begging to be channeled. It was such a joy to dig deep and get this one out.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How and when did your friendship with Chad Smith begin?
Glenn Hughes: Oh, 2003ish. We started to become really good friends around that time. He did a show with me, and I met him through mutual friends. I had no idea he was a fan of 70s rock music. I’m sure everybody knows that now. When he came to play with me, I was astonished to know that he knew all of my work. That’s how I got to know him.
Not only is he a great drummer, but he is my best friend, a considerate gentleman and such a funny guy. He’s been on five of my albums since 2003, so we have an unwritten law (laughs). Wherever I am, Chad shows up. He’s so sweet and incredible, an amazing drummer and a great human being.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your voice is just as amazing as ever and soars on this record. How do you keep it in shape?
Glenn Hughes: With a lot of sleep and a lot of vocal warmups. You have to warmup your voice and get the chords moving. It’s an integral part of what I do, as athletes do with their bodies. I’ve been doing this for quite some time. It really has showed me how to save my voice and just be careful with the vocal chords. They are very, very precious. I try to stay away from people that are sick or are getting a cold.
Let me tell you something. I’m laughing as I say this to you, but every time I go east of Frankfurt, there’s trouble. You go to all these eastern European countries, and I love them. Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love them. But, for some reason, they only want me to go there between November and March, and it’s minus 20. I don’t do that anymore. I say that jokingly. I’ve just got to be careful of my throat and my chords and the whole nine yards.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there one particular song on Resonate that holds a special meaning for you?
Glenn Hughes: Well, they all do because they’re all story songs. You know, my dad died in April, so there’s stuff about healing from that, from my double knee replacement, about finding oneself and walking through the fear. There’s some heavy stuff there, not just musically, but heavy in content and in lyrics. I wasn’t afraid to step into a corridor that was a little uncomfortable for me. I always like to take risks. I am a first or second take singer. I don’t normally stand at the microphone long. I’m always getting it done and getting it spontaneous.
The first time I sing a song is normally the way I want you to hear it. It’s the raw innocence, and it captures the soulful aspects of what the song is about. When I step up to the microphone and I look at my lyrics, it’s like an actor stepping up to read lines before he shoots a scene. It’s that kind of dramatic thing for me. I step into a role before I sing it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): “When I fall again, it will be the end,” are intriguing lyrics. What’s the meaning there, from the song “When I Fall”?
Glenn Hughes: Right. It just really means that when you are so involved in something, whether it’s music or love or some kind of relationships, you give yourself so much and you give and give. You feel that it can’t be any better than this. It’s not necessarily about a love relationship. It’s about giving oneself to something, whatever it is you feel inclined to do so.
But, I am a loving person. I’m not an aggressively angry type of guy (laughs). I’ve been through all those scenarios in my youth. So, at this point in my life, if I’ve done anything, what I’d like to give back is love. It’s the only thing left to feel really comfortable about. But, I can act. I can act. I can get pretty aggressive and can get angry if one wishes to be that way, but it’s just acting out really. I do that within the confines of songwriting.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There’s early buzz that Resonate has a good chance of being Album of the Year.
Glenn Hughes: You know, every time somebody says that to me, I have to pinch myself because writing and recording this album, I wasn’t thinking about Album of the Year. I was thinking of making another piece of work. I recorded this in June, and now people are hearing it and have copies and are listening to it like you have. I’ve heard the Album of the Year quote many times in the last couple of weeks.
I’m so beyond grateful that people are realizing that someone of my age and my peer group is making a record so bold or so fresh, if you will, or vibrant. That’s what music people are calling it. I didn’t really have to dig deep to write this album. As I said, it kind of wrote itself. It kind of majestically and magically appeared in front of me as I was working in the studio. It was just there. It was just a little beneath the surface. Inside of me, there was this scenario, this album, this piece of work.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are also back writing with Joe Bonamassa for Black Country Communion?
Glenn Hughes: Yeah. We’re going in the studio in early January to record Black Country 4. We had dinner after the Hall of Fame in LA, and we really gave each other a hug and said, “Maybe it’s time to do another album.” We’ve been friends all the time and have never had a falling out.
We just thought it was the right time to make another rock album, hopefully another epic album that people will relate to. So, we’ve been writing this music and working so hard on this album. We thought that we really need a great album, or it’s just a waste of time going in the studio. We believe we have the material and the songs that will make Black Country 4 a grand and glorious moment for rock fans.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have the same enthusiasm for performing or recording now as you did in the 70s with Deep Purple?
Glenn Hughes: More so now. I’ve been clean and sober for so long. You know, when you’re 22 or 25, and let’s just say you’ve been over-served at the bar or too many nights you haven’t slept, it kind of washes over you pretty quickly when you’re in your 20s. Then, you get a little older. It just changes. Everything changes. I’m at a point in my life where I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m just at a point now where I’ve learned so much, what to do and what not to do. It’s very important for me to remember.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congratulations on Deep Purple being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I think it was past due.
Glenn Hughes: Thank you. Yeah (laughs). It was.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does music mean something different to you now?
Glenn Hughes: Oh, it’s always been the same. I’ve been freely given a gift. All of us on this planet, everybody reading this interview, have been given a gift. Hopefully, we will realize what this gift is, or we’ll be searching for that gift and receive it. I know very clearly what I’m here to do. I’ve been very blessed to retain that gift and to sing and feel the emotional pull that I get from a place that I’d like to think is called a higher power. It’s amazing to me.
I’ve had conversations with other people about age and about weight. I’m skinny right now, but I guess I must’ve been overweight or something because this one guy said to me, “If you could just lose 10 pounds, you’d be able to hit those notes.” I said, “Hmm. I wonder what Pavarotti would think about that.” There’s always a preconceived notion about age. Frank Sinatra was a friend of mine in the 1980s. He was singing into his 80s.
People are saying I’m singing better than I did when I was 25. I just think it’s just a state of mind. It’s also the fact that I walk through fear, I stay in the moment, I have a sense of humor and I love the art form I have. I’m really, really acknowledged as a singer and someone who can write songs the way I do. I’m really quite grateful that people have stuck with me.
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