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Mick Jones - Orchestrating Foreigner's Latest Tour

January 2020

MickJoneTDscopy croppedIn these days and times, it’s considered remarkable to be still be working when one is in their seventies. It’s even more remarkable to be working successfully in your field for fifty-three years. So, to say that Mick Jones is remarkable would be a tremendous understatement.

Starting his musical career with the 60’s band, Jones has worked with a whole slew of artists. However, he is most noted for founding and leading the legendary band, Foreigner.  With reportedly over 80 million record sales world-wide, the band is one of the best-selling bands of all time.

When he wasn’t leading the band in cranking out classics like “I Want To Know What Love Is”, “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Cold As Ice” – as well as touring the world, he was producing records for bands such as Van Halen, Bad Company, The Cult, Ben E. King, and Billy Joel. ‘

But Foreigner IS touring and doing so as energetically and creatively as they ever have. In fact, when they make their stop in Nashville, they will be performing their successful catalog of monster hits with the Nashville Symphony – much like they did with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus a couple of years ago in Lucerne, Switzerland. 

Having seen the band twice in the past ten years, I can only imagine they will sound with the Nashville Symphony in the city’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. While I’m not sure I will be attending, I encourage you to catch them at whatever city closest to you on this tour because I guarantee you that you’ll be in for a real treat.

But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

Because of their upcoming tour, their three Nashville shows and their Greeneville, Tennessee show shortly afterward, I caught up with the band’s founder and sole remaining original member, Mick Jones, while he was taking a break in New York City. 

After the usual small talk, I started off by asking Mick if Foreigner had ever played the Schermerhorn before.

“We've actually done a couple of shows there. It's got to be a couple of years back. And it was pretty much new at the time. I remember the sound being excellent in there. We got a lot of compliments on the sound. So, we were very happy. And I can only imagine having the orchestra. There's a pretty big choir going to be involved, too.” Then he added, “You know, we're pumped and ready to go. We'll be Tennesseans for a few days.”

As for what fans can expect from the shows like the Nashville show as well as the non-orchestral shows during this tour, Jones shared:

“Well, we've been touring. We took it easy last year or the year that currently - not going to be a new year. We did that last year and where we're sort of fairly - it was kind of a sparse sort of itinerary. We didn't do the major markets so much and this year we are doing nothing but. So, we've got a big tour of Europe coming up. Big, Actually, we're going to several countries. We're playing the O2 in London. 

“As far as more regular type shows, we've got a pretty loaded schedule for the rest of the year. We're really looking forward to it. I think that we needed to take the time off just to refresh and really, I think from the view the audience, we've done two or three major summer tours, amphitheater tours the last few years, so we kind of withdrew a little bit. This is the comeback. 

“So as far as the shows are concerned themselves, it's been kind of quite a learning experience working with the orchestra. I've worked very closely with the arranger. Actually, he's a master cellist. His name is Dave Eggar. We've worked together on the arrangements. From time to time, we'll get together and just refresh them. But it's worked remarkably well, going to these cities and plucking from the local string section of the local (orchestras) - colleges, schools, and it's works really well. We did a whole tour of Australia 18 months ago and we employed . . . college orchestras. They were great. They were really good. They were very talented. And it helps, also, to bring a communal kind of thing back into it. It was all really good. So, we've been lucky and we've had great orchestras wherever we played, pretty much.”


To put a finer point and to clarify just a bit, Mick added: 

“It's a new deal. Foreigner. Not that we're going to go that way completely. We're still going to be the rock band. But, from Mick Kelly Photo credit is Laurence HarveyKelly Hansen (L) & Mick Jones - Photo by Laurence Harveytime to time, we like to throw these shows. We have fun doing them.”

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, it's been said that Foreigner has sold over 80 million records. I asked Mick why he felt that songs like Foreigner’s stands the test of time. 

“I think, obviously, the songs have a fair amount to do with it. I think the artistry perhaps. The band has an identity musically. We were never a band to go out and be individual personalities so much as being a band. I think we've managed to keep up a standard, the quality in the songwriting and also in the performance. And now with the lineup as it is and with Kelly Hanson, we've expanded to a very exciting kind of staged live show. It's just remarkable with the recognition we still have. And, you know, you see younger folk in the crowd and they're singing the words to the songs, you know, even younger. Ten-year-old’s! And, it's, like, 'Jesus, what's going on here?'

“But it's great. It's very gratifying. I never thought I'd be doing this at this time in my life. But, you know, I'm very grateful that I've been allowed to follow this dream and still doing it. Still having a ball. I think you'll probably see, if you haven't seen this for a while, the band is really in tip-top shape. It's a great show. It's very exciting. We've sort of completed what I've envisaged as, originally, the band of my dreams, in other words. As opposed to feeling tired or exhausted, I'm feeling like refreshed and full of confidence. The band is just super and everybody is really dedicated to it. The chemistry is great. It's just very refreshing in so many different ways. Now, as a stage show, is so powerful. It's also opened up a bigger audience again for us. So that's a good thing. It's nice to play in the big places again. 

Our time was running out so I threw my final two questions to Mick Jones at once.  First of all, I wanted to know if he thought the music business was broken and, if he did, what he would do to fix it. 

Secondly, I asked him a question that I’ve asked in approximately two hundred interviews and I’m sure Mick has been asked millions of times: When you step off the tour bus life up at the great gig in the sky, how do you hope to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? Surprisingly, Jones answered the latter first.

“Ok. Let's do to the last one first. 

“Well, whenever that day comes and I hope it's a long way off, I'm having too much fun. You know, it inevitably will. And MickJoneTDscopyobviously, I'd like to be remembered as a decent guy and somebody who had a bit of a clue about writing songs and. And, really, having brought a few classic songs and put them in the wherever-they're-stored-up-there and songs that have actually reached people and have had an emotional effect on them or have been of some help during dark times - and happy times, too, you know. So, I just feel that I'm I've just been very fortunate to be able to do that - to be able to express myself and be successful at it, too.”

Shifting to my music business question, the Starrider said:

“The music business. It's almost like it's gone back to the beginning, you know, with singles, pretty much. People concentrate on singles more than they do on albums these days. And I think the general quality suffers a bit because, you know, career building is very much different these days, very much more difficult. It's a jungle out there, really. It's sort of out of control, in a way. Like, everybody's got some way of recording something and putting it down and there's just so many people and so much product out there - a lot. Which is good, you know. There's some cool bands around.

“As much as that goes, I think the thing is, is if you don't have qualified people in the record companies - the old meaning of A&R was arranging and recording and there are not many people who really have the experience or the know-how to make great records. I don't think it's a shortage of musicians. I think it's just a shortage of teachers or up-and-coming musicians who can work or be influenced by a certain extent. 

As far as a solution, I don't know, it's become a very - it's become a very greedy business, like a lot of things out in this day and age. And it's all money motivated. Not that it was not before. It's so stifling for kids to want to get a record contract and then discovered that they have to give their life away to do that. It's a little obscene, I think. As I say, there aren't enough people with the wisdom and the savvy to be able to nurture the artists and really advise them in a useful way.”

That said, Mick Jones is certainly one of those in the world of rock and roll who most certainly has the wisdom and the savvy to rock our musical world. You may have a chance to allow him and the rest of the guys in Foreigner to do just that. Check out their tour schedule at ForeignerOnline.com.

 

Frankie Banali's Fight For His Life

December 2019

Frankie2017CroppedNeil Young famously sings, “Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die. There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.” We see what happens on the stage. We see what the press presents to us as the “reality” of artists. Too often, we learn of very real challenges that celebrities are facing until it’s too late. Conversely, some artists are quite brave and share their challenges with the world, ostensibly to help others who might be going through something similar.

Such is the case with legendary Quiet Riot drummer, Frankie Banali, who recently let the world know that he is battling Stage IV pancreatic cancer. I think it’s safe to say that most of us know someone who has battled that demon. My mom did (RIP). Friends of mine have. So, when I heard the news, it shook me to my core.

I’d interviewed Frankie back almost nine years ago (here) and a second time (here). Both occasions, he revealed himself to be a kind and compassionate person – both towards humans and animals. In fact, Banali is quite an animal lover and rescuer. So, when the news broke of his cancer battle, I once again asked God why the good people are the ones who face horrible monsters like cancer (I hate to even think of that word in my mind).

Because of the seriousness and soberness of the matter, I reached out to Frankie to see if he would share his story with Boomerocity. He graciously agreed to.

I called him at his California home. After exchanging small talk and pleasantries, Frankie shared:

“I've been up since 4:30 this morning because there's the Getty Fire. Which is not that far away from us. We got the automated call at 4:30 this morning to be prepared to potentially evacuate. So, we have to gather all the pets and some of the valuables and papers and stuff like that and just be ready. But so far, so good.

“I think it was last year or the year before. No, I think it was last year, my wife and I were on vacation in New Orleans when we had the other fires here and, literally, I had standby flights just in case we had to check out of the hotel and come back home. I get it.

With the conversation shifting to the purpose of the call, Banali said:

“I was diagnosed with terminal, stage IV pancreatic cancer on April 17th, but decided to wait until I started treatment and see how that went before I went public. So, you know, it was six months, just about six months when I got the news and coming out publicly and letting everybody know, which I did a week ago Monday. The treatments have shown some improvements and I've been already greenlighted to go back out on the road with Quiet Riot. We're scheduling the next round of chemotherapy and side effect recovery time so that it makes it possible for me to continue on the road with Quiet Riot. I just finished playing this past Saturday, the 26th, at the Whiskey with the band. I'm going to play. We're winding down the year or so. And, then, I'll start 2020 touring cycle again next year. We already have a number of dates on the books.

I was stunned by what he was saying. I asked him how on earth he was getting through all of this.

“Well, you know, the thing about it is that I'm not I'm not pessimistic about the situation. I don't kid myself about it. I mean, pancreatic cancer is the most serious cancer and it's a difficult one to treat. Having said that, my entire life, everything I've ever gotten, I had to fight for, and this is the biggest battle of my life and it's worth fighting for because I've got everything to gain. By not fighting, I've got everything to lose. So, I continue to move forward. The disappointment for me was that after the diagnosis, I only played two shows with Quiet Riot - one in April and then the M3 Festival in May. This was the first time that I have not performed Quiet Riot shows that 38 years in. And that was - that was a difficult. That was a difficult thing for me to accept but accept it I had to.

Frankie 2019 1reducedBefore moving our chat over to the subject of the band’s new album, I asked Frankie what he says to those who are in the same boat as he is and fighting similar battles; What words of encouragement, what advice, does he offer?

“Well, I mean, I would give the same advice that I had given to people in the past that I had met. They confided with me and told me they had cancer, which is: you pay attention to your doctors; be educated. If you have a question, ask it. Look at every resource possible that you can, not just the doctors that are treating you; and, fight the good fight because it's worth fighting.

“My position is that it's better to do as much as possible on this side of the grass than it is to do absolutely nothing underneath it. So, you know, it is worth fighting for. With life, you only get one shot. Don't waste it. Make the most of it. It's not an easy thing. It's going to be difficult. Chemotherapy is brutal. The side effects are brutal. But, you know, you have to do it. There is no other way around it. So, fight the good fight.”

With that said, I asked Frankie to tell me about Hollywood Cowboys.

“I'm really happy with the way the record turned out. I started writing material for the record almost immediately after ‘Road Rage’, our previous album, came out two years ago. I started writing the music again with my writing partner, Neil Citron, who is also our recording engineer. We had a discussion, he and I, and I told him that I wanted to create a more varied record than some of the things we've done in the past, but still have it, you know, connected to Quiet Riot. I'm very happy with the way things turned out.

“A real bonus on this record is that I went to outside writers for some of the tracks. The first person I reached out to is Jacob Button, who is an incredibly talented songwriter, guitarist, and singer. He wrote the lyrics and the melodies for 'Don't Call it Love', 'In the Blood', which is the video song, 'Heartbreak City', and 'The Devil That You Know'.

“We cut demos with him. Everything was already blueprinted where those tracks were concerned. And, then, a couple of the heavier songs, 'Change or Die' and 'Insanity', I reached out to another friend, Neil Turbin. He's a great metal writer. He stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with lyrics and melodies and he did background vocals on those two tracks, as well.

“And, then, what I call the odd song on the record, 'Roll On' - which is sort of a modern blues - I went to I went to another friend of mine, August Young, who I work with in a Led Zeppelin thing that we do with Jimmy Sakurai, who is Jason Bonham's guitarist. He's very much in tune with the whole Robert Plant vocal style. I thought that that would be a great contribution. He wrote the lyrics and melodies and did the demo to 'Roll On' and sang background on the record as well.”

When I said that ‘Roll On’ was my favorite cut on Hollywood Cowboys, Frankie said:

“Well, it's really interesting because so many different people that have interviewed me - because the records are not out to the public hasn't heard it yet - the consensus has been across the board that they really, really like that song. That makes me very happy. We also have an acoustic version of it, but it's going to be released on just the Japanese version of the record.

As for how long the album took to make, Banali said:

“The drum tracks didn't take that long to record. I recorded all the drum tracks in one session, and I did it old school. No click tracks and I recorded on two-inch analog tape. I'm crazy that way. And, then, after we recorded the tracks, Neil and I - because Neil is also a guitarist - we were able to put demos, really quality demos together. I first sent it out to Chuck Wright, who is a great bass player, and he put his DNA on it.

“Then I sent the tracks out to Alex and brought him into the studio to cut guitars over two sessions. He did a great job with Frankie 2019 2that. In the meantime, I had taken the songs that Jacob Button had contributed - the four songs he contributed to - and the two that Neil Turbin contributed to, and the one that Augusts Young, and sent those complete demos with vocals and melodies and backgrounds and everything to our former singer because he opted to really work for whatever reason, on only five of the twelve songs on the record.”

I asked about James Durbin’s participation. I felt that his voice is quite unique for a Quiet Riot album and that it fits nicely. I wondered what made Frankie reach out to Durbin to fill in the gaps.

“Well, it didn't happen that way. What I did is, I sent the original twelve songs without any lyrics or melodies to him and he was only interested in working on five of the songs, which is why I reached out to the outside writers. Once I did that and those seven songs were completed demos, I sent those demos to James and all he really had to do was copy it from there because the songs were completed with background vocals, great lyrics and great melodies. All he did was copy what was already there.”

And which song would Banali point to as a calling card for the entire album?

“That's a difficult one on this record because I made a conscious decision when the writing process started with myself and Neil to have a more varied record. So, if you listen to the first four tracks on the record, 'Don't Call It Love', 'In the Blood', 'Heartbreak City', and 'The Devil That You Know', which are all the tracks that Jacob Button wrote lyrics and melodies to, some people have termed them ‘’Arena Rock’ or a classic Quiet Riot sound.

“But then you get into 'Change or Die' and 'Insanity', which is two that Neil Turbin contributed lyrics and melodies, too. Those have a heavier edge to them. Then, as we have already discussed, 'Roll On', is sort of an offbeat blues track for a better term. So, it's really hard to pick one track that might be, you know, the definitive 'this is what this album's about'. Having said that, one of my favorite tracks on the record is 'Don't Call It Love'. I'm really happy with the way that that turned out. But, you know, there's not any one track on the record that you could say represents the entire record.

As for touring to support Hollywood Cowboys, Frankie shared:

“Yeah, you know, traditionally, I don't add any new songs to the Quiet Riot set until a record comes out. ‘Hollywood Cowboys’ is coming out November 8th and we're almost done with the touring year. So, I'll add one, possibly two tracks from the record to the live set. But you have to be really aware when you do that because, by and large, when people come to a Quiet Riot show, they want to relive maybe a happier time or a more fun time with the 80s decade. So, you really have to play quite a few things from the Mental Health record and things from the Condition Critical record and some things off of QR III. So, when you're adding two songs to a set and you know that you have an allotted of time that you can play live, it means you have to delete two of the classic songs from the set. You have to be very conscious of what you pick and choose to take out and what you pick and choose to put in – especially if you're doing if you're doing a festival date with a number of other now national acts. Sometimes, you only get to play 20, 30, maybe 40 minutes, if you're lucky. Not even a 60 minute or 75- or 90-minute set. So, even that becomes more of a challenge.”

What’s on Frankie’s radar for the next year or two?

“Well, I've already started I've already started writing material for future a Quiet Riot record if I have the opportunity to record another one, which is kind of my M.O. Right after we released Road Rage two years ago, I started writing material with Neil, which became the songs that are on the Hollywood Cowboys record. So, you know, I'm looking forward to going back out on the road and continuing touring with Quiet Riot. And I'm looking forward to the possibility of doing a follow up record to Hollywood Cowboys and very much enjoyed doing the video for 'In the Blood'. I was very happy with the way that turned out.”

Though I asked Frankie this question when we talked in the past, with everything he’s gone through, his answer may have changed. The question was: How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be?

“Well, I mean, it's not up to me to say, but I would like it to be that people appreciated what I tried to do with Quiet Riot, not just as the drummer, but also keeping the band alive in spite of some major, serious setbacks. The fact that I've always appreciated all the fans because I've said this many times and it's the truth: If it wasn't for the fans and the support that we have had for thirty-five, thirty-six plus years now, there would not be a Quiet Riot. So, it's not just Quiet Riot that has survived the test of time, it's the fans that have made that possible.

“I got to tell you, I had no idea how the news when I went public on my situation. You know, I had no idea how it was gonna be received. But I have to tell you, the amount of love and prayers and support that I've received, both over the Internet and private messages and texts and emails has given me additional strength to continue this fight and take it wherever my life leads.”

As you keep Frankie Banali in your thoughts and prayers, keep up with him and Quiet Riot at https://quietriot.band .

Jonathan Cain & His Journey To Be More Like Jesus

Posted November 2019

 

Jonathan Cain Ph Cr Sheila Withum.j CroppedPhoto by Sheila WithumThroughout the history of rock and roll, there have been many notable artists who have not only expressed their faith but have also gone as far as recorded “gospel” albums or, at least, albums heavy with religious/spiritual themes.

In the 60’s and early 70’s, Elvis recorded His Hand In Mine, How Great Thou Art (the title song gave him his only Grammy), and You’ll Never Walk Alone). In the 70’s, Bob Dylan, B.J. Thomas, Dion, America’s Dan Peek, Grand Funk’s Mark Farner. In Country music, even more artists have recorded gospel albums.

In more recent years, other artists have proclaimed their faith by way of recording albums of faith. Journey keyboardist/songwriter, has recorded his second gospel album (third, if you count his Christmas album).

After Journey’s Knoxville concert last year, Jonathan and I talked backstage about (among other things) the yet-to-be-released album. He ran a couple of possible titles by me and asked my opinion as to which title I liked best. I gave my answer and we went on to discuss other things.

Fast forward to May of this year. The album lands. Different title. No offense was taken but I was curious what led Cain to the title he selected. So, he called me from his Florida home, and we finished our small talk, I led with that question.

“We decided to go with More Like Jesus just because of the song had gotten so much attention. You know, it was everybody's favorite song. And I just felt like it was a good statement to make, you know, in this crazy intolerant time we live in, you know.”

With the recent appointment of his wife, Pastor Paula White-Cain, as chair of President Trump’s evangelical advisory board, I posited that he and his wife are experiencing a certain amount of intolerance themselves. He replied:

“We sure are. But, you know, I think that's going to find a way for all of this to turn around. And I'm confident that going forward, that He'll (God) make a way.”

Paula’s background and current theological leanings are largely Charismatic/Pentecostal in nature, originating within the Cleveland, Tennessee, based Church of God. Jonathan is Catholic. I asked him what kind of synergies they had as a result of the differing spectrums of their faiths.

“You know, it's funny because she's more based on Scripture. Mine is more doctrine. But certainly, the common denominator is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She is amused at my stories about the worshipping of Mother Mary. Growing up, she had no idea . . . (of) the Catholic doctrine. ‘You pray to Mary.’ May is Mary's month. We have all these prayers. She was fascinated with all of it. I'm a holy water guy; Rosary guy. I like incense, frankincense and myrrh. I go old school on her, you know? And she finds it fascinating. I shared with her the Latin that I used to sing - Gregorian chants and the high mass, the sort of ritual that mass was. It was very close to the Orthodox style, except it was in Latin.

“But it's nice to come from a background of the ancient beginnings of church and then to see where church has gone. The common denominator is, again, the teachings of Jesus Christ. And so, we both are completely respectful. And to me, it's fascinating that a fatherless child would find her true father, you know, at 19 years old. Her book is amazing, 'Something Greater'. I also have a song that I wrote about her story called ‘Something Greater’. If you get a chance, listen to it. It's on iTunes and Spotify.

Jonathan Cain Paula White Michael Tait Ian EskelinJonathan Cain, Paula White, Michael Tait, & Ian Eskelin“So, I just am really just a big fan of her evangelizing and her complete devotion to that kingdom work that she's done
faithfully for the last 35 years. It's remarkable that she wasn't allowed to preach in a pulpit. You know, women weren't allowed to preach in certain churches. And yet she was so successful and so bold. She just has a bold heart for the Lord. And that to me is just really, really attractive. You know, she finds my faith attractive. I find hers very attractive. So, we're sort of a sort of mutual fans of each other's.”

When I commented on some of the beautiful liturgies and prayers that have been written by prominent Catholics throughout history, Cain concurred.

“You know, it's true. There's a whole legacy there, you know? And I pray that the church has vision and going forward.”

Then, circling back to the matter of church leanings, Jonathan added:

“You know, I'm sort of, you know, really probably more leaning towards what Church of God. I mean, I'm sort of in that realm myself. I don't feel that ‘Catholic’ anymore. But I respect the pastors that taught me; the sisters that were patient enough to work with me. So, it's like, ‘This is where you come from and this is good. I took Jesus very serious at a young age. I said my only community, my Holy Communion. It was like an out of body experience for me at eight years old. This was no passing thing. It was a serious thing. My father was a very, very prayerful man and led me that Jesus, a personal relationship with Christ. I owe my father so much when it comes to that.

“And, of course, me being a dad of three, I try to lead mine to a - I ended up at a Lutheran church with them and I found a good place for us for a while. I mean, once you're divorced, it's hard to come back, you know, because you're sort of outcast from the Catholic Church. No one has to ever become an outcast. I don't agree with that doctrine, but, you know, that's what it is.

To put a nice bow on that subject, Cain concluded:

“So, the reality is that that's your reality. At least I'm comfortable worshiping anywhere.”

Bringing the conversation back around to his new album, I asked Cain what the story behind it was.

“Well, More Like Jesus was written at the tail end of What God Wants To Hear. It was so bold and different than the other music on What God Wants to Hear that I decided I would make it a cornerstone for the new album and all the music seemed to be bold and confident. It was just sort of just very upbeat, intense in a lot of ways. Songs like Unleashed just have this joy and this confidence about them; as kingdom-minded music. I think in a lot of ways it's very kingdom minded.

“So, What God Wants To Hear is just kind of a first attempt at asking the Lord to lead me into a worship place, you know? And then, there was the confidence that came from the obedience that led me to this boldness on this second album. I'm really happy. Kingdom Come Down On Me - there's songs on this record that, to me are - Only in the Arms of Jesus - there's something for everyone. Every worshiper that is going through something, there's a song for everybody on this album.
“Ephesians 3:23 - 3:21, is my one of my favorite Scriptures. I saw it as a song unto Him and it just came out perfect. And looking back at the school fire (that took place when he was a youngster in school), I understood that ashes for beauty is a song. So, this song comes forth - 'Take These Ashes'.

“There's a song that’s on the album that's for women. I was asked to sing at the E Women's conference, and I couldn't find anything - a worship song that just really lifted up the heart of a woman. And then I ran into Proverbs. 'She's worth my far more than rubies.’ I was like, ‘Well, there it is'. So, I think there's something for everybody on this album. I mean, it's 14 songs. It's got quite a spectrum and there's probably fifteen or twenty places in the Word that you'll see where I landed. And I try to take a very kingdom-minded approach with this album.”

Jonathan says that response to the album has been great.

“People love it. I mean, I've been on iTunes and they say there's not a bad song on the album. ‘We like it'. And More Like Jesus is definitely a departure. Even my kids like it. It's a joyful song. It's progressive. It asks some questions about your faith and I think that it does it in a positive way. You have to prepare in your hearts. I mean, that's one thing everybody talks about Jesus' birth. Are you ready to prepare for Jesus? And I think that's one thing that I found, is that there's preparation that goes into it for sure.

“I just had a lot of hearts and a lot of a lot of new followers from it. People are digging on the album. They are buying it; they're playing the songs. I wish I could get some more people to write reviews, but I don't know if iTunes doesn't publish them or what.”

As for new music coming down the pike:
“I wrote a song about my wife's book, Something Greater. We dropped that. And then the new Christmas single is coming at the end of the month, Wonder of Wonders. So, there's two more songs for me and next year, there will be another new single. So, I'm going to go on the single thing for a while.”

Which song on the new album would Cain point to as its calling card?

“You know, to me, I would have to say Unleashed. It's a great place to go because it is sort of a kingdom minded worship song JonathanCainUnleashedConfin a way. We can go to a place where we become unleashed; that we will be totally free; that through worship we would find true freedom. And I think that truly is the spirit of this album.

When I asked if there wasn’t going to be a Christmas album in the offing, Jonathan said:

“Well, I dropped Unsung Noel and it kind of just disappeared as quickly as I put it out. I feel that it I feel like it's time to try that thing out again. We're going to give it another look; give it another listen. It's deep. Its 14 songs deep. There's a lot of songs on there. I wrote 10 original Christmas songs. So, I don't know if there is a worship album with ten original Christmas songs. I doubt it. I dare you to find one, okay? Ha! Ha! That's producing a lot in one setting. I think that speaks for what I feel. But Wonder of Wonders belongs right along with the things I wrote on Unsung Noel. The melody is very catchy. And once again, we look at the miracles of the Nativity and we consider that Christ is the heart of Christmas and that is a wonder. It looks at the miracle of what the Nativity actually represents for all of us.”

Journey will embark on a stadium tour next year (see the itinerary here). I asked Cain what else was his radar in the next year or so.

“Well, Paula and I have a daily show we minister on together on Daystar - Paula Today with Paula White-Cain. I'm having fun with her getting in that lane and doing the preparation to ministering together. Certainly, I play a lot of music when she ministers, I'm usually present on the piano, keyboard in some way.

“We have a project coming called ‘Prayer Glories’. I recorded my Christmas album - a live version of Unsung Noel at New Destiny, and we're excited to finally put that out and release it. There's a possible Amazon Prime situation that might happen. I think I'm working on that angle. More video. There's a prayer piano worship I got I'm also going to be releasing next year where I'm just playing free form worship music on the piano. There's that, too.”

You can order More Like Jesus, Jonathan’s other solo work and his autobiography by clicking on the album icons below. You can also keep up with Jonathan at his website, JonathanCainMusic.com.

You can also read our first interview with Jonathan here and our second one here.

John Schneider - His Life, His Way

Posted December 2019

Schneider John 004Reduced CroppedBaby boomers most definitely remember the hit TV show, Dukes of Hazzard. For those who are too young to know what I’m talking about, it was a show that you would get if you mixed Smokey and the Bandit and The Andy Griffith Show.

Ah. Y’all are too young to know about those shows, too. Your loss. Just keep reading anyway.

Despite my description of the show, I’m told that it was actually inspired by the movie, Moonrunners. The show revolved around two cousins, Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat). They lived in the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, with their Uncle Jesse (played by the legendary Denver Pyle) and their hotter-than-summer cousin, Daisy (played by the perennially beautiful, Catherine Bach). They hot-rodded all over the county, evading the crooked sheriff and county commissioner while still finding themselves in the middle of some sort of trouble.

It was good, clean television fun that kids loved and was a guilty pleasure for adults. Shows like that are sorely missed in family’s homes today.

With all of that as a backdrop – and before getting to the purpose of this piece, I want to share a true story that illustrates how the show mesmerized kids.

Back in the late seventies, I was a volunteer church youth leader, and we were having Vacation Bible School in the weeknights of one of the summertime weeks in Phoenix, Arizona. There a two grade-school aged brothers who lived on the cul-de-sac I lived on and I invited them to come to attend. They accepted.

When it was time to leave, they walked up to my car (which had the windows rolled down). As I was about to open the door forSchneider John 003reduced them, they said, "No way! We're getting in this way – like ‘Dukes of Hazzard!’” and they jumped through the windows into my car.

When I learned that John Schneider had recently released a new gospel album (“Recycling Grace”), a new book (“My Life, My Way”), and a new movie coming out (“Christmas Cars”), I had to talk to him. When I called him up at his Louisiana home, I started off by telling him the above story. His response was:

“I think that's great! That's great! That's how you're supposed to do it, isn't it?”

When I said that I was likely too old to do that; that I might hurt myself, John replied:

“Well I can still do it. So, come on man!”

Shifting the focus away from my lack of gymnastic ability over to Schneider’s most recent album. I asked him what the story was behind it.

“Alicia and I decided to get back into music in a big way. I'd been away from music for a long time. I mean, decades - back in the 80s. After Duke's, music was a huge part of my life, probably the biggest part of my life. So, when we got flooded back in 2016, twice, she noticed a habit that I have - and I mean, like destroyed, devastated, flooded in Louisiana. She noticed a tendency I had to pick up my guitar and start playing music whenever life was kind of taking a nosedive.

“She came in to talk to me one day and I put the guitar down and she said, 'Why do you do that?' I said, 'Well, playing the guitar makes me feel better.' And she said, 'I didn't ask you why you picked it up. I asked you why you put it down.' And from that simple question, we've since done I think the count now is one hundred and six brand new songs. We released a five C.D. project called The Odyssey Project 2018 and released a single every Tuesday of 2018. So, fifty-two singles in 2018 and a Christmas album called Merry Christmas Baby. And a Greatest Hits Revisited - 'Greatest hits Still' - all in 2018.

“Then this year, 2019, we did a kind of southern rock. It's not a tribute because it's all brand new songs. We've done a record called, ‘The Redneck Rebel’, which sounds like stuff that I listened to when I was in high school - like Marshall Tucker Band, and the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is being very well received.

Schneider John 002reduced“We have single out now called Stoned on The One which is a football and relationship gone awry reference. And we released a gospel album, an inspirational album called, ‘Recycling Grace’; that was this year. And we did a movie called, ‘Christmas Cars’.”

As the old Ronco commercials used to scream: But wait! There’s more!

“I've been noodling on a book, noodling on a book for a number of years. I had it in my phone. I kept writing chapter after chapter of things that came to mind: about getting The Dukes of Hazzard; what life was like before it and what life was like during it. So, I wrote a book that is called, ‘My Life My Way’. From that book, Alisha said, ‘You've got to write a Dukes of Hazard’ - it's the 40th anniversary of Dukes of Hazzard - she said, 'You've got to write a nod to the Dukes of Hazzard movie and we'll make it and we'll put it out for the 40th anniversary of Dukes. It should be based on all the stuff you have in the book. A lot of it can be in the movie.’

“So, you know, she was right again. So, I wrote a script called, ‘Christmas Cars’. In June of this year, we filmed it. People can pre-order it now, but it comes out officially on what we call Orange Friday, which is the Friday after Thanksgiving. I'm calling it Orange Friday in honor of the General Lee instead of Black Friday, just because, you know, why not? General Lee's the most famous car in the world. I drove it. I drove him. So that's what we've done. People are loving the trailers on my YouTube channel: John Schneider, YouTube channel. It will make you feel like a kid. It's as close to Dukes of Hazzard, I think, as we're ever going to get. I really do, because there's a pace, there's a morality, there's a lesson, there's the good guys; good guys are flawed, and bad guys have a conscience. That was always a part of what made the Dukes of Hazzard recipe work so well. And, as of late, they've not gotten that right. I say with as much humility as I can muster, I believe I know the recipe that makes Dukes work and Christmas Cars is exactly that because I was there.”

Then, as an obvious reference to our opening conversation, Schneider added:

“I climbed in and out of those windows myself. I still can. I still can. Harder to get out than it is to get in.”

When I asked if the movie would wind up on the Hallmark Channel, John said:

“Well, we addressed the flag issue. You know, my car and the show is the General Lee off of Dukes. So, no, it’s not going to wind up anywhere because people are afraid to combat the lunacy of revisionist history that's running rampant in our country today. I don't know why. We have more of a global voice on our phones now than we've ever had before, a global presence, if you go after it. People are afraid to have any opinion that's in opposition to anybody else, which basically means everybody just has to be quiet. But that's not in my nature.

“Well, you saw in Christmas Cars, I say in the trailer, 'Wait a minute: symbols don't hurt people. People hurt people.' I'm trying to interject some of what I feel was common sense into entertainment and celebrate the Dukes of Hazzard at the same time.”

Shifting our attention to John’s new book, My Life, My Way, Schneider shared the background on it.

“The book is a real inside look at what it's been like being me; having a dream at a very early age, which I think we all do. I just think life and love wants to talk us out of it. But I started in theater when I was eight years old. I've had a passion for doing exactly what I've been doing ever since. I explain that to people, because there's a tendency for people to think you just kind of appeared on the scene when they were first aware of you. Well, as they say, that's kind of the tip of the iceberg. There's a whole lot of stuff underneath that got you to that point.

“So, I talk about that and talk about the tenacity of a 16-year-old skipping school and climbing a fence so I could talk my way onto the Smokey and the Bandit set and into the movie. Or, I talk about, did I really bring a six pack of beer to the Dukes of Hazzard audition? Well, yeah. I talk about that and what led to that decision and how that worked out and how it might not have.

“I talk about music; talk about what it was like on the set and talk about relationships with the different people on the set. It's kind of like an opportunity to hang out with me over the last 40 years.

“And I'm going to do an audible book. I'm going to do an audible version of it and I'm going to read it myself. If you've got audible on your phone or you want to get a hold of that, I haven't yet. But I'm going to do that a couple of weeks. And then it'll really be creepy because it would be like, you're really in my pocket.

“It’s really quite entertaining. I've got a bizarre sense of humor and an odd way of saying things. People who read my Facebook page or people that read any of the blogs, I do, I think that they'll agree there's a there's a different perspective that I have. So, me telling the story of how this life has evolved so far, I think you're going to love it. I wrote it and I'll read it and go, 'Wow, this is just this is cool. It seems like I'm right there. Lake Sherwood.’

Schneider John 005Reduced“Then a lot of I would say 90 percent of Christmas Cars comes right out of the book. There's been some great stuff; there's been some not great stuff. There's been financial issues. There's been great financial success and there's been not a dime in the pocket. There's been having to reach up to touch grass kind of a kind of thing going on, too.

“So, if people think chasing your dream is easy, they're wrong, but it's worth it. And that's the general point: we all have a dream; we all have something I believe we're designed to do. And the only thing in the way of us in our dream is us. We have to go for it no matter how old or how young you are. Go for it with everything you've got. Because I believe it's better to spend a life pursuing your dream and even not make it than it is to spend life not pursuing your dream and wishing you had tried. So, it's really good. ‘My life My Way’ is what it's called. And that's how I live my life. And it's how I recommend it to other people.

A story about Schneider that I had read about elsewhere is how Johnny Cash introduced him to Christianity. I wanted to hear it straight from Schneider, so I asked him about it.

Well, John was really the first Christian I had met that wasn't concerned about trying to appear to be nicer than Jesus. And it's an important designation because what a lot of Christians don't know or don't remember is how syrupy and saccharin and phony, they can sound to someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. 'Oh, how are you doing?' 'Oh, I'm just blessed. I'm so blessed. And this wonderful.'

“Well, come on. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes, you might say, ‘Well, I think I must have slept through my blessing today because I feel like crap. Johnny was a man; he was a scarred, flawed, wonderful Christian man who didn't have to pretend everything was just great. I had seen a lot of the other.

“Prior to working on Stagecoach - that's where John and I met - he had actually done the Dukes of Hazzard album for that, but we'd never met. We met when we did Stagecoach together and we became friends right away. I got to see I got to see how he treated people. And I got to see a really terrific, honest-about-everything man who also believed in Christ was like and to say, ‘Jesus is my lord and savior’. Then I guess there's something to it.

“My agent at the time would say the wagons were circling. So, I'd been surrounded by Christians and church folk and they were kind of like the church lady from Saturday Night Life. There's nothing less attractive to a fledgling Christian than the church lady. So, I like to think God put Johnny in my life so that I could see what it was really like. And I did. I lived it with live with Johnny and June for a little over a year and it was great. I never saw a dishonest moment with Johnny Cash. It was great and it's a lesson we could all take. Don't cover up your scars because scars are really what attract people to the truth because life ain't easy but it's worth it. If it is easy, I question the value of the path you're on or the validity of the path you're on.

“Nobody said that God makes things easy. Just look at Jesus. Right? This is not in the book, but I remember John saying at Schneider John 006Reducedone point, ‘You know, why is it that Christians expect to have a better day than Jesus?’ So, yeah, it was a remarkable time. I miss him every day. I'm looking at a picture of him right now.”

Because Boomerocity’s wheelhouse is classic rock, John asked me if I had listened to his CD, “Redneck Rebel”, which I had listened to a couple of cuts from it, to which he said:

“Listen to ‘Southern Rock Survivor’ and then listen to ‘Backwood Soul’, just because you said classic rock, this is like a brand new classic Southern Rock. I think you'll appreciate.”

Is that what Schneider would consider to be his favorite to go to music?

“Yeah. Because it's you know, it's the truth. It's ballsy and it's great fun to sing, and it's that's why I'm hoarse right now. They're great show songs. We're doing a show tonight. We're doing a thing called, ‘John Schneider's Hideaway’. We're taking over the second floor of the Whiskey Bent Saloon tonight. So, we do these pop-up concerts in various places and this is the first one. So, if it works, which I think it will, we're going to do it in a couple of other places. Gavin DeGraw is a friend and he's offered me the rooftop of his place down there (his The National Underground in NYC). So, when it warms up a little bit, we'll do it down there.

“I don't know how many people we're gonna have because we're advertising by word of mouth and trying to get people who live here the music experience they used to get and give people who are visiting the music experience that they thought that we're gonna get. No cover tunes. It's all singers and songwriters and musicians who are playing our own stuff. So. Yes. Come on. Let's let them know you are with the press and.

As side-note: I did attend John’s “pop-up” concert at Nashville’s Whiskey Bent that night and it was a blast. I highly recommend you catching one of them if you have the opportunity.

As our chat was winding up our chat, I asked John the question I often ask artists who have been at their craft for a long time: How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be? I also asked him what is on his radar for the next year or so.

Schneider J 001“Wow. OK, well, what's on the radar here is I'm writing a Smokey and the Bandit tribute we're going to do in February called, ‘Stand on It’. The band will be Hellcat and I'll be in the red shirt behind the wheel. Cody McCarver is going to be my Snow Man. But his name is Roy in the movie, so we're recording music right now. We did four (songs) of ten. One song's called ‘Roy’. My name is Roy and I Like To Drive. Ones called, ‘Cowboys Don't Get Old’. Ones called, ‘Drinking Buddy’, and I don't remember the name of the other one. That's on that's on the radar for immediately. And that will be on the heels of, hopefully, a tremendous success with ‘Christmas Cars’.

“When I'm up there, I want to be remembered as somebody who went for it with everything I had, always. I'm not a believer that the phone will ring, and someone will just come in and save your life and give you a job. I'm not that guy anyway. I'm a job creator, not a job searcher.

"So that's what I want. In fact, if they've got to have anything on my tombstone, it would be, ‘He went for it’. Yeah, I kinda like that.”

You can order the book, CDs, and DVD that John and I talked about by visiting his website, here, or by clicking on the items, below.

Jo Wood Talks About "Stoned"

Posted November 2019

JoWood2CroppedThere’s a line in the Elton John song, Philadelphia Freedom, that says, “I used to be a rolling stone, you know?” In a different context, that line could apply to Jo Wood. In the 32 years that she was partnered and married to Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, she was as much a Rolling Stone as one could be without actually performing in the band.

In that time, Ms. Wood amassed a near-infinite number of photos (“snaps”, as she calls them) of her life with Ronnie and the Stones. After much badgering from friends and family, she was finally coaxed into gathering a fraction of those photos and compile into a book entitled, “Stoned: Photographs & Treasures from Life with the Rolling Stones” (see our review of it here).

The book is an amazing collection of truly insightful and intimate behind-the-scenes views into the Rolling Stones family. I will go as far as to say that it is the most insider photographic peek into their world to date.

I had the privilege of chatting with Jo by phone, reaching her at her home in the idyllic British countryside to which she had just recently moved to and was still in the process of unpacking.

After comparing notes on such things as country living in our respective countries, losing a parent (she lost her mother a couple of years ago), visiting our fathers and family, and other life-matters (such as her ten grandkids about whom she says, “I adore them all!”), we got down to chatting about “Stoned”. Jo shared that the initial buzz is all positive.

“Everybody is really likes it! I was I wasn't sure. I knew I liked the pictures. And I'm very proud of the pictures, but I didn't know what response I was going to get. But everywhere I've gone, they love the book. Not one negative comment at all. I'm very proud of that.”

Jo then shared how the book was started, came together, and how long it took.Stonedcover

“Well, of course, I've had those pictures in boxes and albums for years and years now, and I started putting them on Instagram. A very good friend of my son in law, Jon Bennett, is an ex rock journalist. He pops over to the house. And I was just going through just a few - I just piled on the table and going through them. He said, 'Oh, my God, Jo! These are great pictures.' I said, 'Yeah, I've got loads of those boxes of them, Jon.' And he said, 'Come on, let me see.'

“So, I brought a box down and we started going through it and he said, 'You have got to do something with these pictures.' I said, 'No, I'm just going to put them on Instagram. My kids can sort them out when I'm - I can't do that.' And he said, 'No, Jo, you've got to.' He nagged me so much. And then he dragged me off to a publisher and I thought I'd go just to see what they would say. And they loved it. And they said, 'Come on, let's do it.' I went, 'Oh, my God.'.

“So, I told Ronnie. I said, 'Ronnie, I'm going to do a picture book with all my old snaps. He said, 'Fine, just let me see it so I can edit it.' I took it to him before when I got the draft done. He just took out one letter from 1978 from the accountant, saying, 'Here's an advance, 250 dollars.' He said that was irrelevant to the book. I said, 'All right. You're right'. Then I sent it to Keith and Patti (Richards), as well. Patti took a couple of pictures out of her that she didn't like, and they said, 'You're good to go.'

“Ronnie looks great in all of the pictures. I knew he'd like it.

I told Jo that the collection showed for the first time that there is this tight knit camaraderie, family type of feeling within the Stones organization, despite the fact that there's this reputation of being the bad boys of rock and roll. She validated those observations.

Jo Wood“You know, we're always like a family. They have - I think when you spend a lot of time with people by going on tour day in and day out, month to month to month, you become very close to them and you share so many memories. Yeah, we are like a family. Even though I'm not with Ronnie anymore, whenever I see him, you know - he's my great friend all through the years. And the same with Patti and Keith. I adore Patti. I'm in contact with her all the time. We shared so many memories. We are all really good friends.

Regarding how long it took to sort through the photos for submission to the publisher, Ms. Wood said:

“Well, once I had sat down to make a really made a big effort, I had to take loads of albums and just sort them out, really; go through boxes; find my old diaries. I had everything on the table, a big table, and I just started putting them into sections first. And then, once I got my favorite ones - there was so many of them. Anyway, I put them all in folders, so it had some chronological order. And then I took it all to the publishers and they said, 'We will do the final edit because you're too close.' Because I was like, 'Oh, my god! You've got to use that one! Oh, don't get that one!' They said, 'You're too close, Jo. Step away. We'll do the final edit. Otherwise, you'll have thousands of pictures in your book.'

I asked Jo if she could tell me what her three favorite photos in the book are.

“Yeah, I think Ronnie and Keith asleep on each other. I love that one. I love Ronnie and Keith walking backstage. I've made it into a print. I love that one. Which other ones do I love? I love the one – it’s bit a bit tattered and battered - but it's Keith by the tuning room door. Yeah. Yeah. So those are the ones I like. I mean, there are so many of them that - I love the one of Keith with Angela (Richards), Keith and my daughter. I love that one of Ronnie asleep with a saxophone and a bottle of beer. Yeah. There's lots of them. I love, actually. I have seen those pictures for so many years. It must be nice to look at them for the first time.

Is there anything that Jo feels that the fans will be particularly amused with or surprised about or shocked to see within the pages of Stoned?

“Gosh! I don't know. Maybe us all having such love all the time. We really did have lots of love. Maybe they will enjoy that note that Keith said, 'Jo, I owe you two Derringer pistols.' Ha! Ha! That is so Keith.

Is there anything about the book that isn't readily obvious that she would like readers to know about in the book?

“No, not really, because the pictures tell the story. Now, when you just look at the pictures - I mean, I didn't really want to write as much as I did, but the publisher said I had to. So, I just wanted it to be all pictures. But I think when you look at them, they tell the story themselves. I really don't need to say much about them.”

As for plans for a “Stoned” sequel, Ms. Wood said:JO Wood2

“Easily, I could do a sequel. But let me see what the publisher says.”

Jo shared with me what is on her radar for the next year or so.

“I do a podcast called, Alien Nation, where I interview different people from celebrities to the man on the street about UFO experiences and abductions and all that, I'm fascinated with that. I spoke to Dan Akroyd, Robbie William. Shaun Ryder . . . just to name a few. That's ongoing.

“Then next year - because I'm mad about organics - everything organic as far as organic - you know, you clean up the world when you buy good, natural product. I'm bringing out my skin range next year. I've already got candles, body oil, and fragrance. So now it's going to be the skin range. And you know, I work a lot with my son Tyrone, because he has this charity called Project Zero, which is all about saving the oceans. Next year we got a big concert at the O2. That's like a Live Aid for the ocean next May. So, watch out to that.”

When I asked if she could share who will be performing at that concert, she playfully said in a sing-song way: “I'm not allowed to say.”

While we will all have to wait to see who will hit that stage, we don’t have to wait to order “Stoned: Photographs & Treasures from Life with the Rolling Stones”. It will be a great addition to your library as well as a great gift for that Rolling Stones fan on your gift giving list.

You can follow Jo Wood here on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.