RICKY WARWICK On His New Solo Album, “When Life Was Hard and Fast”: “The Story Of My Life Is Contained in Many of These Songs”

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Ricky Warwick, guitarist and vocalist for Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, and The Almighty, will be releasing a brand new studio album, “When Life Was Hard and Fast”, on February 19th via Nuclear Blast.

“When Life Was Hard and Fast” is a musically diverse record that rips incredible melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. Stand-out tracks include the heartfelt composition “Time Don’t Seem to Matter,” the emotionally powerful “I Don’t Feel at Home,” and the fist-pumping rocker “Still Alive.” Eleven tracks in total that offer fans plenty of musical flavors which all flow together seamlessly.

Ricky‘s band consists of Robert Crane (bass), Xavier Muriel (drums), and Keith Nelson (guitar), as well as several special guests, including Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Andy Taylor formerly of Duran Duran, and Dizzy Reed of the mighty Guns ‘N Roses.

Pre-orders for the album can be found here

Correspondent Robert Cavuoto caught up with Ricky to talk about creating his newest solo album, how he is able to write such emotionally charged songs, and writing and producing this record with Keith Nelson, formerly of Buckcherry. Continue reading for their full conversation.          

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Black Star Riders’ lyrics seem to be about outward situations or struggles; the lyrics on your solo album come across as being personal and introspective? Would agree?

I think so. It’s a great analogy that you made. I always get asked, “How can you tell what song will be for Black Star Riders and what will be for a Rick Warwick solo CD?” When I write, some of the songs start out as therapy or poetry in a diary. Those tend to be the very personal ones. With Black Star Riders, I’m representing the opinions and designs of four other guys, and with my solo songs, it’s more of an inward journey lyrically.

How autobiographical did you get with this album?

I think pretty deep. On the song “Time Don’t Seem to Matter” is about being away from my family, particularly my kids, when I’m on tour. Missing birthdays and all that kind of stuff is pretty deep. It’s about losing my parents and just taking things for granted because things can change in the blink of an eye. The title track “When Life was Hard and Fast” is about me growing up in Belfast. There a line in the song, “Why you gonna keep me working on this farm when I can see the road ahead; it’s tattooed on my arm.” I worked on a farm growing up, and my Dad would hit me on the back of the head and say, “Stop dreaming about being a rock star!” It’s about getting in trouble at school or coming home with a bloody nose [laughing]. That’s my life contained in that song. It was all pre-Internet, and don’t get me wrong, there were problems back then, but life just seems simpler. It was black and white with no grey area. Looking back, it makes me smile. A lot of people realize their dream, and a lot of people get lost along the way, which is very sad. So, those are two songs that spring to mind as being very personal songs.

You’re a tremendous lyricist and storyteller who can make people feel a specific emotion like on “I Don’t Feel at Home.” When did you realize that you had that gift like that with songwriting?

I don’t think I’ve ever realized it. I don’t try to analyze it too much. I’m not very good at expressing myself to people who are close to me. I tend to keep things bottled up. I’m that guy who is always scribbling in a notebook, writing things down. That is where all my innermost thought go because I find it easier than speaking them out loud sometimes.

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Several songs have a Black Star Riders vibe like “Fighting Heart” and “I’d Rather Be Hit.” Are songs like that a product of who you are or examples of what you would have demo’ed to Black Star Riders?

I can’t separate myself from myself; I think that’s where the problem is [laughing]. I’m the same guy who writes the majority of the material for Black Star Riders, so when I’m going to do something else, it’s always going to have an element of who I am as it’s in my DNA. With the Black Star Riders, I’m very aware of what the four other guys are going to bring to the table or how they are going to interpret the ideas. I tend to get it so far and send it to Christian Martucci to ask him what he thinks of it. He interrupts the songs, adds his riffs, and we go back-and-forth like that. I’m very aware that Black Star Riders fans love our songs and try not straying too far away from what makes the band tick. It’s something I don’t want to lose and very proud of. Certain songs could get the Black Star Riders treatment, but then they won’t be mine. I had the help of Keith Nelson this time around, and I pretty much played all the guitar parts and sang the backing vocals. It’s a narcissistic thing! I’m just lucky that I’m in a situation where I can do both. I have gotten the raised eyebrow from Scott Gorham a couple of times when I played him my solo stuff, and he said, “Really, you didn’t give that one to us?” [Laughing] Those guys trust me that I won’t show up for the next Black Star Riders CD with no ideas or half baked ideas because I used everything for my solo CD. Hopefully, when it comes time to work on the next Black Star Riders CD, they won’t think that I’m sacrificing anything.

Do you tend to write for the project at hand, or are you constantly writing new ideas?

I’m always writing. I was doing the demos for this CD while working on the last Black Star Riders CD. I was doing both at the same time. I don’t think I have to write for a specific album, I have a bunch of songs, and when it comes times to write a Black Star Riders CD or a Rick Warwick solo CD, I look at what I have stockpiled for the last few years. It’s a case of going through everything and figuring out what works for the project.

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

What song off this album would say came to you like a gift?

The song “Time Don’t Seem to Matter” only took ten minutes to write. That’s actually the demo on the CD. I came in, played the song to Keith, and he made a couple of subtle chord changes, which lifted the songs up from where I had it. I had a head cold that day and didn’t want to sing, but Keith was like, it’s a demo; just throw it down as a point of reference. It was one take of me sitting down at the microphone and playing guitar. Whatever head cold I had that day affected my voice, and it cracked a few times, which ended up sounding really cool. When it came time to record the song for the CD, we set up all the microphones and tried to recreate the vibe, but we just couldn’t do it! We decided right there just to keep the demo. I then added my daughter’s voice at the strings later.

It was great to hear that Keith Nelson was working with you; how did the two of you connect?

It was a happy accident. When Damon Johnson left Black Star Riders in 2018, and we were looking for a guitar player, Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses was trying to help me look for someone. He asked if I knew Keith. I never met him but was familiar with him from Buckcherry. I thought he could be the ideal guy for Black Star Riders, so I called him up, and we agreed to meet at Barney’s Beanery in Hollywood. He walked in, shook my hand, looked me in the face, and said, “I’m not your guy!” [Laughing], so I asked him why are we here at 10:00 am in the morning? He said he loved the band, loved the songs, and was honored to be asked, but said, “I’m done with going on the road for six or seven months out of the year, and that’s the reason I left Buckcherry. I wanted to tell you face-to-face.” He went to say that he has his own studio and is writing and producing. He invited me down, and two days later, we started writing the first song, “Fighting Heart,” and I left with a demo. Over the weekend, I listened to it and thought it was great as we had some chemistry between us. I called him up the next morning and told him I have more than enough idea for my next solo CD, and why don’t we work on it together, co-writing and co-producing it? He said he was in, and that was it!

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

I interviewed Andy Taylor about Eddie Van Halen’s influence on his playing a few months back. What was his involvement on this record?

He has been a friend of mine for a long, long time, and he produced an Almighty album for me back in the early 90s. We have stayed in touch ever since. I went over to where he lived in Ibiza and co-wrote some songs with him for his solo CD, which is coming out. I had started working on the demo for my CD, so I asked him, since I’m working with you on your CD can you play on a track for my solo CD? He said, of course, and when I got back home, I sent him “I’d Rather Be Hit.” He put a fantastic guitar solo on there for me. He is an amazing guitar player and a good guy to work with. He so into the vibe of Rock & Roll.

Did you write “Love or Liberation” for his solo record?

I co-wrote it! That’s my riff and lyrics [laughing]. Andy wrote the bridge, chorus, and pre-chorus.

That’s one hell of a rocking song!

Thank you. I’m so excited about it. Andy is in no rush and is playing the waiting game as he is very smart. It’s killing me because his CD has been done for over two years, and I’m like, “Dude, put it out now as it so good!” It has everything from “Love or Liberation” to some funky songs. You are going to love it when you heard it.

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Why didn’t you keep that song for yourself?

[Laughing] I was out there for about a week, and Andy has a really good work ethic, so we went right down the rabbit hole. I was on that beautiful island and didn’t really get to see any of it as we were in the studio all the time. It was a very productive time. We wrote 12 or 13 songs, and I believe six of them made it on his CD.

At the onset of the pandemic, I noticed that you were one of the first artists doing streaming concerts. Were you familiar with this medium because it seems as if you came right out of the gate doing them?

No, I wasn’t familiar with it. I waited until May or June, so I actually waited a couple of months. I was watching what other people were doing to get a vibe. Everybody was in a panic, and I was as well; like what am I going to do? Most people were using Facebook Live but, I decided not to rush into anything. That works for some people, but I wanted to make it more of an event. I discovered the Stage It platform where you do online flyers, sell tickets, and promote it like an actual show. That appealed to me; it was like a real gig. It was DIY with the flyers, posters, and the opportunity to build up a mailing list. It gave me something to focus on every month. I’ve done seven shows, and I love them because it gives me a chance to play, and it’s worked out great.

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