Glenn Hughes Looks Back on a Huge 2016, Ahead to a ‘Real Rock’ Album From Black Country Communion: Exclusive Interview
“I was very, very honored to be welcomed into the fabric of that wonderful place,” Hughes tells Ultimate Classic Rock, looking back on the experience. “It definitely ticks a lot of boxes in America. I think more people are very much aware of who Deep Purple are again and who I am – as my fanbase, strangely enough, keeps getting younger and growing each year. So, there’s nobody more grateful than I am right now.”
Watching that fanbase continue to grow and develop is something that’s been really interesting for Hughes to witness, because there’s no way he could have anticipated that so many decades down the line, he’d still be doing what he does at this level – while continuing to see his audience expand.
“I remember all of those years ago, obviously my fanbase when I was in my 20s, they were the same age as me,” he says. “Over the course of the years, I see, I mean, I still have old girlfriends that I’ll get in touch with and I have a really strong fanbase on the internet, as you know. They’re bringing their kids, you know? And their kids are bringing their boyfriends and girlfriends. There’s cross-generations of people coming, and it’s amazing how many new fans I get. And it is me on the internet who responds to – I mean, I do have a web team of people – but it’s me genuinely talking to them and answering their questions. It’s part and parcel of who I am, really. I have the time to do that, and I really love connecting with fans on a one on one basis.”
The sober lifestyle that he has enjoyed for a number of years now has given Hughes the ability – and the time – to have a closer relationship with his fans, and it’s one that he also sees feeding back into his work artistically.
“I’m not the man I used to be. I was over-served at the bar back in the day and now, I’ve got a little bit more time to have to do that,” he says. “I write every single day and part of my writing comes from the ability to know where I am in my life and where I’m going. Having connection with people on the outside is very, very important to me. I like to stay in touch with people and be part of the human race.”
Hughes is wrapping up 2016 with Resonate, a strong new album largely recorded with his touring band and produced with the help of guitarist Soren Anderson. Surprisingly, it’s his first solo release in eight years, but he’s hardly been idle during that period. Hughes recorded a trio of albums starting in 2010 with Black Country Communion, which also features blues-rock guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. When the band splintered in late 2012, Hughes and Bonham carried forward briefly with California Breed, recording a single album. Bonham departed from the band’s lineup prior to American tour dates with Alter Bridge and by 2015 the project had officially been put on the shelf.
Watch Glenn Hughes' Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
Since then, Hughes and Bonamassa have announced that Black Country Communion will come back together to record a fourth album. But after having both knees replaced at the end of 2015 and the beginning of this year, Hughes found himself unexpectedly drawn back into the studio, recording a new solo album.
“While I was in recovery, I was in the studio. You know, after about a month of me doing physical therapy, I had a therapist at the house and I have a studio in my house and I’ve got a treadmill in there. I was in there and I’m seeing all of these instruments,” he explains. “I walked past a guitar and I started to play the guitar and [then] I started to write. I started to write, not knowing that I was about to write Resonate.
He kept the developing project under wraps and didn’t even let his record company know that he had something in the works. Instead, Hughes just kept his focus on capturing the songs as they came out, working at a deliberate pace.
“I stayed in the studio and wrote one song at a time. I started a song and finished it. Before dinner, I’d write the lyrics and after dinner, I’d go and sing it. I demoed all of these songs and then I went into the studio and played the songs to my band and we did the same thing: We recorded one song at a time and finished it. Each day was a new track. It was very cathartic for me and very, very interesting.”
Hughes says that the new album was inspired by “human condition, life experiences – living life on life’s terms.” He took a myriad of emotions and thoughts and poured them into the songs on the new album.
“My father died the day I got inducted into the hall of fame. I did get some opportunity to sing about that. I also got the opportunity to sing about coming back, sort of finding myself alone in recovery,” Hughes says. “I don’t like to be isolated, and I wanted to sing about healing. I wanted to sing about working through the fear. I wanted to sing about having faith and losing faith. I also got a little pissed off on the album about the grief. And I wanted to leave that.”
Watch Glenn Hughes Perform 'Heavy' With Chad Smith
Keeping the takes organically fresh without a lot of overdubs was something that was also important when it came to properly capturing the feelings he wanted to communicate through the new material
“I’m a first- or second-take singer. I never sing a song three times. It’s always the first or second take. It’s always been that way with me,” Hughes says. “And after listening to my vocals on the album, I said, ‘Ooh, you sound really angry there, Glenn!’ And I said to myself, ‘Leave it. Leave it as it is.’ You know, leave the genuine feelings on there and let it be known. It’s just a mood. I was moody on this album, and I just wanted to leave it as it is. It was like an actor doing a script, reading his lines before he did a script and before he filmed and I wanted to be, if you would – I wanted to be like a part-actor, doing this work. And that’s what I think I did. That’s what I think I accomplished.”
Longtime friend Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was again along for the ride, drumming on both the opening and closing cuts of the new album.
“We’re best mates, since 2003. Chad’s worked on all of my solo albums – this is the fifth one,” Hughes says. “We have kind of a jokingly unwritten law that while I’m alive, he will be there. It just so happens that I was making an album in Copenhagen and the Peppers were coming into town. He calls me up and he said, 'Hey, I’m coming in a day early. Can I play?' I said, 'Are you kidding me? Get over here!' So, I did save two tracks for him, not knowing that ‘Heavy’ would be the start and ‘Long Time Gone’ would be the end. Chad can play anything wonderfully. He’s not only my dearest friend, but he’s in my opinion the greatest rock drummer we have on the planet – and the funniest guy in the world. So, it’s always a joy to have him in my midst and have him be part of my family, which he is very much so.”
Hughes did a brief run of U.S. dates at the end of this past summer and promises that there will be extensive touring in support of Resonate. But first, he’ll be looking to knock out that highly anticipated new Black Country Communion album, which they’ll do at the beginning of the new year.
“Joe and I have been writing. We did a week before I went to South America. We’re completing a week’s work tomorrow -- we’ve had another week this week. We’ll have all of the songs ready to go by Saturday. Then we’ll go meet with Kevin Shirley,” he says. “We’re going to start arranging the music and then in early January, we go in the studio and make this new Black Country album and we’re really excited by the content we have. So, not only do I have Resonate, I have a Black Country [album], so it’s a grand and glorious year for me.”
Watch Glenn Hughes Perform 'Afterglow' With Black Country Communion
According to Hughes, relations between him and Bonamassa have never been stronger. And on the heels of Resonate, it sounds like fans can count on him keeping things heavy.
“I’ll just say this: Joe and I have never – I’ll repeat, never – been so focused on an album as this one. We’re texting and calling each other 10 times a day,” Hughes says. “It’s not like we didn’t do this seven years ago. We were. But we’ve never been this communicative before. We’ve never been so solid over a record. We know how important it is. It would be silly to do a Black Country record that wasn’t going to stand up to the first three albums. We needed to come out really swinging a big bat here. The album’s going to be a real rock album. Trust me when I say this to you: This is a motherf---ing rock album, let me tell you.”
As far as the chance of any further Deep Purple-related activities, Hughes indicates that door will probably remain closed at this point.
“You know, it’s really difficult, the Mark III [lineup of Deep Purple]. When Jon [Lord] was alive, David [Coverdale], Jon and I were trying to figure out how we could get Ritchie [Blackmore] on board to do what would have been a really great Mark III reunion,” he shares. “But we couldn’t get him on the phone. And apparently, Ritchie doesn’t like to use the phone. So, I said to myself, ‘Do we have to send carrier pigeons? Smoke signals? How do you talk to him?’ It was like, how do you get a hold of Ritchie? And then Jon passed away and it was like, ‘Wow.’ It was just a bridge too far. So, the idea of getting together with Ritchie and David again doesn’t really spring to mind as a real representation of what could have been. I think it’s best to leave the legacy alone.
"I think I’ve done everything I needed to do," Hughes adds. "I’m sure my higher power has other things for me to be involved in. You know, I’m sure as the years go by – and they’re going by quick, as you know. I don’t hide the fact that I’m 65, but I’m a young 65. I do take care of myself. I’m in great shape. I’m sure I’ll be doing stuff with some wonderful people and sharing my gifts with fans and getting across to play to as many people as possible – because Resonate, it could be my finest work and I really need to get people on board with this album. It means so much to me.”
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