Having only been a band for the better part of a year and a half, …
Since he started his career in the late 1980s, Irish rocker Ricky Warwick has recorded twenty albums, played in bands like Thin Lizzy and The Almighty and opened for everyone from Metallica and Iron Maiden to Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow.
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One episode from the recording of his latest solo album, however, was particularly special for the 54 year old musician.
“It was one of those things that you just wish you could bottle it,” he says of the session for Time Don’t Seem to Matter, which he recorded with his youngest daughter, Pepper. “That day was so special. I wrote that song for her, about her, when she was 11. And I said to her, ‘Pepper, you’re singing, you’re playing guitar and piano, and you’ve got a great voice, why don’t you come in the studio and sing on it?’ We got her in the studio and she nailed it in a couple of takes. It was a real ‘Proud Dad’ moment. Kids are so inspiring. Of all the things I’ve done in my career, that’s a stand-alone moment.”
It’s a touching moment on an album that steers a ragged path from arena rock to explosive punk and bluesy metal to acoustic introspection, virtually serving as a kind of overview of Warwick’s career so far. On When Life Was Hard & Fast, he was helped out by former Buckcherry guitarist Keith Nelson, who also acted as co-producer and co-writer on most of the material.
“He’s awesome,” Warwick says of his conspirator. “We’re both cut from the same cloth. We’re both blue collar working class boys, love the same music, both were in successful bands previously. [We have] a lot of vintage guitars, a love of rock n roll. So it was always going to be a match made in heaven. What I like about Keith is the honesty. There’s very good chemistry and a lot of honesty, and that’s important when you’re in a working situation with somebody and they can tell you the truth. There was no need to lie or butter things up with Keith, and he knew what I wanted to get out of the record.”
I’m incredibly blessed that for 30 years I’ve been able to call it my job and earn my living. I still feel relevant and that I’ve got something to say, and I still feel that I’m moving forward. I’m still as excited about it as I ever was.
[ Ricky Warwick ]
Black Star Riders cohort Robert Crane and Nelson’s former bandmate Xavier Muriel filled out the bass and drum roles in the recording band, with other contributors like Dizzy Reed, Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor adding their own flavour to tracks like You Don’t Love Me and I’d Rather Be Hit. Former producer and long-time friend Joe Elliot of Def Leppard was also called on to lay down backing vocals on the title track. Working under his own name, Warwick says, gives him the freedom to invite anyone he wants to play a part on the album.
“That’s the beauty of the solo thing. Having anybody you want on there, without annoying your band – because there’s no band to annoy! I love that. It was great to reach out to my buddies, who just happen to be insanely talented musicians in their own right, and say, ‘Hey could you play a guitar solo on this please?’ And that’s really what we did. We just said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get Joe Elliot on this, or Andy Taylor on this’. We just sent them the tracks, and that was it.”
Along with a steady string of solo albums over the past two decades, Warwick has been the frontman of both Thin Lizzy and that band’s spiritual creative cousin, Black Star Riders, since 2009 and 2013, respectively. Being asked by Brian Downey and Scott Gorham to sing with Lizzy was, he promises, “a huge honour.”
“I’ve been involved with that incarnation now for ten years, which is incredible. Being an Irish kid, and growing up on Thin Lizzy and them being my ultimate favourite band, it’s such an honour and a privilege just to sing those songs, because they mean so much to me and so much to so many people.”
Active in music since the late 1980s, Warwick still has two touring bands and his own solo career to keep him busy. It’s the kind of longevity that was once believed to be impossible in the days when he was just getting into rock and roll.
“Rock and roll started in the 50s, and in the 70 and 80s, by the time you were in your 30s you were meant to be done! Because rock and roll was a young man’s game! It was still new,” he says. “No one had got past 50 or 60 then, and [now] these guys are still putting out incredible stuff in their later years – 50, 60, 70 years old… still making great records. Like a fine wine, getting better with age. That wasn’t around in the 80s, because rock and roll was only 30 years old! Now as time’s gone on, people are saying, ‘You can still be relevant when you’re over 50.’ I think that’s what we’re all finding out. The more you live the more you learn, the more you have to say and the more you want to try out different styles of music.”
There are, of course, many more who do fade away than can keep a profile for as long as Ricky Warwick. He doesn’t take what he has for granted, and his enthusiasm is as high as when he first strapped on a guitar.
“I’m incredibly blessed that for 30 years, I’ve been able to call it my job and earn my living. I still feel relevant and that I’ve got something to say, and I still feel that I’m moving forward. I’m still as excited about it as I ever was.”