To paraphrase the eminent philosopher Chris Rock, no matter how old we get we will always love the music we were listening to when we first started (dating.)
In my case he's definitely right. I listened to what is now considered classic rock: bands like UFO, Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Yes, Aerosmith...
And Ted Nugent.
I saw Ted when I was seventeen. Riding high on the success of the "Cat Scratch Fever" album and an incredible live show, at that time they were one of the most successful bands in the world.
I still listen to that music. I rarely listen to anything new -- unless I hear something that sounds like the music I've always loved, except fresher and edgier and new. That's definitely the case with the Whitford/St. Holmes band and Reunion, the new album from Derek St. Holmes and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford.
(And yes, the seventeen year-old me is really jealous I got to speak with Derek and the fifty-five year-old me is pretty tickled, too.)
The number of people you've played with is staggering. Adapting, collaborating, becoming part of the team... I'm sure sometimes that can be tough, especially creatively. Are there things you've learned over the years that makes that easier?
I use everyone else's energy.I see what they're trying to accomplish and then it's actually easy -- you just work off their energy and try not to be overbearing. You just want it to be an equal partnership and only step in when you see something start to go awry.
On this album, our bass player, Chopper Anderson, has played with seemingly every artist in the world. Dottie West, Reba McEntire... he's played with everybody. When we started cutting the tracks I didn't have to ask him to play anything.
The same is true with our drummer, Troy Luccketa and our keyboard player, Buck Johnson. We didn't have to tell them anything. All you have to do is stay out of the way.
Let's take that a step farther. You and Brad have known each other for years. How did you decide to work together on this project?
We hadn't seen each other in a while. I was about to drive to Georgia, where I used to live, going back and I said Brad, I'm coming through, I'll be around. So I stopped, we hung out for a little bit, played guitars, had a good time...
Later we started hanging more, and for us hanging out also means playing guitars. One day he said, "Let me show you stuff I've been working on. It sounded so good we said let's get a rhythm section, we booked some time at SIR studios in Nashville...
We didn't start out with a plan. It just happened. And the best part is we own it lock stock and barrel.
You owning it makes you more like a startup than a band that signs a record contract.
We have a lot of help. We're working with the incredible Howard Kaufman in LA. He said, "I love Brad like a song, and I'm going to make sure you get the best deal going." In the music business, those are not words people tend to use.
As for the tour, Gary Buck is booking our dates. I've known him for over twenty years, he's a family friend... he said, "Hey, it looks like you guys could use some help," and he basically said "welcome to the family."
That kind of support is awesome, because it means all we have to do is deliver.
Let's go back. What was it like to be in your early twenties, playing in one of the biggest bands in the world?
I have to say I handled it pretty well. At the time the most difficult part was that many people assumed that since we were kids we would be uncontrollable kids, and I don't think that was the case. We were excited to get as big as we were, I think we handled the attention fairly well... I just wish it had been a little more fair financially.
If you could, what would you want to tell your 20-something self?
Get a lawyer. And don't assume people will treat you fairly.
At no time did I think that Epic (the record label), and with us being one of the top five rock and roll bands... I never imagined anyone would take advantage of us. Then we figured it out.
With all that said, though, I've been back in Ted's band for a number of years, and it's great. We'll go out later this year on another tour. So it's all good.
Sometimes a partnership can be tough, especially when you disagree. How do you handle differences in musical opinion?
Brad almost never writes anything I don't love. If either of us has something we don't love, we don't bring it to each other.
Brad is great about listening first and giving ideas a chance. And I like to think I do the same. That's my best advice for any people working together: listen, really listen, before you jump to a conclusion or jump to criticize. Give things a chance.
You've played in front of crowds of tens of thousands, but on this tour you'll be doing cozier venues. Does that affect how you perform?
In some ways yes, but it's all about energy. It's all about the energy you get from the crowd.
Last year we played The Revolution on Long Island. the Revolution. It was packed, people were on top of us, and we sounded fabulous. The size of the crowd doesn't really matter; when they're into it, it's the same buzz.
I love being in the studio, but playing live is my favorite thing to do. Small crowds, huge crowds... it doesn't matter. Playing live is always a blast.
Success means different things to different people. When you consider this project, how do you define success?
We've already had success with this new album just because it's better than we expected. Getting a chance for people to hear it and see us live, that's a success.
Past that, do we need to be standing onstage getting a Grammy? Yes, I think we do. (Laughs.)
Do I think we deserve a bouquet of flowers? Do we both deserve sunburst Les Pauls? Yes, I think we do. (Laughs.)
Seriously though, I've always liked to think I was humble, at least as some of these guys go. We're just glad to be alive and still doing this for a living.