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Bad Company’s Simon Kirke talks ‘All Because of You’

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Bad Company’s Simon Kirke talks ‘All Because of You’ (Photo courtesy of Simon Kirke/Facebook)

On the eve of the release of what he considers his first true solo effort, “All Because of You” (The End Records/BMG), Simon Kirke, drummer for Bad Company and formerly of Free, appears to have somehow defied the aging process; even he seems surprised when he stops to think that he is approaching his 50th anniversary in the music business (“I’m in my 60s, for God’s sake!”). 

As Valentine’s Day grows near, Kirke says Cupid’s arrow left its mark on him three years ago when he met the woman who inspired most of the songs on his new album.

Kirke was playing with Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones for three nights at The Cutting Room in New York City, when he says he was spellbound by a woman named Maria who worked at the music venue.

“They say that love is the primary muse and that’s true,” Kirke told me in a phone interview. “That’s why I call this new album “All Because Of You,” because I had Maria in mind when I wrote most of the songs.”

The album came together quickly, he said. “We did the whole album in four sessions over the span of a couple of months in Chicago.”

When I mentioned to Kirke that many artists spend more time to come up with a single track, he laughed and recounted a studio story from the 1970s.

“I remember when Bad Company was recording “Run With The Pack” in LA and The Eagles had booked the studio next to us. I popped in to see Don Henley and saw the crew setting up his drums. The band hadn’t arrived yet. I saw Bill Szymczyk (Eagles producer) and said ‘Hey Bill, how’s it going so far?’ and he said ‘Well, we’ve been here a week and haven’t even got a snare-drum sound yet (laughs).’”

Kirke’s backing band on “All Because Of You” is roots-rockers The Empty Pockets, well known in the Chicago music scene.

“They’re wonderful young musicians, all in their 20s and early 30s,” Kirke said. “They loved the songs and it was really a marriage made in Heaven. They’re managed by my manager (David Spero) and I was a little nervous at the beginning because the studio was small and the band are young enough to be my kids. But you know what? It really worked well.”

One of the advantages of recording a solo album, Kirke said, is that he had complete freedom to do it all his way, as opposed to a band album, where multiple opinions need to be considered.

“What’s that saying – ‘be careful what you wish for?’ It’s true. I write the songs and I get to do them the way I wish – with a certain caveat. I said to the guys in The Empty Pockets, ‘Just play as you feel it. I’m not going to be a dictator.’ I didn’t need to guide them.”

That guidance worked both ways, Kirke says. The Empty Pockets are renowned for their vocals, especially those of leader Josh Solomon and his wife, Erika Brett.

“They are wonderful singers and I really wanted to improve on my vocals,” Kirke said. “I don’t need to sing in Bad Company. When you’re in a band with Paul Rodgers – the most amazing singer – you just do your thing. I asked Josh and Erika for some help. They gave me these exercises before the start of each vocal session and it really helped me with my vocals.”

While most of the songs on “All Because Of You” were written or co-written by Kirke, the record includes an updated version of one of Bad Company’s biggest hits, a reggae-infused take on of 1975’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” written by Paul Rodgers and Mick Ralphs.

“I bought a ukulele a couple of years ago and was messing around with it one day,” Kirke said. “Out of the blue, the chorus for “Feel Like Makin’ Love” appeared and Maria said that she really liked it and that I should do it. I got Paul and Mick’s blessing and there it is! I was nervous about it but I’m very happy with how it came out.”

Kirke told me that Bad Company has no plans to perform or record this year as the band hopes and prays for guitarist Mick Ralphs’ recovery from a stroke, suffered last fall.

“I believe Mick has paralysis on his left side which is indicative of a major stroke. We’re all very sad and we don’t know if he’ll recover sufficiently enough to play again. That’s the brutal truth about it. We have to take stock of the situation. Bad Company has not broken up; we’re just taking a hiatus.”

Finding the love of his life, and his new band, almost at the same time, has placed Kirke in a very happy position as he prepares to embark on a series of live performances in support of the record.

“I’ve done some shows already with The Empty Pockets,” he said. “It’s been great, they are amazing musicians and we’re all friends. I can’t wait to get back out there. I am absolutely committed to this record.” 

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