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INTERVIEW: ROGER EARL of Foghat – June 2016

It’s not every day you are offered the opportunity to speak with a rocker that has been playing and influencing other musicians for more than four decades, but such an opportunity recently came up and I couldn’t pass up speaking with Foghat drummer Roger Earl.  We jumped on the phone to discuss the bands upcoming release Under The Influence and so much more…


Toddstar: Excellent. It’s not every day I get to speak to a legend. Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for us, Mr. Earl.

Roger: Okay, stop calling me names. I had down here on my notes – 100% Rock?

Toddstar: Yes, 100% Rock. I’m here in Detroit.

Roger: Oh, Detroit, one of my favorite cities.

Toddstar: Love to hear that.

Roger: It’s true. I remember the very first time I came to the States with Savoy Brown at the end of 1968, I think it was, and Detroit was the first city that took us to heart. Also, when we came over here with Foghat in ’72, ’73, somewhere around there, it was one of the first cities that actually took us in. It’s always had a soft spot in my heart. I have a number of friends who live there. Of course Charlie Huhn comes from Detroit, and I played with a number of other people there. It’s one of my favorite places. Last time I was doing some recording there with a guitar player called Daniel Wentworth, and we got a chance to wander around the city. It was so sad seeing miles and miles of abandoned houses. It was kind of sad. It’ll be back, it’s Detroit.

Toddstar: That’s right. You talk about how they accepted you with Savoy Brown and also Foghat. We just happen to know what really good rock ‘n roll is here. Listen, Roger, Foghat, still alive and kicking in a major way. On June 24th, Under the Influence comes out. What can you tell us about this project?

Roger: It’s been three years in the making. We started about three years ago writing and getting material together at our studio down in Florida. After about a year and a half. Then I became good friends with Scott Holt, who spent 10 years with Buddy Guy’s band. We also started writing together. We ended up with a bunch of material. We probably did maybe half the songs down there at our studio, but we needed a helping hand here. Whenever the band is in charge, tends to take longer than probably necessary. About four years ago I was a presenter at the Blues Awards down in Memphis, and I got to give awards to Buddy Guy down there and Tom Hambridge is long time producer and co-song writer. I presented three awards to Buddy Guy, who was winning everything that night, as he should. I’ve also been able to see Buddy many times and I never, ever get tired of seeing him perform and hearing him. He’s something else. He’s real special. Afterwards, we went to the bar of the hotel we’re staying at, and Tom Hambridge was in there. We sat down and had a few drinks together and started talking, and Tom said, “I’ve always been a big fan of Foghat and we’d really love to produce this.” I put that in the back of my mind, and when we were about halfway through this record I talked to our manager Linda, and she said, “This would be a good idea. You need to work with Tom.” I called Tom up, and he came down to our studio in Florida for two or three days, just to see what the chemistry was between us. Tom is really something else. He has a real calm easy way about him. We wrote three or four songs, and then we took a break for a while, and then Tom wrote some songs for us. He came down again for a few days and we co-wrote some songs together and did a couple of songs that Tom had written for us. It worked out great. I went to see Tom in Nashville one time. I have some friends there that we stay with from time to time. Tom was playing at a club called The Blue Bird, which is in the round; it’s like an acoustic thing. Tom’s a drummer, so he had his snare drum in there and a guitar player. They played this song “Upside of Lonely.” I turned to Linda, my wife and manager, and I said, “We’ve got to do this song.” It was basically just a slow blues, but the lyrics, I thought they were hilarious, the fact that it’s a blues song but you’re looking at the up side of being on your own. She’s gone, but hold on, I can eat pizza three times a day and not have to worry about watching my weight. I’ve got extra pillows for my head. I can play my guitar all night long. I said, “We’ve got to do this song.” It was like it was made for us. I’m back down in Florida at one time, just doing some rehearsing and writing with Scott Holt, and I said to Scott, “I really want to maybe put a different kind of feel and influence on this song.” There’s nothing wrong with doing a slow blues, but we’ve all done them. I said, “How about putting more of a Memphis kind of feel to it?” That’s what we tried to do. I’m a big fan of Stax music and Memphis in general. Where would we be without it? Memphis-less. That’s where that song came about. I loved working with Tom. He has a wonderful way of managing everything. He’s really calm and cool and obviously loves his work. It’s difficult to wipe the smile off his face when he’s sitting there working on songs with us. All in all, I’m really, really happy with the way this record turned out. I love the way it sounds. Tom did an incredible job mixing it. Bryan Bassett, guitar player, mastered it. I was really pleased. I think the album cover is pretty funny too.


Toddstar: Yeah, the cover is funny.

Roger: Got to keep your sense of humor.

Toddstar: As long as you’ve been in the game, you’ve ridden highs, you’ve made it through the lows, and you’ve come through, and still being able to flash that sense of humor stands as a testament to the band and their resolve.

Roger: Yeah. Playing music is a privilege. I’m one of the fortunate few in this world who gets to earn a decent living playing music and working with great musicians. I think when you get to my time in life you really begin to appreciate what you have and what you’ve accomplished and what you’re able to do. I probably practice more now than I ever did. I enjoy it. I enjoy playing. It gets you down sometimes, traveling. Everything is hurry up and wait, but you get that hour and a half on stage each night, it’s all worth it.

Toddstar: You’re truly a work horse when it comes to music though. As far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re the only guy that has appeared on every one of the Foghat albums.

Roger: Yes, the good lord hasn’t seen fit to take me just yet.

Toddstar: You’ve been doing this a long time, Roger, and it shows. The maturity of the albums only get better. With this album, you guys pulled some covers and you went back and even redid “Slow Ride.” What was it like to really go back and break that song down? You didn’t reinvent it because it’s still “Slow Ride,” but what was it like to actually go in and tighten it up a little bit after all these years?

Roger: Obviously we play it every night, but we had an opportunity. It was the 40th anniversary of the song. Nick Jameson, who produced the original Fool for the City album and played on “Slow Ride.” Craig McGregor also played on this version, so we got two bass players. I was almost outgunned. I was thinking of asking Tom to come and play drums with me. It worked. You can hear both the bass players in there playing. Working with Nick Jameson is always a gas. Out of any one singular musician, I think I’ve probably learnt more working with Nick Jameson than just about anybody else. We’ve stayed close. Nick has now moved to Iceland. I’m sure he had his reasons. He went from LA to Iceland. He does stand-up comedy and he also still writes music and plays and acts. I guess it was something he really wanted to do. It was good seeing him again and playing again, as it was to play with Kim Simmonds. That was really good.

Toddstar: Very cool. You guys did something that a lot of younger bands do these days. You went to your fans and you Crowd Funded a part of this album.

Roger: Yeah. That was a way to basically get pre-orders. When you know there are a couple of thousand people who want to buy the new album anyway, it worked for us. Our fans have been fantastic over the years, even losing Dave and Rod, they still come to see us in droves and they’re very supportive. We always go out and sign. Crowd Funding was just a way for the people to pre-order the CD and also the vinyl, which will be coming out I think in September, I think, sometime like that. It worked really well for us. It was also another way for us to interact. Some of them, they sang on “Slow Ride.” I’ve been signing hundreds and hundreds of CDs, because that was also part of the Crowd Funding thing. It worked. It was kind of exciting knowing that there were all these people out there willing to order this record sight unseen. That was gratifying, very gratifying.

Toddstar: It’s good to know that people are still buying the pieces of vinyl and the pieces of plastic, not just the download.


Roger: That was another reason why we’ve always tried to tell the story with our album or CD covers. It’s not just a question of putting it in a nice package, but you tell the story. I remember when I was growing up and I would buy albums and stuff. I always enjoyed it if there was a story in it, telling who played on what, and where it was done, what inspired it. That stayed with me, and I always wanted to tell the story about the record, some of the inside stuff. Kim Simmonds is just spectacular on this record. Kim and I remained friends over the years. In fact, we jammed together; we did a Rock Legends cruise last year. Kim got out and played a couple of songs with us, and I played on another day that Kim was playing. I got up and played three or four songs with him. As a guitar player, he was always a great guitar player. He’s a brilliant blues guitarist. Let me tell you a quick story. I invited him to come down and play on the record, and he said he’d love to. He lives upstate New York, and we were in Nashville. He left early, about 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, something like that. He got stuck in Detroit, either weather or there was a problem with the plane. He didn’t get into Nashville until about 8:30. I picked him up at the airport. I took him to the hotel to check him in. I said, “You want something to eat, rest or something?” He said, “No, I want to go to the studio.” We went to the studio. The song that he played on the first one was ”Upside of Lonely.” I said, “You want to listen to the song first, get the chord structure?” He said, “No, just play it for me.” He did a run through. He’d never heard this song before, and it was absolutely brilliant. I guess there were about 9 or 10 of us in the studio at the time, everybody playing on it. The engineers got standing ovation. Kim gave me my shot when I was 20 years old and I joined his band. I have very fond memories playing with Kim, and also it’s a gas that we can still be friends and make music together. It was a good time. A good time was had by one and all. Also, once again, Tom Hambridge. You’ve got 6 musicians playing at various times in the room, and there was never an ego problem. Everybody was there for the right reasons, to make music and to play. Everybody had this big smile on their face, except of course when you’re listening to the music and performing. Tom Hambridge, I can’t say enough about how well he managed the whole thing. I worked with a lot of producers over the years, and Tom’s manner and ability and knowledge of music is absolutely fantastic. I really think he got the best out of everybody. I really enjoyed working with him.

Toddstar: I’d agree that everybody kind of put their best foot into the disc. Other than a couple of the classic albums, this is one of my favorites in a long time from the band. If you had to go through the catalog, Roger, because you guys still go out there and you play many dates every year, but if you had to go through the old catalog and dig out a track or two that you guys don’t do on a regular basis that you just love playing, for you, what would those be?

Roger: Of the records throughout my recording career, the first Foghat album is one of my favorites, I think. Dave Edmunds was great to work with, and his ability as an engineer, the way he produced it I thought was fantastic. I know that without Dave Edmunds input on the first album it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as it was. There were probably some songs on there. There’s one song on there that Dave wrote. Actually we just jammed and then Dave had the words for it. It’s called “Highway Killing Me.” That was always one of my favorite songs. I think we played it once, but we’ve never played it again. Also, “Hole to Hide In,” I think off the first album, that was another favorite. We started playing about three or four years ago at rehearsals, but never made the cut. I don’t know why, but hey, gives us something to do for the future.

Toddstar: If memory serves, that’s one of the first recorded ones that you and Dave actually wrote together.

Roger: That’s right. Actually, we actually wrote a lot of songs together. Foghat was always very much a band. It was never just one thing and we do it this way. Most of the songs came out of jams. We were jamming, we would write the music, and especially with Rod, and then Dave would come up with lyrics. Occasionally Dave would have a pretty solid idea of what he wanted to do. The vast majority of the time it all came about from the band jamming and playing different things. It worked; it worked for a long time.

Toddstar: Excellent. I know you’re a busy man, Roger, so I’ve got one more for you.

Roger: Sure, no problem. I’ve got plenty of time. I’m off today.


Toddstar: Again, looking at this album, and I love this from top to bottom, what are the couple songs that you can’t wait to unleash in a live scenario, that you just know the band’s going to really get into, but you also know the audience is going to get into?

Roger: We’ve already done that. We’re playing “Under the Influence,” we’re playing “Knock It Off,” we’re playing “Outside of Lonely” When Scott plays with us, we’re going to do “Hot Mama.” The exciting thing is we’re playing it in our sets already, and all the new songs go down really well. You’ve got to be careful because the fans want to hear certain songs. Actually, usually at the beginning of each year we put up on our page and ask the fans if there’s a set they’d like to hear, or songs they’d like to hear. We always get some feedback from them. The new songs have gone down great. Probably more importantly, everybody is excited about playing them. Sometimes, or in the past, there’s been some trepidation about playing new songs. Where do you put it in the set? Is it going to work? This time, we just said, “Nah, let’s do a couple of songs right in the middle straight away. Let’s do this.” Also, as you’re probably well aware, Classic Rock Radio cannot play new stuff. Even The Stones, I think they get one play and that’s it, when they bring out a new record. The way we’re approaching that is we’re saying, “Look, we’ll come in the studio, if you can get amps, guitars and stuff, and do live performances.” That’s a way for us to play the songs, which is also exciting, because you’re in a rather different kind of environment when you’re at a radio station and you’re playing in the lunch room or something. It’s a way to get it played. Also, I think it shows that the band loves to have fun with it. We’ll get out and play just about anywhere, as long as there’s an audience.

Toddstar: I can’t wait until you guys swing back through Detroit, because if you’re playing “Hot Mama” I’ve got to be in the audience, because that is hands down my favorite on the new disc.

Roger: Good. In fact, when Tom wrote it for us, and he did a version of it, and we all sat down and listened to it, we said, “I don’t know, what do you think?” Then we started playing it. Tom was at the house down in Florida at the studio, and we just started playing it and working on it. It worked. It fit like a… I was going to say an old shoe, but I don’t know whether that’s the right way to describe it, but it worked. We just slid right into it. We really had fun with the vocals, everybody singing the background vocals. We’re having fun with music. How about that?

Toddstar: I’ll tell you, everything you guys did on this album in my mind steps up, because you guys kept that vintage Foghat groove, but you threw in – you called it Memphis earlier, but you kind of put a little more boogie in this than in some of your other efforts.

Roger: Yeah, you’re right. Like I said before, it was a lot of fun. I have to give credit to Tom Hambridge. I think the way he handled all the musicians, and the input he had on arrangements and playing, he was great to work with, someone who’s an accomplished drummer. We would talk about stuff. Everything was… I was going to say easy, but easy is probably the wrong word, but it was so comfortable sitting there playing. We’d take a different attitude on it. It was never like work. It was just fun, having fun in the studio. After about 5 or 6 hours, I’d say, “I think I’m going to go and get a cup of coffee now.”

Toddstar: Listen Roger, again, it’s always a pleasure to speak to a musician, but especially when it’s a legend that’s been in the game as long as you have, and has influenced as many musicians as you have. Thank you so much for your time. We wish you guys well with the release of this album, and we can’t wait to see you guys hitting the road, especially if you make your way back, like I said, to the Motor City one more time.

Roger:   If we do, give the office a call if you see us playing there, and I’ll make sure we meet.


Toddstar: Sounds perfect.

Roger: All right, Todd, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.

Toddstar: Thank you, Roger.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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  1. We just posted an amazing private performance with Foghat and some of their new songs I thought I would share:

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