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| 27 February 2024 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “HONEYMOON SUITE was originally formed in 1981 by lead vocalist and guitarist Johnnie Dee from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Following the departure of the original lead guitarist, Derry Grehan, also from the Niagara Falls area, joined the band. Johnnie and Derry decided to re-build the band at that point and recruited Dave Betts on drums, Ray Coburn on keys, and Gary Lalonde on bass. They hit the road hard playing 6 six nights a week and writing songs with the hope of scoring a record deal. The band are excited for their upcoming February release and with no sign of slowing down, HONEYMOON SUITE plan to continue to create new music and tour year round thanks to a legion of loyal fans.” I was able to grab some phone time with guitarist / songwriter Derry to discuss touring, new music, and more…

ToddStar: Derry, thanks for taking time out. I know this is an exciting time in the world of Honeymoon Suite with the release of Alive last week.

Derry: Yeah, it is. I can’t believe it. Response has been really exciting so far.

ToddStar: I grew up and cut my teeth on early 80’s rock, melodic rock, all that stuff. Growing up in Detroit, I’m well aware of who Honeymoon Suite is and I know the history of the band. It was so cool to finally get an album in the 2020’s that took me back 40 years without sounding regurgitated, reproduced, or overdone.

Derry: Ah, thank you. Exactly my opinion as well. I think it’s classic Honeymoon Suite, but it’s not dated sounding. It’s got really cool production.

ToddStar: I was wondering when you went in to do this – because every band has its own sound and vibe – did you go in with a cognizant thought of how do we maintain that classic sound and feel without sounding redone?

Derry: Yeah, well, I think the first thing you do is find the right producer, which was Mike, and then the right songs. So, our first order of business is to write the best songs that we can with the big choruses and everything else, and good melodies – that’s Honeymoon Suite. Johnny, I, and Mike wrote the whole album. Then, fortunately, we picked a great producer in Mike, who’s grew up listening to the band, he’s from Toronto, he’s a fan, and he had some great modern production smarts and tricks to make us not sound dated, but still make it Honeymoon Suite and not alienating the fans.

ToddStar: This album is solid from top to bottom, and I thought it was really a cool thing that you guys wove your, we won’t call them ballads, but we’ll call them ballad-like song, between the more up-tempo, the more melodic rock tracks, and even kind of closing out on a mellower moment. How easy, or conversely, how hard was it for you guys to put together the track list so it would tell the story the way you wanted to and keep the emotions running a certain way?

Derry: Well, once you get all your tracks done, first order, just get the damn thing finished and mixed, and then there’s the sequencing and that’s the whole thing is like, what’s going to start the album? How do we pace it? And that’s always something I have to put a lot of thought into, so I just sat down one day and did it really quickly in terms of rock songs and ballads, how to space it. It was just kind of a crapshoot and the two slower songs ended up later on the record, but they seemed to make sense where they were because I wanted this thing to start rocking and keep rocking and then maybe kind of put the ballads in the mid-tempo songs kind of in between rockers, so I think the sequence is great.

ToddStar: Looking through this album, Derry, now that you’ve had time to absorb it and really kind of step back from it, as we all know, it’s not, you didn’t finish recording this and mixing it, mastering it, and pressing it last week, you’ve had some time to absorb this. Looking back, were there any songs that really fought you tooth and nail and didn’t want to come out the way they did?

Derry: Yeah, there’s always a couple of those in every record. There are the ones that you write really quick that come out great, and there’s other ones you’re going back and writing and rewriting. I think that “Love Comes.” The one slower song was an older idea of mine and it got written and rewritten trying to find the right verses and choruses. So that was the one that was a bit of a struggle, but I think it was worth it. It came out awesome and jeez, “Find What You’re Looking For” is another one. The second song, again, was an older riff of mine and an older lyric, but we were at a big corner for it, so it’s one of those ones that took a little while. We had to put it down, come back to it a few months later and eventually the right chorus popped its head out at the right time. Writing music is funny like that, sometimes you have to walk away from it, come back with fresh ears, so there you go.

ToddStar: On the other side of that coin, what song seemed to just write itself for you all on this one?

Derry: I think “Alive,” the very first track. Again, I started that idea, it was almost kind of a country song in its first version and I put it away, but when I brought him into the studio, Mike and Johnny said, let’s do it this way and that way, and once we figured out the vibe of the song, it really just wrote itself.

ToddStar: Very cool. When it comes to all this stuff, life has changed so much since your last release between just the atmosphere and the reality of life, but it’s been, we’ll call it 16 years since Clifton Hill came out. How different is the process for you now as compared to when you guys would do stuff back in the early 2000s or even going back into the 80’s and 90’s?

Derry: Yeah, those last few albums we did the Hands Up EP about seven years ago. Then Clifton Hill and then the albums of the 90’s. They’re all independent self-funded projects, if you will, because we’re not on a major label, so we are doing these records ourselves and they’re done on a budget and they’re done in home studios and making it sound the best you can, but this new album is heads and tails above those releases. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but in terms of production, and we had a real talented producer this time around with all his bells and whistles, so this process is much more like the old days where we were in a big studio, big drums and guitars and doing it the proper way, but I’ll tell you, it took a while. Kind of came in there right in the middle of it. Jesus. It’s a long road for this one.

ToddStar: I was going to say, I think the first single for the album technically dropped back in 2019 or something.

Derry: Yeah, that’s when we first started writing and recording and “Tell Me What You Want” was one of those songs that wrote itself as well. We did that really quick at Mike’s place. It’s one of the first ones we recorded, but so we knew we had something good and just to wet people’s appetite, we started releasing singles. What a lot of bands are doing these days is just putting singles out instead of albums or until their album drops, so we put that one out just to say, Hey, here’s something new from us. Stay tuned.

ToddStar: Going through the songs, are there any that you’re really chomping at the bit to get out there and play live? Are there any that you just know when you get to them in the set, you’re going to be so amped up, you can’t wait?

Derry: Yeah, of course. We can’t do a lot of songs off a new album because people want to hear the hits, which they get, but we’re already doing “Find What You’re Looking For,” which kills live. It’s such a rocker and we’re rehearsing “Alive,” the first song of the album is going to be a great live track. We can’t wait to play that one as well.

ToddStar: I have been listening to the disc again this morning and one that just played through – “Living Out Loud” – is just, that to me was built for the live stage from the first time I heard it. That just sounds like one of those ones that would get a hand and in the old days, a lighter in the air. Maybe a cellphone now.

Derry: Thank you. That was one of my favorites. That was my little guitar rocker, these album tracks like that and give it all. They’re just tailor-made for live situations. Thank you. That’s one of my favorites as well.

ToddStar: That said, when it comes to the fans, you mentioned that you got to play the hits, especially in a live show, you got to do that. Are there any songs that you still are so excited to hear and on the other side of the coin, are there any songs you wish you could just hang up?

Derry: Oh man. All of those songs have been our bread and butter. It’s amazing. 40 years on people are still loving those songs, so I don’t ever get tired of playing them. I basically wrote most of them, but I do love playing “Love Changes Everything.” That’s a lot of fun to play, guitar wise. And yeah. I mean, what can I say about “New Girl Now” – it’s just fresh every night. It’s just fun. Never get tired of that one.

ToddStar: It’s hard to get tired of any of them. You mentioned my favorite. I learned who Honeymoon Suite was thanks to the debut album, but something about “Love Changes Everything” anytime it’s on. I can’t play a lick of guitar, but I wish I did, one of those ones that just kind of crawls up inside you and lives and breathes on its own, which I love about that track.

Derry: Yeah, thank you.

ToddStar: What still keeps you going, Derry? What still inspires you to get out there and do this beyond the fact that you’re a guitar player in a rock band and this is how you make a living, what still inspires you to want to pick up the guitar and write something new all the time?

Derry: Well, it’s just a sickness man. It’s an addiction. I don’t know what it is, man. I just love it. I still feel when get up in the morning, I still feel 18 years old. The first thing I want to do is pick up the guitar and start working my fingers in and just driven in the fact that the band’s still going, and we got lots of shows. Pretty lucky that I still get to do this, but also there’s so much now with the internet, which we didn’t have back in the 80’s. I can go on YouTube and I can watch Nuno (Bettencourt) from Extreme or I could do Eddie (Van Halen) or Joe Bonamassa or all these guys. Just if I need some inspiration, I’ll just get some of those vids up and watch those guys chop some of their licks. That’s a great way to kill an afternoon in the hotel. Steal some licks.

ToddStar: Looking back, Derry, you recorded your first single at 17 and correct me if I mispronounce the band’s name. I think it was Stytch.

Derry: Oh my God. You’re up on your facts, man.

ToddStar: I have followed you for a long time. Like I said, I grew up in Detroit. It was hard not to know who Honeymoon Suite was, but when you started that journey, if you could talk to yourself then, knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give young Derry?

Derry: Just practice, practice, practice, and if you want to be in a band that’s going to get somewhere, get out of your small town, leave, go to this big city, go to Toronto or Nashville or LA or wherever there’s music, where you can find the players that are up to your level and put together a band where you could be in a place where people will hear you. And the other thing is, I wanted to be a songwriter, and that’s what I just wanted to be in a rock band and be able to write the song, so that’s what I would tell myself and that’s what I did.

ToddStar: I say, looking back, you’ve done it and you’ve done it well.

Derry: Well thank you.

ToddStar: You say you strode to be a songwriter and a guitarist and everything growing up. What was the album or two that struck you hard enough that you can still remember it being the push or the driver, the influence that made you want to do this for a living?

Derry: Well, I grew up when I was a kid and just listened to the AM radio, a lot of Boppy pop stuff before I started playing guitar, but then I switched. I got into rock when I was about 12 or 13, and I heard Deep Purple. I heard “Smoke on the Water,” and that changed my life. That’s when I wanted to be a rock guitar player. I love Richie, Blackmore, Zeppelin Santana, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk. That’s where I cut my teeth, that kind of rock.

ToddStar: You’ve mentioned some huge names. What’s it like for you when you get that young kid at a show or just younger guy on the show that says, you’re the reason I picked up a guitar, or You’re the reason I started songwriting? What’s that like for you to be on the other side of that coin?

Derry: That’s a real compliment, man. You never get tired of hearing that because I remember when I was that kid, every kid needs inspiration and has to look up to somebody. I would say that to Richie Blackmore or any of these guys to Mark Farner. Your guitar playing inspired me. I wanted to be you, so I’m inspired by that, and I tell the kid, “Thank you. Keep at it.”

ToddStar: One last thing before we cut you loose, Derry – I know you’ve got a busy life going on – I want to just part with this. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, everything’s unplugged and we’re saying goodbye to Derry. What’s the one Honeymoon Suite song title that you had a part of? What’s the title you want on your tombstone? What is your epitaph?

Derry: Oh, man. Never been asked that before. On my epitaph, my tombstone. I don’t know. Let’s see, which that song, the last song on the Big Prize, the mellow one. I can’t remember the title of it, but let’s say “What Does It Take.” That’s a pretty big song. It’s got a great message. I think that’s a heartfelt track.

ToddStar: Yeah, that’s what I would’ve picked, and the song I think you’re talking about was “Take My Hand.”

Derry: “Take My Hand.” Yeah, that’s a kind of hidden sleeper, at the end of the album track. That’s really beautiful.

ToddStar: That’s one, if I could hand curate one song in a set list that it wasn’t a hit from you, that would be the one. I think that would go over amazing live, like you said, it’s a hidden gem that most people don’t even know realize is out there, but it’s out there.

Derry: We used to do it back in the day when we were doing our arena tours. It was kind of at the end of the night. We had lasers and everything. It really was great.

ToddStar: Very cool. Well, listen, Derry, I appreciate the time and I hope everyone reaches out, grabs their copy of Alive and keeps you moving, doing this and on the road, and hopefully we can catch you out on that road soon.

Derry: Yeah, man, I can’t wait. I mean, we played in Detroit many times over the years. That’s such a good time down there. Yeah. We’re going to be out there everywhere this summer. Hope to be really busy that way.

ToddStar: Awesome. Well, we’ll catch you out on the road and say hello when we see you out there.

Derry: Okay, Todd. Thank you. Nice talking with you.







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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