Listen to Bad Company Drummer Simon Kirke’s New Album, ‘All Because of You': Exclusive Premiere
Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke has always written from the heart. Songs for his debut solo album, 2011's Filling the Void, drew on a variety of themes, including dealing with addiction and his experience working as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross following 9/11.
As Kirke shared with Ultimate Classic Rock at the time, the songs for that album had been “percolating for years,” and he found it a cathartic experience to finally share them with an audience. He’s continued to write since then and found himself working with new subjects of inspiration for All Because of You, his new solo album, which comes out Feb. 10. You can listen to the album -- an exclusive premiere -- above.
“I got a divorce. I had a marriage that wasn’t doing well, and we both clung on for many years. That ended about three years ago, and [now] I have a fiancee named Maria and, really, a lot of the songs were written with her in mind,” Kirke says. “She was my muse, if you wish. I wrote quite a few songs with her in mind, and then I teamed up with Rob Taube and he contributed three songs. There was a song that I wrote for my kids years ago when I was a young father and I wanted to put them to sleep ['Friends in the Woods']. That was a country song with pedal steel. So I had that for quite a time. But most of the songs are pretty new.”
Kirke teamed up with the Empty Pockets, a band from the Chicago area that he was introduced to by his manager, David Spero. He went to Chicago to work with the group in its studio and knocked out the initial tracking for the album in seven days.
“They’re amazing. They’re all in their late 20s and early 30s. They’re the age of my kids. But they have a wealth of musical knowledge and they gig incessantly,” he says. “I saw their playbook and it’s about the size of a phone directory, and it has every song that you can imagine. Their spectrum of musical knowledge is the most I’ve ever seen in any musician, let alone musicians at such a tender age. They’ve all got a production credit, because they contributed so much to the album and the making of the album that I am indebted to them for their help.”
While working on the album, Kirke discovered that the members of the band were well-equipped to bring any of the musical visions that he had to life --- even if it involved calling in a few extra reinforcements.
“I fulfilled several wishes on this album, and if I never make another one again, I’ll be happy with this one,” he admits. “I always wanted to play with a gospel choir and a string quartet and a pedal steel player. On ‘Into the Light,’ when I wrote the coda at the end of the song, I said to Josh [Solomon], the leader of the Empty Pockets, I said, ‘You know, I really want to have a gospel choir on this’ and he said, ‘I know one!’ He said, ‘Yeah, they’re just around the corner. I know them all! So trust me..’ And I said, ‘All right, I trust you.’ A week later, he sends me an MP3, and these 14 people had crammed into this tiny studio and produced the chorus that you hear on ‘Into the Light’ and I was absolutely blown away.”
Warren Haynes adds guitar to the song “Trouble River,” a collaboration that developed after Kirke saw the Allman Brothers play their final show at the Beacon Theatre, where he was “knocked sideways” by the talents of Haynes and fellow guitarist Derek Trucks. Eventually, he connected with Haynes through a mutual friend and found himself onstage playing with Gov’t Mule on New Year’s Eve in 2014, running through several songs by Kirke's other band, Free. Later, the guitarist returned the favor and played a benefit show for Right Turn, a rehab facility that Kirke is involved with -- and he delivered in a big way.
“He came up and he just knocked me out again. He played seven or eight songs. He played most of the set, and people were just hanging off of the balconies, it was so full. He reduced me to tears [with] one of his solos, I was just very emotional, because it reminded me very much of Paul Kossoff, the guitarist in Free. After the show, I just went up and gave him a hug and said, ‘You know what, mate? We are now officially blues brothers,” Kirke recalls with a big laugh. “I had this song, ‘Trouble Road,’ and I knew that he was the one to do it. Pinning him down to do that solo was more difficult than getting him to come up to Boston and do that show because he’s so busy. Eventually he managed to find time, and he told me he did it in two takes. It’s one of the greatest four-bar solos and my only regret was that I couldn’t give him more than four bars.”
One of the first songs that Kirke and the Empty Pockets recorded for the album happened to be one that he had a lot of history with -- a ukulele-driven take on the Bad Company classic “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”
“My daughter plays the ukulele. She carries it around with her everywhere she goes, and I thought, ‘You know what? Let me try this.’ So I bought one and I was tinkering around with it in my apartment and my fiancee said, ‘That’s nice, what’s that song?’ She’s a little bit younger than me. I said, “Well, it’s ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love.’” She said, ‘You should do it onstage.’ I said, ‘Well, hang on darling, this is an iconic song from Bad Company. It was a huge hit, and I don’t know if this reggae version would go over very well with the fans.’ She said, ‘I don’t care. You should just do it!’ She didn’t have the romantic attachment to it that I have. So she had a perfectly neutral view of the song. She just liked what I was doing. So we did it as a reggae song, and it was the first song that we did. We tentatively played it for the label-- and they loved it. But I had to get permission from Mick [Ralphs] and Paul [Rodgers], who wrote it. I was a little nervous that they might think it was an act of heresy for me to put this song in a reggae version. They both liked it very much and they gave me the green light.”
Kirke spent the summer of 2016 on the road with Bad Company, sharing the stage with Joe Walsh. “I’m sorry that we only did 25 shows together. We could have gone on all summer,” he says. “But we had other obligations. But we’ll definitely do more shows together, because it was a wonderful double bill. We all got on well with Joe and his band, and it’s impossible not to get on with Joe.”
While on the road last year, Bad Company played a new song Rodgers had written, “Sharpshooter.” Kirke hopes they get a chance to record it soon. For now, he’s heading out on the road to play solo shows in support of All Because of You and looking forward to the chance to get out from behind the kit, thanks to his comrades in the Empty Pockets who will open the shows and serve as his backing band.
“We sort of dipped our toes in the water in Philadelphia, and it was wonderful. I really didn’t want to get off the stage,” he says. “Because I’m actually a bit of a showoff, and I manage to play drums, acoustic guitar, ukulele and piano and I’m just zipping around. That’s the other great thing about the band is that they’re all multi-instrumentalists. We can all play musical chairs and everyone sort of plays everyone else’s instrument. It’s a wonderful band.”
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