Supertramp singer has strong connection to music
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.
Q: Where are you, currently?
A: Northern California preparing for my 2011 World Tour.
Q: Are you looking forward to this world tour, so soon after your last?
A: Yes, very much. I took 15 years off from touring when I left Supertramp to raise my family and since I’ve made a return to touring, I feel I have more to give now and feel I’m in my prime. The connection I have with people through my songs is very special to me, and I feel more fulfilled than ever before.
Q: What’s the most difficult part about such an expansive tour, and how do you overcome the language barrier?
A: I feel music in its purest form is the language of the heart and soul, a universal language that crosses all barriers. Music that’s written from the heart and contains our deepest emotions can touch those similar places in people everywhere.
Q: What was the appeal with doing a live album?
A: For years fans have been asking me to put out a CD of my live concerts, because everyone tells me I’m singing better now than I did when I first recorded these songs with Supertramp 30 plus years ago. And I agree with them. So last year we recorded a lot of shows and picked the most magical performances — from Norway, Brazil, Germany, Canada and put together “Classics Live”. The first 10 tracks are available digitally on my website,
www.RogerHodgson.com. And the complete two set CD will be released later this year.
Q: What songs are the most fun for you to perform live?
A: That’s like asking do I have a favorite child. Very difficult to answer — they are all so different.
“Fool’s Overture” is one of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever written. Three separate pieces of music that I’d had for a few years magically came together one day. I always dreamed of playing it with an orchestra and get the opportunity quite often nowadays. It’s always a thrill.
“Dreamer” is such fun to perform — and automatically lifts people’s spirits. It’s a “good medicine” song.
And of course I love ending my shows with “Give a Little Bit.” If everyone comes together and smiles and sings along with me — then I know I’ve done a good job. The song feels even more relevant today in these challenging times than when I wrote it as a teenager over 40 years ago.
Q: Have you had more freedom to create and set your own schedule as a solo artist since leaving Supertramp?
A: When I left Supertramp in 1983 it was to follow my heart, which was telling me it was time to make home, family and spiritual life my priority. I wanted to be with my children as they grew up. I’d given 14 years of my life to Supertramp, and at that point I chose to have my primary focus be my family and not my career. I also pretty much left the music industry and took my family to a healthier place to raise my kids in — up the mountains of Northern California. I moved out of Los Angeles and built a home studio so I could continue to create music, and although I made a few albums, I never toured behind them. Contrary to what people believed, Supertramp did not break up because I wanted to start a solo career or because of difficulties between Rick (Davies) and I. My kids are now grown and I’m very happy to be touring again and setting my own schedule these last eight years.
Q; Do you ever miss any aspects of being in a band? If so, which?
A: I am currently performing with my band but really enjoy the freedom and intimacy playing solo shows and the rich full-blown productions performing with orchestras also.
Q: Are you in contact with the members of Supertramp at all?
A: I have been in touch with the guys off and on over the years. However we all live in different parts of the world and our lives have gone in very different directions.
The whole Supertramp experience was a wonderful experience — for which I’m very grateful but the songs that I wrote — and that became hits for the band were and will always remain my songs — pieces of my heart — that I recorded with that band. I know people think of Supertramp when they hear “The Logical Song” or “Give a Little Bit” or “Take the Long Way Home” or “Breakfast in America.” And it’s been a large part of our work these last eight years — helping people connect my name with my songs.
Q: Did you ever encourage your children to take on music careers?
A: My son is a very talented musician. He had learned to play all my songs by the time he was three and then moved on to composing his own music. He has toured with me, and we even made a live album together when he was 15. He is a big fan of my music and I’m his biggest fan.
Q: In your songs, like “Give a Little Bit,” you sing about uplifting messages like sharing love — would you say that your messages are best portrayed through the emotion in the instrumental aspect of your music, or your lyrics?
A: I believe it’s the combination of the music and lyrics that evokes the emotion. The simple message of “Give a Little Bit” seems to increase in relevance as life gets more complex and challenging. In these challenging times we live in — it’s going to take all of us to get involved and care and give a little bit of our love and time if we want to turn things around.
Q: Have you ever written a lyric that became popular that you (in hindsight) wish you’d written differentlly?
A: I’m glad to say that every night in concert I’m grateful I still like and believe in what I wrote — many years ago now for many of my songs. It would be terrible to be cringing inside if I felt otherwise.
Q: Which song’s composition are you most proud of?
A: “Fool’s Overture,” as I mentioned before, is a piece of music that is thrilling to play and a piece of music that I am very proud of.
“The Logical Song” continues to be played on radio stations all over the world even 40 years after I wrote it. It received the Ivor Novello award in 1980 for best song musically and lyrically, and funny enough, it’s one of the most quoted lyrics in schools. The theme still resonates with people today, young and old.
“Lord Is It Mine” is one of my favorites, as is “Only Because of You” both songs to God.
Q: Do you consider yourself a musician or a writer?
A: I’d say I have been blessed with the gift and passion to be able to express my heart and soul through music, whether it be with an instrument, my unique voice, producing albums, or through the creative process of songwriting.
Songwriting is an amazing process and feeling. For me the music always comes first. There are usually a few lines of lyrics that come at the same time. For a two- or three-week period, I sing the new song every opportunity I get. It’s like a brief love affair, the emerging song just goes round and round in my head the whole time. It has that consuming quality to it, like falling in love. The structure and melody come to me relatively quickly — the lyric usually takes much longer.
I do realize I have written some wonderful songs and have an ability for writing great melodies, but I think the reason these songs have stood the test of time so well is because they came from a very pure place and were not contrived. I never sat down to try and write a hit song. Music was where I went to be alone to express my deepest emotions, my deepest longing, my deepest pain and joy and questions. And I think that is why the songs have endured so well over time.
Q: When did you start composing?
A: The guitar was my first instrument. My father had an old acoustic guitar that I used to drool over, but he never used to let me touch it. When my parents divorced, it was his parting gift to me. I was 12 at the time and took this guitar with me to boarding school in England. The moment I got it into my hands, my life changed forever. A teacher showed me three chords and every spare moment, even between classes, I would go and play it. Within a year, I actually did my first concert at school of all original songs. So I got the bug very, very quickly and started writing songs immediately.
I took an interest in piano when I was 16. I was primarily self-taught and developed my own piano playing technique. I have always experimented with different sounds. My original demo for “Dreamer,” for instance, was recorded on a two-track. I was at my mothers house and did not have any percussion, so you can hear me banging boxes and lampshades on there.
At 17, I don’t know why, but I was driven to find a pump organ, which is a harmonium. It’s like an organ that you play with your feet. I found one in the backroom of this old lady’s house covered in cobwebs. I bought it for 24 pounds, took it home, cleaned it up and proceeded to write many songs on it — “Breakfast in America,” “Soapbox Opera,” “It’s Raining Again,” “Two of Us,” even part of “Fools Overture” and “The Logical Song.” It had that magical quality to it that helped me lose myself in the sound of the instrument. It still does; I still have it at my studio. The sound on the recording of “Breakfast in America” is this harmonium and a grand piano combined.
In many respects I was the musical driving force of Supertramp from the time Rick and I started it until we parted ways in 1983. I was responsible for much of the arranging of the songs, producing of the albums and tours. It was very important to me back then not to create just a hit single, which most bands were focused on. I wanted to create a whole listening experience where people were taken through a range of emotions — where at the end of the album they really felt like they had been taken on a journey and had a full-course meal, if you like. I’d spend days and sometimes weeks choosing the right songs and the right order of songs, so one song flowed into the next pacing wise and emotionally. I did this for the concerts as well as the albums, and I still do this today.
Q: How does your fans’ continued devotion and connection to your music over the years affect you? Have you ever met a fan who was born post-Supertramp days?
A: One of the things that I like most about making music is how it has brought people together from all over the globe and how many lasting friendships have been made through a common love of my songs. It is a very special and personal connection I have with many of my fans and that the fans have with one another. I feel it’s because my songs came from my deepest longing and joy and pain and touch those same places in the hearts of the people who listen. At my concerts, I’m now seeing three generations singing along with me and it’s very fulfilling to see more and more young people discovering my music and it is another thing that motivates me to continue to perform.
When the DVD we made in Montreal came out — “Take the Long Way Home” — it seemed to capture a whole new audience of young people that I am happy about. When I say young people, even 7-9 years olds love it. I am always happy to see their faces at my concerts.
Q: You mentioned that you were on a spiritual retreat ... has your spirituality affected your music at all? How has this retreat affected your outlook on music and the music industry? (If at all)
A: For me, music was where I went to express my longing to know God, to know true love, my longing to feel truly at home inside myself. I put this inner quest into my songs and I believe, because they came from such a deep place, this is one of the reasons they have had such an enduring quality. They touch that place in everyone who is searching for true happiness, belonging, for God — whatever you want to call it.
So yes, most of my songs have a spiritual theme in them — when I write music, I am always alone and it’s very much an inner communion for me. It’s not generally known that I never wrote with the band, and the band didn’t share many of the spiritual beliefs that I wrote about — so all my songs — new and old — are all very personal expressions from me.
Q: What can we expect at your San Diego concerts? What’s new this time around?
A: I begin my 2010 World Tour here in Southern California. This year I’ll be performing with a very good band that consists of four versatile musicians who toured the world with me last year. Audiences love them, and we have a great time together on stage.
You will be hearing songs I have written throughout my life journey — of course performing all the songs people want to hear from my time with Supertramp — “Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” “Give a Little Bit,” “Breakfast in America,” “Dreamer,” “School,” “Fool’s Overture” ... as well as songs from my solo albums and perhaps a song or two that are not recorded yet.
Q: Any interesting fan encounters lately?
A: Last year fans came from at least eight different countries that I know of — probably more — and surprised me during my show in Nuremberg by spontaneously singing “Happy Birthday” to me. My audiences often sing along with me, but this was the first time I’ve had them sing TO me. It was very touching for me, needless to say.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am gearing up for another exciting year of travel and concerts and will be releasing the double CD that the fans have been so patiently waiting for.