What can fans look forward to on this tour?
It will be primarily the classics, obviously, with a sprinkling of the new stuff. Probably two or three of the new tracks which we’ve already been playing live and they’ve been meeting with a lot of success. They really stand up quite well.
Were the diehard fans quick to accept Kelly as the new singer?
I think so, yeah. There are always some holdouts who quite rightly probably [are attached to the earlier albums]. But I think once, generally, I’ve witnessed it – once they’ve seen the show and heard Kelly’s delivery onstage – definitely are won over.
Was it a delicate balance trying to bridge the past and present Foreigner sounds while recording?
It sort of drifted in and out of my mind. I was trying not to be too affected by that. It was always a challenge in the earlier years to avoid that sophomore jinx. We were able to get through that effectively. I had to approach this [one] with an open mind and they ideas started to come. I originated a good deal of the basis of songs and then throw them into the middle. We would work really hard on them, coming up with new parts and we developed a good writing team. I thought it was important Kelly be involved so he could bring meaning to the songs and sing them with confidence.
How did you end up collaborating with Marti Frederiksen of Aerosmith and Buckcherry reknown?
Marti and I had worked together over the years. We both knew we shared similar tastes in music. He’s an extremely hard worker and really dedicated. I felt I needed that comfort zone almost to really be able to present some of the ideas on a creative level and definitely on the sound level too.
Is it true the title track “Can’t Slow Down” was written with NASCAR in mind?
We did the first of a couple shows early last spring [at the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway] as we really just writing the songs for the album. We had such a great reception at that show and quite an impressive few days. We got to go around the track a few times and experience that thrill. It sort of came out of thin air. It really felt right – that title. It was a good song as far as presenting the idea that we’re not slowing down, we’re full steam ahead.
The band was also in SoCal recently to perform at the Fontana Speedway. Are you a car racing fan?
I used to be – still am – into Formula One racing. There’s a slightly different vibe in that. I must say when I first went round the track [last spring] it was [mind-blowing]. I had absolutely no idea it was that challenging. Some of these drivers are small and quite frail looking. To go around that track 2 or 300 times is beyond me.
“Too Late” sounds like it could’ve gone on one of the earlier albums. Was that the vibe you were after?
This is sort of a re-release of that song. It was featured on the “No End in Sight” compilation last year. We thought we’d give it another shot on this album and introduce it to the new audience we’ve gathered. Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of comments about that really sounding like the old days...We just threw a lot of ideas in there and there was no such thing as a bad idea. Some were ridiculously silly and some were crazy [laughs]. We all managed like a committee to figure out what we wanted to do.
Do any of the song lyrics stand out personally for you since you co-wrote them all?
“In Pieces” is a powerful blend of a slower song with a powerful vibe. You know I found my life in pieces several times [laughs], so. “When it Comes to Love,” the first single, has done quite well at [Adult rock] radio. That has more of a current meaning for me. It’s about another breakup and the reflection of how it could’ve been. “Lonely” - I love everything about it. I tried the make the album – the underlying thing of it was I always thought that Foreigner albums were very listenable from top to bottom. That was one of the underlying factors of ending up with the choice of songs on there.
Looking back, after the 1977 debut album was a big success and that continued with the other albums, did you think, ‘hey, we’ve got a winning formula here?’
People often ask about that, but there wasn’t really a formula. I knew what I liked. My direction was the result of playing with a few bands in the early ‘70s. I had quite varying influences. I was very much into soul music of the ‘60s. I guess it was incorporating that. To me, the vocal delivery was very important. With Lou, we developed a very soulful partnership. We were into similar kinds of music.
Do you think the band’s soulful rock sound helped you stand apart from the pack?
I like to think that. We were sort of different in that way, a little more soulful than some of the other bands out there. I really wanted to develop grooves and the songs tended to have that. Maybe it was not quite as brash as some of the other bands. I think the strength, a lot of the time, was in the writing. As far as a formula, we just did what was currently going through our minds. Just worked very hard at it.
During the ‘60s, when you were working in France with Johnny Hallyday, you played in a band that opened for the Beatles in Paris. What was that like?
It was probably one of the [most] outstanding experiences of my life. The Beatles kind of took me under their wing for a week or so. It was almost like living ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. They were already fairly big in England then and just about to head to the States. It was my first real glimpse into the insanity of success in music. It really affected me. I had it in the back of my mind – ‘my god, maybe at some point I can have a taste of this.’ It definitely had a huge effect on me.
And then several years later, you contributed to George Harrison’s solo album.
I’ve been lucky to work with a number of people like Van Halen, Billy Joel, even Ozzy [laughs]