Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night talk to Forbes about new BLACKMORE'S NIGHT album "Nature's Light"
March 5, 2021
Ritchie Blackmore And Candice Night On Investing Outside The Mainstream Via Blackmore's Night
(GERMANY OUT) Blackmore's Night - Band, Renaissance-inspired folk, GB - Ritchie Blackmore (guitar) and Candice Night (vocals) performing in Bonn, Germany, Museumsmeile (Photo by Brill/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
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Over the course of about the last 20 years, as it’s become more and more difficult to monetize recorded music, curating a unique experience has become crucial for artists seeking to engage their audience.
Blackmore’s Night was far ahead of that curve.
Following his run as co-founder of one of hard rock’s most influential group’s, Deep Purple, guitarist, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Ritchie Blackmore tied together some of his more diverse influences in rock group Rainbow.
While widely known as one of rock’s greatest guitarists, Blackmore also took lessons in classical guitar, and Rainbow incorporated elements of his leanings toward the baroque and pop music that was a bit more anathema within the hard rock realm.
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Candice Night chipped in on lyrics and backing vocals of the, to date, final Rainbow album Stranger in us All in 1995 and the duo formed Blackmore’s Night two years later.
With a focus on medieval and Renaissance music, Blackmore’s Night puts a contemporary spin upon centuries old sound. Eschewing the arenas of days gone by, Blackmore and Night opted instead to deliver their music directly to fans via themed concerts in smaller venues where the music was more likely to resonate, places like castles or Renaissance faires, creating in the process a new, rabid fanbase that now spans generations. With both artist and audience celebrating the idea of escape every night on stage, in period appropriate attire, each Blackmore’s Night concert stands out as a one of a kind experience.
I caught up with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night for a look at their latest album, Nature’s Light, available for pre-order now via EarMusic ahead of a March 12 release, a conversation which hits on the benefits of investing in a unique fan experience outside the mainstream, while looking back on nearly 25 years of Blackmore’s Night. A transcript of our email exchange, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows below.
Ritchie, I read that you were given your first guitar at 11 and the first lessons you took were actually classical guitar lessons. At what point did you actually start to embrace that sound and would that formative experience kind of loom large later as you and Candice started exchanging the ideas that would come to define Blackmore’s Night?
RITCHIE BLACKMORE: My friend brought a guitar to school when I was 11 and I just loved the instrument. I pestered my mom and dad to get me one: a cheap acoustic.
My father insisted I take lessons as he thought it was just another phase I was going through and that I would lose interest after two weeks. The teacher that was teaching me to play lived the equivalent of seven miles away. So I would ride my bicycle, holding my guitar, to his place for lessons. In the winter when there was snow on the ground, I would often fall off the bike into the snow with my guitar.
I wasn't playing strict classical lessons. It was more standard songs with a lilt towards classical. I took some classical guitar lessons from Jimmy Sullivan who became a very good friend of mine and who was, incidentally, an amazing guitar player. But I realized the discipline of playing classical guitar was more or less out of reach for me. And I wanted to sound like Buddy Holly anyway.
However, much later, around 1972, I was listening to David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London playing Danserye by composer Tielman Susato - a 16th century composer. I would just play that day and night for years. I never really thought I would be playing that type of music. I just loved listening to it. In 1986, I met a medieval group in Germany who were playing in a castle. I realized, hearing them play, that I had to get more into Renaissance and medieval music. So I started fiddling on the guitar playing various pieces that sounded like Renaissance music, which was actually, again, by Susato. Then I met Candice. Her voice was perfect for the music of that period and we started Blackmore’s Night.
I had been playing hard rock since I was 15 or 16. So, by 1990, I was ready for a change of pace. I was tired of playing riffs and heavy music. I still like to blast out on the [Fender Stratocaster guitar] from time to time. But it’s obviously a completely different way of playing the guitar. The Renaissance music is more finger style whereas the strat is more bending and playing blues notes - distortion is very important.
'Nature's Light,' the 11th studio album from medeival/Renaissance, husband and wife duo Blackmore's Night is available for pre-order via EarMusic ahead of release on Friday, March 12, 2021
ALBUM COVER ART COURTESY OF EARMUSIC
Candice, I’ve read that you were first kind of exposed to this music, and the Renaissance world, through Ritchie. From contributing to Rainbow to the lyrics you write, your vocals and the multiple instruments you play in Blackmore's Night, what's it been like for you carving out the musical niche you have alongside Ritchie over all these years?
CANDICE NIGHT: I always feel as if each step of the incarnations of music we do have been a completely natural evolution.
When I first started writing lyrics for the songs Ritchie created for Rainbow, it was because I loved to write and they needed a lyricist for that album. I hadn't written professionally in the music world before. But when I started doing that, I needed to be in the studio they were recording in. So when Ritchie had free time and the other guys were doing their tracks, Ritchie and I would sit by a fireplace, watch the snow come down and write acoustic music just for ourselves - in our own realm, without thinking anyone would ever hear it. It was an escape from the music industry and the stress and pressures that came with that world. Eventually, when our friends heard those songs, they told us if we had them on an album, they would buy them!
At that point, those songs became our first release Shadow of the Moon. We then toured with the music but realized we needed more upbeat songs to incorporate into the stage shows - so Under A Violet Moon was created. That got our fans singing along and participating. By the time we got to Fires At Midnight, I started playing shawms, and some other medieval, double reed woodwind instruments, and Ritchie wanted to incorporate more electric guitar. So those songs reflected that step. Ghost of a Rose was more orchestral.
Each album is a perfect snapshot in time as to where we were in our lives personally and creatively and where the music was leading us. We never lead the music; it pulls us in its own direction and we just try to channel it.
Ritchie, I’ve heard you say that you were a big fan of pop music, acknowledging that it wasn’t necessarily a popular idea to convey early on as a rock guitarist. How does the pop fan in you and the classically trained guitarist in you kind of come together to inform Blackmore’s Night?
RITCHIE: I would listen very much to heavily melodic, classically infused pop bands like Abba or other bands that have classical themes incorporated in their music like Jethro Tull.
In Blackmore's Night, we play very melodic music with various themes from many different resources. We enjoy the freedom and creativity of being able to be inspired by music from the 1500s and add new instrumentation and lyrics. But we're also able to play Joan Baez , Uriah Heep or Sonny and Cher covers.
We can pick and choose from a vast selection of material.
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 26: Candice Night and Ritchie Blackmore (L-R) of Blackmore's Night perform live during a concert at the Admiralspalast on August 26, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)
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How important has it been historically for you guys to create in Blackmore’s Night a musical experience that is incapable of being pigeonholed which allows you to follow your collective muse at all times?
RITCHIE: When we put the concept of Blackmore's Night together, we knew that it would probably never get played on the radio. But we didn't care because we just wanted to play our kind of music. We didn't care about playing to thousands of people - but we wanted to play to a hundred. It was so refreshing - a breath of fresh air compared to what I was used to before.
We have a record coming out [March 12] called Nature’s Light. This music is still challenging: to be playing arrangements where we have me playing mandolas, nickleharps and hurdy gurdys, and Candice playing shawms. In the old days, it was easy with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and everyone did their part. It is tricky to know when to play a rauschpfeife and a guitar and sometimes a synthesizer, and how it balances out.
CANDICE: I think Blackmore's Night is just a true reflection of our creative process. We don't follow trends or fashions. We brave our own path through the woods. And when we look behind us, we find that others are following along and enjoying the journey. The music we create is a very personal process for us. It’s not based on commercial success. Perhaps because of that, we have a very strong grassroots following that is very loyal and grows vastly each year worldwide.
We always wanted to keep the shows small so we could maintain an intimate connection with the fans - as if you were at a party at our own home. We're able to take requests from fans and include the audience in our concerts. We connect with the independent thinkers that aren't impressed with repetitive play on major radio stations who just appreciate discovering new music themselves and sharing it with friends and family.
Being able to play this type of music - where we are able to play anything from folk rock to Renaissance to ballads and instrumentals or tavern sing-alongs - is an incredible creative freedom. Once you kick down the walls of the box of a genre people try to place you in, it is very difficult to go back inside that box and be restrained to just one genre.
We feel as if our genre is simply good, melodic music. No other labels are necessary.
One of the things that has always amazed me about Blackmore's Night is the way in which you've both created and fostered a project like this that isn't at all dependent upon how many bodies you can squeeze into a room or how many albums get sold. How important has it been for you guys creating something like this that does resonate with people but that you can still guide entirely on your own terms?
RITCHIE: We wanted the freedom to be able to play anything we wanted to. At the same time, we knew we were going to lose a lot of hard rock fans. But the music was more important than big audiences.
I’d always been a little bit envious of guitar players being in a restaurant who could play to maybe 10 people and keep them entertained without Marshall [amps] or light shows or running around the stage. So part of my personal challenge was to see if we could hold the attention of a small audience without all the trimmings. Just the music. I was pretty uncomfortable at first. I wasn't used to just playing an acoustic guitar and not having a wall of sound behind me. Now, 25 years later, I’m more comfortable playing the acoustic guitar than I am playing the electric guitar.
CANDICE: I think one of the most amazing things is to look out to your audience in a concert and see a few thousand people, many of whom are dressed up in garb like a giant costume party. They’re showing what identity they feel most akin to at that moment in time - be it kings and queens, minstrels, monks or knights. And some just show up in regular clothing. But everyone is singing along to the songs you created.
The men are usually fans of Ritchie's from way back, knowing that whether he plays electric guitar, acoustic, hurdy-gurdy, or mandola - and he will play all of those instruments at some point during the show - it will be equivalent to Blackmore brilliance. No one plays these instruments like Ritchie. They are now there with their wives, who like a softer female vocal. Their children are there dressed like princesses or Robin Hood and they love singing along to the catchy, family-based choruses of the songs. The grandparents are there because they simply like melodic music. So, we've gone from appealing to one person to entire extended families. When you see the smiles on their faces and the positive energy that is being shared, it’s incredibly powerful.
Add to that the fact that we perform in 12th to 15th century castles or historical venues. Seeing these amazing, like-minded fans beneath a rising moon, singing each word, is a totally magical experience. Our fans follow us around the world and take their vacation times to see each show we perform. They’ve met many other fans that have turned into dear friends that they connect with and reunite with them through our shows each year. They know that each show we perform is going to be different - different songs performed with different solos and different intros and interpretations of each song. You never see the same show twice.
Our songs resonate on a deep emotional level with our fans and the concerts bring it to a whole other personal level. Seeing people from so many different walks of life, who you would have thought you had nothing in common with normally, bonding together through our music is incredible.
BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 05: Candice Night and Ritchie Blackmore of Blackmore's Night perform on stage at Birmingham Town Hall on October 5, 2011 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Steve Thorne/Redferns)
From the unique ways in which you've presented your music live to the songs themselves, I’ve always thought of the music of Blackmore’s Night as an escape. During turbulent times like this, just how important of a role is that for music to play?
CANDICE: It’s something that we always needed in our own lives anyway. From the stress and pressures of everyday life; being in an increasingly over-sensationalized society with emphasis on needing to be always available - being in survival mode and relying on screens constantly without taking a break to calm your spirit. It got to the point where we went from phones to faxes to emails, texts, DMs, and social media - and we forget to look up and see the miracles that occur before our eyes every day.
We were watching an increase of road rage, air rage, light pollution, and so much anger and frustration everywhere. No one was taking the time to unplug, watch the colors of a sunset, see a shooting star or feel the wind in their hair. Our music was our escape from the pressures of an increasingly high pressure world and a call to return to nature to renew our spirits.
If anything, this pandemic has taught us a similar thing. We're now unable to be in highly crowded areas. And although you could take that as a reason to be on screens even more, I hope some people will take to the woods or the beaches for walks. Or to sit outside and breathe the fresh, clean air, and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer. It can be a sanctuary.
A revealing look into recovery with RICKY BYRD....Thank you, Recovery Today Magazine for this COVER story! Issue is out now.
Read issue here: https://recoverytodaymagazine.com/
"Not Such A Dark Night: Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night Share A Timeless Tapestry" - Thank you to AMERICAN SONGWRITER for this beautiful review of "Nature's Light" / interview with Candice Night!
March 12, 2021
Blackmore’s Night/Nature’s Light/E-A-R Music
Four out of Five Stars
Given his past history as a harbinger of hard rock, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s current collaboration with singer and woodwind player Candice Night in the group Blackmore’s Night might strike some as curious at best. Nevertheless, the band has established its niche, with more than a dozen albums devoted to medieval and renaissance music of a decidedly vintage variety. It’s not the sort of sound heard within the musical mainstream, and indeed, it’s distinctly different, not only from Blackmore’s previous pursuits with Deep Purple and Blackmore’s Rainbow, but most notably, from much of what passes for modern music in general.
The duo’s new album Nature’s Light boasts a set of songs as precious as the title implies. In addition to Night on vocals and woodwinds and the various support players that provide keyboards, bass, violin, percussion and backing vocals, Blackmore adds to the instrumental arsenal with acoustic guitars, hurdy-gurdy, nickelharpe and mandola. Their efforts veer towards madrigal music, all dainty designs that often sound like a series of gypsy-like serenades. Songs such as “Four Winds,” “Once Upon December” and “The Twisted Oak” are both quaint and charming, all enhanced with a light lilt, a fanciful flourish and shared finesse.
The pair met in 1989 when Night was a radio station intern and Deep Purple was in town to play the station staff in a charity soccer game. Naturally, Night went along, and dutifully asked for Blackmore’s autograph. The guitarist was instantly smitten, and later, the two met up for a drink and then ended up immersed in conversation until the wee hours of the morning. A friendship evolved into a romantic relationship and naturally morphed into a musical collaboration from there.
“I had gone on the road with Ritchie in 1993, and as soon as he stepped off that stage he would be playing Renaissance music—in the hotel room, in his home, in the car,” Night recalls. “I think people who followed Ritchie since the beginning of his career saw the influences there. When he was onstage and started a jam, it would often begin with a 16th century melody originally rumored to be written by Henry the VIII called ‘Greensleeves.’ When he wrote with Rainbow, they started by doing songs like ‘Temple of the King’ or ‘16th Century Greensleeves.’ Even when he did the solo for ‘Smoke on the Water,’ it wasn’t done in singular notes, but rather in medieval modal scales of 4ths and 5ths.”
Night admits that she didn’t become familiar with that particular style of music until she and Blackmore became involved, and only after the two began cohabitating did her interest in it increase. “I had never heard medieval or Renaissance music before Ritchie,” she admits. “I moved in with him in 1991, and we lived in a dark English Tudor home with a minstrels gallery in the middle of the woods. He would be playing Renaissance music on the sound system and looking out the window to the beauty of nature outside, and it all just made sense. The audio and the visual were in perfect harmony. That’s when it kind of clicked for me. So when he left Deep Purple and put Rainbow back together, I was writing lyrics for them and doing backing vocals. Being around the studio while the other musicians were doing their backing tracks, Ritchie and I would sit in front of a fireplace and watch the snow come down outside the window of the farm house studio where they were recording. We eventually started writing songs just for us. It became a musical escape from the corporate world of pressure and friction that the rock and roll world had become for him.”
Night insists that the duo’s initial goal wasn’t to share their music with the wider world. “It was a very personal journey, and originally we didn’t think we would put those songs out for anyone else to hear,” she recalls. “But when we played them for our friends and they liked them, we thought other people might enjoy them as well. Those songs became our debut CD Shadow of the Moon almost 25 years ago. We’re still on this musical journey together, and we still utilize our music as an escape from the pressures of the modern world.”
Photo by Michael Keel
To be sure, the new album does offer some hint of Blackmore’s earlier bombastic approach on “Der Letzte Musketier,” a full blown, amplified extravaganza that recalls the soaring solos he played with his initial outfits. Likewise, “Nature’s Light” boasts a grandiose sound that would seem to suggest the royalty’s arrival at the crown court.
“I simply look at music as being music.” Night reflects. “I think that we just do good melodic music. I’m not really comfortable being placed in a box or a genre or having a neat little label placed on us. I truly believe the point of creative process is to kick down the walls of that confining box and, as with any art, to have the creative freedom to play whatever you want to at any given moment.”
Given that explanation, and the emotion imbued in the music, it’s hardly surprising to find Night taking a philosophical stance that affirms both their muse and their music.
“As human beings we are constantly changing, constantly evolving,” Night notes. “We aren’t the same person we were five minutes ago. So the music we create should be constantly changing, ever evolving. We love having the freedom to be able to create Renaissance music, folk rock music, instrumentals, ballads, story songs, tavern or gypsy music. We just follow what our heart wants to play at the time.”
Photos by Michael Keel.
"Saturday Night Special" - New Video From LYNYRD SKYNYRD: Live at Knebworth '76!
Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night of BLACKMORE'S NIGHT discuss "Nature's Light" with CNN - watch here!
View CNN interview here!
THE GO-GOS featured on The Playlist.net!
February 23, 2021
The 14 Best Movies To Buy Or Stream This Week: ‘Nomadland,’ ‘Judas & The Black Messiah,’ ‘I Care A Lot’ & More
Every Tuesday, discriminating viewers are confronted with a flurry of choices: new releases on disc and on-demand, vintage, and original movies on any number of streaming platforms, catalog titles making a splash on Blu-ray or 4K. This biweekly column sifts through all of those choices to pluck out the movies most worth your time, no matter how you’re watching.
It is a loaded week on the disc and streaming front, with three big titles on three big streamers, a wonderful new music documentary, and a boatload of first-rate catalog titles.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD:
‘The Go-Gos’: The formulations of the rock bio-doc have become similarly set in stone, yet this told-from-the-inside story of the rise of the New Wave-adjacent girl group (from director Allison Ellwood) feeds off the relentless energy and infectious freedom of the music at its center. And by focusing on this group, Ellwood is also telling the story of the waning days of the L.A. punk scene, the introduction and infestation of MTV, and the precarious position of women in rock in the 1980s. The interviews are entertaining, the juxtapositions are ingenious, and the music, of course, is aces. (Also available on demand.)
MARCH 19 - Ricky Byrd Releases "I Come Back Stronger" - Second Single from "Sobering Times"
GUITARIST / SINGER-SONGWRITER / PRODUCER RICKY BYRD
TO RELEASE SECOND SINGLE FROM SOBERING TIMES
“I COME BACK STRONGER”
~OUT MARCH 19~
New York, NY (March 19, 2021)--Following the release of first single “Together” (available
here) from Ricky Byrd’s upcoming album Sobering Times, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) presents his second single “I Come Back Stronger” on March 19 (available
Continuing Byrd’s journey as a recovery troubadour, “I Come Back Stronger” (co-written with Richie Supa) spreads a message of hope and resilience to those who struggle with addiction and substance abuse.
“It’s about the lessons life puts in front of us at every turn,” he says. “Whether we are willing to learn from them is the big question. I believe we can learn way more from our failures than our successes. So in the words of Mr. Sinatra...pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
As Byrd proudly states, “with music and lyrics we press on and pass it on….”
Sobering Times will be released on April 9 via BFD / The Orchard. Pre-order it
ABOUT RICKY BYRD:
Although best known for his time with The Blackhearts, Ricky Byrd has also recorded and played with Roger Daltrey, and toured with Ian Hunter and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, respectively. He is also proud to have shared stages with such music royalty as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Alice Cooper, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Smokey Robinson, and Mavis Staples, among others.
LOVELY WORLD new video "You Know Darlin'" premiered on The Big Takeover
March 11, 2021
Video Premiere: "You Know Darlin'" by Lovely World
Lovely World – Photo Credit: Maddie Baldinelli
On March 12, Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Lovely World will release their new single “You Know Darlin’” via Dark Spark Music and Brookstone Party Music.
Landon Rojas, Cade Rojas, and Cameron Smith formed Lovely World in 2015 and built up their musical foundation based on a love of ’70s rock and pop music and anthemic modern rock.
Landon Rojas (songwriter, vocals, guitar) and his brother Cade Rojas (drums) have been close friends with Smith (lead guitarist) since elementary school; Bassist Michael Gilbert joined the band in 2019.
These young musicians blended their musical tastes with deep lyrics reflecting a consciousness beyond their years. Expressing the turmoil of unrequited love, drug addiction, social afflictions, and political conflict through a prism of passionate vocals and solid musicianship, Lovely World have created a vibrant sound that invites further listening.
Upcoming heartfelt single “You Know Darlin’” continues this trajectory. Produced by Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Dandy Warhols), the song presents a deep meditation on relationships, despair, and escapism delivered through vivid, emotional lyrics and melodic expression. Working with the band led Parker to express that, “Landon has one of those voices that you don’t care what he is selling, but you are going to buy it.”
““You Know Darlin’” was written during a really strange time. Let’s face it, 2020 has been a real horror show. [It’s] kind of as a farewell to a particular era and point in time. Everything was changing and honestly still is rapidly changing. It’s about searching for a life raft in the mist of a chaotic situation,” Landon Rojas reveals.
He also shares that the song was inspired by, “all the strong women in my life… We can all name a few women who have helped us keep the puzzle pieces together. “You Know Darlin’” is a tribute to those women.”
Big Takeover is mighty pleased to host the poignant music video for “You Know Darlin’,” which was directed and edited by Ridge Beck. In times of uncertainty one can still hope for a better future and find solace in each other, and this video clip shows how missed connections can finally turn into a serendipitous encounter.
The storytelling video focuses on various scenarios that zoom onto the screen through footage from TV/computer monitors where Landon Rojas is so wrapped up in daily life situations that he doesn’t notice the young woman who is always near him in the frame. She is also unaware of his presence as she deals with the day-to-day activities. So close, yet so far…
The other band members become extras in the scenes that take place at the thrift store, laundromat, move theater, and diner, and there are brief images of the whole band stormily performing the song. As the narrative develops, Landon and the girl are shown alone together, with their back to each other, not recognizing each other’s presence until the final shot in the diner, and then…
Houston Press delves into RICKY BYRD'S Rock 'N Roll Recovery Troubadour Life - read here!
April 1, 2021
Ricky Byrd is the Recovery Troubadour
Ricky Byrd today is all about rock and recovery.
Photo by Frankie Byrd/Courtesy of Kayos Productions
When singer/guitarist Ricky Byrd looks back upon the Big Moments of his life, it would be pretty hard to beat the evening of April 18, 2015. There’s when on the stage of Cleveland’s Public Hall, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
And then he took part in a collaboration that the teenaged Byrd couldn’t possibly imagine. In the all-star finale jam at the end, there he was face-to-face with Paul McCartney, ripping off the solo to the Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man.” And behind him on the drum stool and singing sat the other surviving Fab, Ringo Starr.
Amazingly, it wasn’t that performance (with Byrd decked out in a Howlin’ Wolf T-shirt) that he says was the most nerve-wracking moment. Instead, it was the speech that he gave—and who was in his field of vision.
“I was trying not to look down because at that table in front of me was Paul, Ringo, Joe Walsh, their wives, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Yoko Ono. Can you imagine trying to give a speech to that group!” Byrd laughs.
“So that made me nervous. But once I put the guitar around me, that’s what I do. And I have to thank Joan for bringing me along on that journey. The night was kind of a blur. It was bunch of wonderful people, a cool night, and at the end we were just all in a giant band. I mean, Stevie Wonder was playing harp on my left! It was surreal.”
In a sense, Byrd came full circle since he’s always said how seeing the Beatles and the Rolling Stones perform on The Ed Sullivan Show is was set his life and career path to rock and roll in the first place. And as he mentioned in his induction speech, rock and roll saved him from a life “working the men’s cologne counter at Macy’s.”
Today, the 64-year-old Ricky Byrd’s focus is still on music, but also about another topic he’s intimately familiar with: continuing recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Kayos Records cover
Byrd began his sober journey in 1987, and 30 years later he released the record Clean Getaway, full of songs directly about the topic. He obviously had more to say about it, because the follow up Sobering Times (Kayos Records, out April 9), features 12 tracks focusing on addiction, recovery, and hope.
The titles speak for themselves: “Quittin’ Time (Again)”, “I Come Back Stronger,” “Recover Me,” “I Ain’t Gonna Live Like That,” “Pour Me,” “Life Is Good,” and a cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down.” But don’t think that means the tunes are preachy and treacly: this is nothing if not a real rock and roll record.
“When I finish a record and it runs its course, I’ll pick up the guitar and usually the tank is empty. But a month later, a chord pattern might come out. And then I’ll start mumbling a melody into a recorder and then the lyrics start coming,” Byrd says. “And after Clean Getaway, I found out I was writing about a lot of the same things, so I just went with it. The one thing I did want to do on this one is widen the lane a bit, so it could be [applicable] to other things in life as well.”
Byrd had been performing much of the material as a self-described “Recovery Troubadour.” He regularly plays acoustically at recovery gatherings, treatment centers, and conferences for fellow recovering addicts and medical professionals, mixing his life story, music, and inspirational words to his audiences while opening up a conversation.
“I do my Recovery Music Groups in these facilities and juvenile detention centers and would throw [songs] out there to see if I got a reaction. It’s like taking a show on the road before you get to Broadway,” Byrd says. “I’m not trying to write hit songs. I want to identify things to people to help change their lives. But it’s not all serious—there’s some humor in there too! It’s still a loud rock and roll record.”
As for his own story, Byrd says there wasn’t some Big Movie Moment where he saw hit rock bottom and changed immediately and successfully within an instant. “I didn’t have a ‘white light moment,’ I just knew I was out of dance tickets,” he says. “I was looking into the mirror at the end of a long night and just thought ‘This is not going to end well.’ That’s when I called someone who was in recovery and he took me to my first community support group meeting. That was the beginning, and I love the camaraderie. Come to think if it, that’s also probably the reason I joined a band in the first place!”
As to how his chosen profession might have contributed to his past addictions in a way that wouldn’t be the case with, say, another job, Byrd concedes that access to drugs and alcohol was far easier. “When you’re on the road, everyone wants to get the guitar player high,” he offers. Byrd also notes alcoholism runs in his family: his father and grandfather both died “as a direct result” of the disease, and his uncle has been in recovery for more than four decades.
Byrd has even gone steps further and is now a both a CASAC T (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor) and CARC (Certified Addiction Recovery Coach), winning numerous awards for his work. In “Just Like You,” Byrd sings “To get to that feelin’ of feelin’ numb/There ain’t nothing you won’t do/I know that you think you’re the only one/I was just like you.” He estimates he’s given away about 2,500 of copies of Clean Getaway at recovery-related events, and plans to do the same with Sobering Times, hoping that other purchases will help balance out the cost.
Of course, Ricky Byrd is best known as a member of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts from 1981-1991. He played on the band’s classic era hits like “Light of Day,” “I Hate Myself of Loving You,” “Fake Friends,” “The French Song,” “Backlash,” and hit covers of “Everyday People” (Sly & the Family Stone), “Crimson and Clover” (Tommy James and the Shondells), and the band’s biggest and most enduring hit, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” (The Arrows).
Byrd would often play it in New York clubs with Arrows singer/bassist Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the song with guitarist Jake Hooker. Merrill died in March 2020 at the age of 69 from COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.
“We recorded it, and then we hit the road. The record came out and climbed higher and higher until it hit #1. We were in this kind of tornado,” Byrd says. “And the crowds got bigger. Then we went from touring in a Winnebago to a tour bus, and then two tour buses. But it’s a great song and of the time. Not much sounded like it on the radio at the time, it was raw, crunchy rock and roll. And it’s got an anthemic chorus with a really simple riff.”
Byrd says the song might even prompt a call from a close relative—his mother. “My mom lives in Florida, and she’ll tell me ‘I heard the song in Publix!’” Byrd laughs. “And she has no problem stopping people in the frozen food section and going ‘That’s my son!’”
For more on Ricky Byrd or to order an autographed copy of Sobering Times, visit RickyByrd.com
LYNYRD SKYNYRD “Sweet Home Alabama”, which you can watch below, is part of the band’s historic ‘76 show “Live at Knebworth” (out NOW on multiple formats).
They were part of a day-long festival that featured headliners The Rolling Stones, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, and 10cc. The Stones’ tongue logo was a prominent part of the stage. Ronnie Van Zant disregarded all warnings to stay off it....Good times!
RICKY BYRD'S "Sobering Times" Out Now!
Today marks the international release of Ricky Byrd’s Sobering Times CD: a recovery message with a Loud and Proud, Rock N Roll Backbeat, delivered on 12 brand new tracks.
In partnership with BFD / The Orchard, this album is now available on all digital platforms, as well as retail outlets.
~SOBERING TIMES IS AVAILABLE
HERE ON ALL DIGITAL PLATFORMS~
LISTEN HERE TO THE FIRST TWO SINGLES
“I COME BACK STRONGER”