There’s a reason Paul Rodgers’ nickname is “The Voice.”
The lead singer of Bad Company is pushing 60 and can still belt out the high notes on classic rock tunes such as “Can’t Get Enough,” “Shooting Star,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.” Oh, and there was that gig where he filled in for the late, great Freddie Mercury as singer for Queen. How many could pull THAT off?
Rodgers and his troublemaking friends from Bad Company kick off a short summer tour Wednesday night in Hollywood, Fla.
Q: It’s been 35 years since Bad Company’s debut album. What keeps you going?
A: When I first heard music at a very young age, when I was about 4 or 5, we always used to have the radio on in our house, and they would tell me I would always dance around when the music came on. I don’t remember that, actually, but I’ve been taken by music since I can remember, and I’ve never been very far away from it. I went through different phases. I listened to a lot of pop music when I was 13 and 14, the same as everyone else, but then I discovered blues and soul, and I dug a little deeper. And I think I’ve been digging ever since. I started to write songs when I was about 17, just before I put together Free, and that’s when I started to really become a songwriter, and I’m still writing songs. In fact, that’s what I really want to focus on as soon as we’re done the Bad Company tour.
Q: Is the show set in stone or do you experiment?
A: I look at the songs we have and what the expectations are, and you’ve gotta put the two together, so it’s going to be a lot of the hits ... I’d like to dig into the catalog a little bit as well. And as a singer, it’s interesting for me to revisit some of the things that I haven’t done in a while, like “Simple Man.” And I’d like to put in a new song, just to demonstrate that one is moving forward.
Q: How’s the voice holding up?
A: I’ve just done four months on the road with Queen out in Eastern Europe and Russia, and I think it was good practice, actually. My voice is in really great shape, thank you.
Q: How did the Queen gig come about?
A: We were actually doing a show together in London. It was an awards show, and (Queen guitarist) Brian (May) called me and said, “We would like to play live, and would you like to be our singer, and we’ll be your backing band for your spot?” And I thought, “That’s a pretty good deal.” ... We enjoyed ourselves so much that we said, “Let’s do a bit more.” And a bit more actually turned into four years, two world tours and the studio album, too.
Q: You collaborated with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page on the group The Firm. Have you talked with him about doing something else together?
A: We haven’t really discussed it. It’s always sort of there, but you get so busy.
Q: You’re almost 60, but still in rock star shape. What’s your secret?
A: My secret, if I have a secret, is really to be passionate about what you do. I’m still as passionate, if not more, about playing and writing and singing and performing than I ever was. It seems the more I do it, the more I learn. I never stop learning. I had Sam Moore join me on one of my solo shows, and he got up to jam, and he’s 70 or something, and he’s still got it going on ... We got into a jam thing for “All Right Now” that went so far off scale that I forgot what song we were doing. So I think the secret is, if you get a job that you love, you never have to work a day in your life.
Q: What Bad Company song really gets you going?
A: I think “Shooting Star” has a lot of poignancy for me. It’s strange how some songs can sort of come to you and write themselves, and “Shooting Star” and Elvis Presley are things I’ve been thinking about lately. For some reason, every time I turn around I’m finding Elvis Presley. It’s so strange. Back in the ‘70s, I was sent a message by Elvis through my manager, and he sent me his autograph, and a message, and you know how people say “Keep rockin’ ” or whatever. Well, he said, “Take time to live.” And I thought, “What does that mean?” and he died soon afterward ... He was very much a shooting star, you know?