By Lori Smerilson Carson – Working hard and leading a meaningful life are not new concepts to singer/songwriter/guitarist Ricky Warwick. Ever since he was young, he had one goal that he strived for, and over the past thirty years he has played with several bands starting with New Model Army in 1987 before forming his own band The Almighty. In 2002 Warwick released his first solo album. He joined Thin Lizzy in 2010 and then Black Star Riders was created in 2012 with Warwick as the front man. This extraordinarily talented musician has achieved many successful albums spawning several top ten singles in the UK, and has toured with several world renown bands. Now he will be releasing his fifth solo album WHEN LIFE WAS HARD AND FAST on February 19, 2021.
Prior to the LP release, while his first single “Fighting Heart” was streamlining and displaying his amazing, unique and catchy rock, and just before the end of 2020, Warwick took time to reveal some details about his new music, his previous and present collaborations, why he became a musician and what fans can look forward to.
Ohio Music Experience: Tell me about the new album WHEN LIFE WAS HARD AND FAST. What inspired it? Was there a theme?
Ricky Warwick: I write all the time. You know, lyrics for Black Star Riders or my solo stuff. So, I’m always writing songs and I hadn’t had the opportunity to make a solo record. This is the first solo record I’ve made in five years just because I’ve been really busy touring with Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy. So, I’d been sitting on these songs for quite a while, and when I was able to get some downtime last year, that gave me the opportunity to get in the studio and actually get these songs recorded. I work with Keith Nelson on the record. Keith used to be the guitar player in Buckcherry. He co-produced it with me and he co-wrote a lot of the songs with me as well. So, I’m real excited about it. Recorded last year in Hollywood California, last April and yeah. Finally seeing the light of day.
Ohio Music Experience: How was your experience recording in L.A.?
Warwick: Well you know, I’ve recorded a few records here. I live in Los Angeles, so I’m recording at home basically. Yeah, it’s great. There’s so many great studios here and it’s always a great environment to record in Los Angeles. I find it inspiring. It’s nice to go home at the end of the day as well.
Ohio Music Experience: I bet. Tell me about a couple of the songs. I love the title track “When Life Was Hard And Fast”. What is that about?
Warwick: I actually co-wrote that with a good friend of mine (Sam Robinson) from Belfast in Ireland where I’m from. Where I grew up. We wrote about being kids growing up in Belfast you know, before everybody stayed on their cell phones for seventeen hours a day. Before the internet. When we’d get thrown out the house when the sun came up and we’d stay out playing in the streets all day and come back home with bloody knees and snotty noses and getting into all kinds of trouble. You know, when the sun went down. Dreaming of being in a rock and roll band. Just dreaming of seeing the world and getting out there beyond our own little world that we grew up in. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in Belfast was tough because of the situation that was going on over there at that time, and you know it’s really just those feeling and those times. The first line is “Well we grew up together Along a rain lashed road.” That was me and my mate. Always raining. We grew up on the same street, you know in the line of blood and thunder. It was obviously a war going on at the time. Just really writing about our experiences as kids.
Ohio Music Experience: What about the song “I’d Rather Be Hit”? That title made me laugh.
Warwick: Yeah, that could be a country song with a title like that, right? I wrote it about sort of the male arrogance. There are a lot of men have that overblown sense of importance and testosterone. The God given right that they can treat, not just women, but people with content. I’m kind of going, I think it’s really time that women were given a chance to have more to say on how things are run in the world because we’re not doing a very good job right now, us males. Men can be just so, I think arrogant and pig headed sometimes, and they feel threatened by a strong woman, and I think that’s sad and they shouldn’t be. Not at all. It should be absolute opposite. I think that’s really the pretense behind the lyrics for the song.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s very cool. That will resonate with a lot of women.
Warwick: Thank you. I’m married to a strong independent woman. She’s fantastic and I see how hard she works. I see what she comes up against in her daily job as well. The prejudice is there from the egotistic male chauvinistic guys, and it’s pathetic. It’s just pathetic. It really is.
Ohio Music Experience: Well, hopefully things get better. What about “Never Corner A Rat”?
Warwick: Yeah. That was a conversation I had. I met an ex-marine and he served in Iraq quite a few times and he’d come out of the military, and he fought for freedom and justice and what he believed in for his country. He felt now he was back home; he was struggling to adapt, and he felt that his country wasn’t supporting him for freedom and democracy and justice in his own country and he felt aggrieved by that. Rightly so, and I just listened to him telling me his stories which is so fascinating, and here was a guy that had given his all for his country and sadly, I don’t think his country had given their all to look after him the way that they should have, but he kept saying you know, don’t back me in a corner. I want to keep fighting. I want to keep pushing. I thought it was great. I thought it was sad that he had to do that because I believe we’ve got to treat our veterans much better than we do. It was just great listening to this guy’s stories. A real hero, and it was sad that he was back home now and struggling.
Ohio Music Experience: It’s wonderful that you addressed that topic. You seem to have a variety of topics. Is that what inspires you when you write your music? Everyday experiences?
Warwick: Absolutely Lori. People, places. People telling me their stories. I mean, I love people. I love listening to their lives and what they’ve been through and what their perspective on life is because I think you learn from that, and it’s just interesting to see peoples different outlook on life basically. I find it fascinating and I always have, and people are just a great source of inspiration for me when I’m writing.
Ohio Music Experience: How did you come up with the song “I Don’t Feel At Home”?
Warwick: You know, that’s one of the last songs we wrote for the record. That Keith and I actually wrote. We finished all the other songs and we just went back and went, yeah, we feel it’s still missing a song or it’s missing something or kind of vibe, and we wrote the music for that fairly quickly, and then lyrically, you know, I have somebody in my family that’s been struggling with addiction pretty much their whole adult life and sadly a couple of my friends have succumbed to it as well, and I just wanted to sort of write about their struggles. People are always of the aspect, oh, you just got to get clean mate. Just give it up. Why don’t you stop doing what you’re doing? If only it was as easy as that for these people because these people just feel that they don’t fit in and they’re lost, and then they obviously succumb to substance abuse. That makes them feel safe and secure and stops the anxiety and stops the fear and the paranoia that they suffer from, and so you’re asking them to give something up that makes them feel better. So, the whole idea is getting to the emphasis of why do they feel the way that they do that they have to go down that path to substance abuse. I’ve seen it in my own family like I said, and it’s just heartbreaking and the bottom line is, it’s only really, they can help themselves, but they really do need people to listen to them and to try and understand what they’re going through. Not to treat them like criminals or treat them like outcast because you know, they’re not (he chuckled) They’re human beings, right?
Ohio Music Experience: Exactly! That’s another great topic to cover.
Warwick: Thank you.
Ohio Music Experience: You’re welcome. Now your daughter Pepper sang with you on “Time Don’t Seem To Matter”. How did that come about with the two of you?
Warwick: You know, she’s a great little musician. She just loves music. Ever since I can remember. She sings. She loves the Broadway shows and musicals. She’s into rap. She’s into Billie Eilish. She can play the mandolin great. She plays violin. So, I wrote the song about being away from her you know, being on tour, missing the birthdays. Missing the special holidays. The school concerts that I miss because I’d be on the road. That’s the one negative of the job. Probably the only negative of this great job that I have and it’s heartbreaking. I wrote the song about being away from her, but I wrote it kind of positive in the fact that yes, I’m away, but when we’re together, think about how much fun we have and the quality of time we get to spend together. So, I was sort of telling her I wrote this song and I was like, you know, you’re going to have to sing on it. She goes, no way. I went no, you’ve got a great voice. So, of course she came down to the studio and she sang her part. She did it in one take and of course I’m tearing up doing the proud dad thing and all that, and she’s like ok, are we done? Can we go get Starbucks? You know, thirteen years old. Completely non phased by it. Not impressed at all. She did a beautiful job. It’s a real proud moment for me to have her on the record.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s wonderful. So how did you decide to become a musician?
Warwick: I didn’t want to be a farmer (he laughed). I grew up on a farm. A small farm in Northern Ireland and then we moved to Scotland, same thing. Only son and you know, it was set in stone. I was going away to school which I did at fifteen. I’d come home and work on the farm. My dad was as passionate about farming as I am about music. He could see that I, you know, I worked on the farm and I worked hard, but I was in love with music and my dad always encouraged me because he saw that that was my passion and he never stood in my way which Is amazing. I don’t have this in me to be a farmer seven days a week, 365 days a year in all weathers and the hardship that that brings. I mean, I want to be a rock ‘n roller. I want to be up there onstage. I want the bright lights. I want to hear the noise of the crowd and then turn the guitar up loud. I’m just completely obsessed with that from six, seven years old. That’s all I wanted to be.
Ohio Music Experience: He bought you your first electric guitar at age thirteen, correct? You said that changed your life.
Warwick: I had a paper run and I made some money from doing that, and whatever I made working on the farm after school. I think I came up with half the cash and he said, here’s the other half, and I got this cheap electric guitar and I just kicked down all the doors, and my life was never the same again. Suddenly this just opened up all these opportunities for me and it gave me confidence as well that I was probably lacking. I was quite a quiet kid up until I got that guitar and it really brought me out of my shell.
Ohio Music Experience: The album cover was shot on your great-grandfather’s farm? Grandfathers farm?
Warwick: Great-grandfather’s, and grandfather’s and my father’s farm. That was the farm and that scene from that race where you see the crash there on the bank where those people, all the spectators on the cover is actually a field on the farm that my great-grandfather used to rent out to the spectators to watch race. The race was known as the Ards TT (Motor Car Race) Lori, and it was run in the late twenties into the mid-thirties and it was huge. Drivers coming from all over the world to take part and it used to draw 300,000 spectators every year. I mean, it was massive! I remember my dad, being a little boy, would have him tell me the stories about the excitement of watching the cars back then because you know, most of the cars are still very primitive and these guys were just risking life and limb every time they’d go outside and the excitement for him of watching the race, and I became fascinated by it. We had some photographs of it in the family and when we wrote WHEN LIFE WAS HARD AND FAST and the album’s coming together, suddenly all these pieces of history of my family just seemed to fit together and I just thought, there’s only one cover that I can have on this record, and I said, I’ve got to use a shot from one of the races, which is what we did.
Ohio Music Experience: That was a great idea. Great cover!
Warwick: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Ohio Music Experience: You’re welcome. Now Robert Crane (bass) and Xavier Muriel (drums) are in the band, right?
Warwick: Yes. They’re in the band and recorded the album, yeah.
Ohio Music Experience: You also had some special guests on the album, correct? Luke Morley, Joe Elliott, Dizzy Reed, Andy Taylor. How did that come about?
Warwick: They’re friends you know? They’re friends and they just happen to be insanely talented artists. Over the years I’ve met them and become good friends with them and I contributed stuff on their albums and vice versa and that’s a great thing when you do a solo record. You can have who the hell you want playing on it. You don’t need to be democratic with all the guys in the band you know, piss off a lead guitar player because you want somebody else to come in and play a solo. So, that’s a narcissistic side of doing solo records that I love. I want to get so and so to play on it. Ok. You know that’s going to happen because nobody’s going or dispute it or argue with me, and that’s what I did. Like Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. He produced one of my old band’s first records. Phenomenal guitar player. I love The Power Station. I worked with Andy. I’ve written some songs for Andy for his new solo record that’s coming out pretty soon. So, that was a no brainer. Joe, I’ve known Joe for years. Joe Elliott actually produced my first two solo records, so we go way back. It’s just great that I’m able to reach and know these guys and they’re only too willing to give up their time, and it’s an honor to have them on the record.
Ohio Music Experience: What was it like working with Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) producing those first two solo albums? What would you say that you gained from that experience?
Warwick: It was brilliant. I’d work with Joe in a heartbeat. Joe is one of my dearest and closest friends. You know, I was Joe’s Best Man at his wedding and we go way back and we’re really tight, and I speak to him every week and he’s my sounding board. Joe will always tell you the truth and that’s one of the many things that I love about him. I can call him up with an idea and he’ll say, it’s great, leave it, or you need to get a better chorus or it’s crap. You can do better. He’s really honest and you know, I’m going to take advice from the guy that sold 120 million albums. You know what I mean (he laughed)? I’m not going to argue with that. He’s a fan. He’s generous. He’s always there to listen to me. He inspires me. He believes in me and he’s been a great friend over the years, and I just can’t say enough good things about the guy.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s nice to hear. Def Leppard’s always been one of my favorite bands.
Warwick: Oh yeah! Who doesn’t like Def Leppard? They’re just amazing, yeah.
Ohio Music Experience: Yeah, I think it’s a crime not to like them, right?
Warwick: Right. Yeah, that’s right! It’s like them and Cheap Trick or Thin Lizzy. It’s like really? What’s not to like about those bands? They’re just amazing, right?
Ohio Music Experience: You toured with them. You opened for Cheap Trick, correct?
Warwick: I did. Yeah.
Ohio Music Experience: How was that experience?
Warwick: Oh man, that was just incredible! I mean, just me and an acoustic guitar, and I just thought I would be eaten alive every night by the Def Leppard faithful, but they warmed to me and I ended up being on the road with those guys for a year, and they treated me so well. It was such an experience and again, opened up so many opportunities to me as a solo artist that I wouldn’t have had, had they not given me the chance to go out and open for them, and it was just incredible. Plus, I got to see Def Leppard every night.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s a plus. Now people are expecting tours to open up in the summer 2021. Is that the plan for you as well?
Warwick: Absolutely Lori. I’ve tentatively booked some UK dates starting in April and May. Look, when this vaccine comes out and things get back to normal and you know, try stopping me. We got to be positive. We got to be optimistic. I believe that things will slowly start to return to normalish next year. It’s been tough. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, a year without playing a show hasn’t happened to me since I bought the guitar when I was fourteen because I was playing in school discos and that kind of stuff back then. So, you go a whole year without actually getting on a stage is something that’s never happened to me in my whole adult life. It’s been weird, but it is what it is and I had a fantastic year at home with my family. They seem to still like me. They haven’t kicked me out, so that’s always a good sign. I’m getting a roll on next year when we can get some money back in our lives for everybody, you know?
Ohio Music Experience: Yes. In the meantime, are there any new videos for fans to look forward to coming out from the album?
Warwick: Yep. There’s a brand-new video dropping this Friday from the track “You Don’t Love Me” from the album which is filmed out in the Joshua Tree desert in California. So, that drops this Friday and the single drops as well. So, the single will be available this Friday prior to the album coming out in February.
Ohio Music Experience: What inspired that song?
Warwick: (he laughed) I think it was a case of you don’t love me. I don’t care. It’s criticism. I think it’s about dealing with criticism when people sometimes go yeah, I don’t like that guy anymore. I don’t like that song or whatever. I’m kind of going ok, you know. You’re not into what I do anymore. I get it. It’s ok. I’m a big boy. I can take it. I’ll keep going. Thank you for your input. It’s not gonna to bring me down.
Ohio Music Experience: What would you recommend to an up and coming artist?
Warwick: Work hard. You’ve got to have a good work ethic. You know, work hard. Listen, learn, look at other artists. Soak everything up like a sponge. Take it all in what you can learn from that and you know, practice. Practice playing your instrument. Practice singing. Practice writing songs and never give up. Never stop believing in yourself. You’re your biggest ally.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s really good advice. Was there anything else that you wanted fans to know about the album or the music? Anything else to look forward to?
Warwick: Well you know, just please check it out. The album comes out February 19th. There’s another two singles I think coming prior to the album. Come see me play live when we get the chance to get live music back into our lives, and I’m just really proud of this record. I’d be really honored if people took the time to check it out.