Posted on by Oran

Ahead of his return to Irish shores, marking the debut of the Richie Kotzen Power Trio, we caught up with the guitar legend to discuss his new single, the possibility of a new album, and much more….

Having been on tour for the most part of this year with The Winery Dogs, guitar virtuoso, Richie Kotzen will be making his way to Ireland for the first time with his solo band for two exclusive shows in Belfast and Dublin.

We caught up with the guitarist to discuss his approach to writing, his new single, ‘Cheap Shots‘, and so much more…

I guess the best place to start would be the announcement of this run of EU dates that’s happening in the Summer. You’ve been out with The Winery Dogs for most of your recent EU touring history, so does time run of dates feel different for you?

RICHIENo! (Laughing) In my course of existence, I’ve spend more time as a solo artist, of sorts, than touring as part of another band. It sort of feels like I’m coming home after a vacation. 

Can you give me some more information on the new single ‘Cheap Shots‘, why you choose that track for release now, and if there is any other material that we may hear before the tour….

RICHIEI recorded a lot of material in recent times, and the ultimate end-game is to put it all out at once, in the form of an album. I really wanted something to come out ahead of these dates, and this new single, ‘Cheap Shots’ seemed like the right song for this. I tend to change my mind form time to time, and there were other tracks that I was considering, but ‘Cheap Shots’ presented itself perfectly and it felt that it was the right song to lead into the forthcoming European dates. 

Looking at the way you create and make music in your career, it’s apparent that you’re very much in control of what you do and when you do it, as opposed to other artists that are signed to a label for a certain amount of albums and have to present said album on within a specific timeframe. With that being the case, do you have an abundance of material that is in the “Kotzen vault“, which you can choose to release as you see fit?

RICHIEThere’s not much. I kind of put it out there when I did ’50 for 50′. I realised that I had a lot of stuff that was in an incomplete phase, and I realised that I needed to finish, so I went through all the material and just worked on each song.

As of now, I have some stuff that’s in various stages of completion, but not a lot. Sometimes I really need to get away from it all and that leads me to find some external projects to work on so I can mentally step away from my own material. I find that it really helps, as well as the fact that I really enjoy working that way.

At the same time, it’s a balance thing. Yes, putting out a track before tour is a great idea, but it has to be the right song. You have to remember, this thought process is coming from being on a run of 95 shows with The Winery Dogs, and also gearing up for my trio to go out on the road again. I don’t have a “vault” as you mentioned (laughing), but what I do have is over 300 ideas on my phone.

What have you been doing with those ideas?

RICHIEWell, I started to go back through them and upload them onto my computer, and there were a few ideas that really stood out, which I began to work on. That’s pretty much how I’ve been building on the ideas for new material. 


Will there be a new album on the way, or is it too early to say right now?

RICHIEAt this point in time, I’m confident that I’ll have a new album ready by the time I go out on the American leg of the tour which is in September/October. That’s something for me to look forward and I’m very motivated by it all right now. 

In terms of your career history and the way you’ve been writing over the last few decades, is that process still the same, or do you approach it differently now that you have all those years of experience under your belt?

RICHIEYeah, it’s definitely changed. I remember being a child, trying to play instruments. I was really frustrated because I didn’t know how to write lyrics. I have a very vivid memory of asking my Mother; “How do I write songs?”. I was about eight or nine years old, and had no idea about any of this. She helped me jot down some words which were really silly…it was something about “closing doors” and “drinking Coors” (laughing). 

I went through a phase of being very motivated to get out of the town where I was living (Birdsboro, Pennsylvania), and the nearest city was a place called, “Reading”, which is where I was born, (as was Taylor Swift). Anyway, once I became a teenager I had to make the decision of what I was going to do, as I needed to get out and move to either, Philadelphia, or even California. At the time, I was coming out of high school and my Mother was hell-bent on sending me to some sort of college… and I just wasn’t interested. 

I then got a record deal out of San Francisco, so off I went and when I got there, I was introduced to lots of really talented people. In fact, that’s where I first met Eric Martin (Mr Big vocalist). I was about 18 years old, and I was travelling back and forth from San Fran back to Philadelphia making records for Shrapnel Records. I remember thinking; “I’ve got to move to San Francisco if I want to continue my career as a musician. This is where I need to be!” A short time later Interscope Records bought my contact and basically told me that I needed to be in LA, which is how I ended up in Southern California, and I’be been there ever since. 

I was very much pushing myself to be creative and to record as much as possible. I was sending Shrapnel Records about two or three tracks a week. Then, after a while, I was doing quite well, making a living from my music without needing any kind of a side-hustle. This is when I began to chill out a bit and I began to realise; “The stuff that really working for me is the stuff that comes really naturally for me, and the music that I have to force myself to do, is not by best work”.

Because of this, I began to abandon ideas that didn’t have that connection for me. I would write a track, be half way through it, and then my relationship with that idea would change, and I learnt to put it aside and work on something different… something that was tapped into my full creative capabilities. Years later, I may come back to that idea with a whole new outlook that the piece of music would almost finish itself. 

I really don’t believe in the concept of writers block. I think that if something is meant to be written, it will be written, and happen naturally. That’s why I think the best things that I have done are things that have happened on their own. They typically end up on a solo album because I don’t have that luxury to work like that when I’m collaborating with other people.

In the big scope of creativity, the truest moments, the melodies, the lyrics….all of the best material I’ve created, in my opinion, can be found on my solo projects. 

Over the course of your career, you’ve seen many sides to the industry from your time in Poison, to Mr Big, to collaborating with other artists, and also, touring and performing as a solo artist. When you look back now, is there anything in particular that was a defining moment for you, that shaped the way you work in this industry today?

RICHIEWell, being in Poison was a really big deal for me. I didn’t really understand it at the time, but looking back on it, I can really see how see how important that was for me on a lot of different levels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about commercial success, or joining a band that sold a lot of records. I’m talking about life experiences! I was only 22 years old when all of that happened. Before I joined Poison, I was brought in on the top of the food chain with Interscope Records.

I had a deal in place and was networking in circles with the likes of Jimmy Iovine (CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M), and Tom Whalley (Former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records and Executive of A&R at Interscope Records). I actually remember being about nineteen years old and I’m at Jimmy’s house on the front lawn, watching Bruce Springsteen play football! It was a really surreal time in my life. 

When you look back on that era of your life, do you think you’d liked to have changed anything?

RICHIEI was really stubborn at that point in my life. I refused to make the music that the wanted me to play and because of that, things went South. I was like; “No, I’m not making that kind of record”, and their attitude was; “Well, this is what we signed you for, so we expect you to make the style of record we’re looking for”, and perhaps I wasn’t ready at the time for one reason or another, but there was so many defining moments back then that were important for the future of my career in this business. 

Going from Shrapnel Records to Interscope, then joining Poison… all of these huge moments in my career were elevations that saw me move up the ladder with each project. Then I reached Geffen Records which was the top of the top! What happened after that? Boom! I hit the ground fast. It happened really quick. From everything that I just described. All that success, to then being in a situation where I couldn’t get a record deal, let alone get arrested.

How long did that period last for?

RICHIEFor years! It was a really rough time. From ’95 all the way into the early 2000’s, it was really rough. In ’97 I was twenty seven I was being told that I was; “too old”. I’ve been so many crazy situations, that’s just too insane to go through,

How did you survive during this time?

RICHIE Fortunately, back then there was still money in the record business. I was able to make my albums relatively close to what I wanted to do, and then licence them to different territories. For example, Japan was a big source of revenue for me, because they were still giving out big advances for people that had some sort of name value.

I would get that advance and then get a smaller advance from European labels, and that allowed me to survive all through the ’90s. Of course, things started to open up for me when the industry started to change. 

All of a sudden, you didn’t need a record label to get music out to my base. Then I started to claw back and get into a better position where I felt like I was making the music I wanted to make, perform to the people that wanted to see me live, and essentially, rebuild my career back to a place that allowed me to live and create comfortably.

It wasn’t all happy times, but I guess, I needed to do that journey in order to be where I am today. If it taught me anything, it was to embrace the power of “NO”. If I’m not into what your selling, then I’m just not gonna do it. Maybe you’re telling me it’s a great idea that will benefit me, but if I’m not feeling it, then I’m not doing it. It might be great for someone else, but not for me. 

Your return to Ireland (Wednesday, July 10th Belfast, July 11th, Dublin), doing your solo work has been a long time in the making. Can we expect a peppering of material from way back, or are you focusing on a particular period of your career for these live shows?


RICHIEI don’t really go through the archives when it comes to live shows. There are songs that I wrote shi. For example, someone will say to me; “I love this song you wrote”, and I’ll think to myself; “Do I have a song with that title?” (Laughing)

There are certain songs that I love playing live and then there are other songs that translate really well as a power trio. When I’m recording and writing , I never say to myself;”How am I gonna do that live”, because that just puts more obstacles in the way because writing it dependent on vibes and other things and you don’t need any obstacles in the way to block the creativity. If a particular track has a lot of overdubs, then so be it! When it comes to playing live, it all boils down to what resinates best with the power-trio..

There are just certain songs that just need to be played live and I’ll be doing my level best to bring all of them to this run of dates we’re doing. 

Tickets for Richie Kotzen are on sale now via SD Entertainment link here.

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2024