Paul Rodgers may still fill a concert with fans reborn watching Free’s lead singer belt out hits from his Bad Company days, but the racy crowd he pitches for now is retired.
Dubbed “The Voice” by fans and named number 55 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Singers of All Time list—three ahead of Christina Aguilera and four ahead of Rod Stewart—he now uses his off-time to bolster a race horse sanctuary and is genuinely knowledgable on life after track in the equine realm.
“Very often they’re sent to slaughter,” he says frankly as our brief interview opens.
The animals are so high strung after a career in racing they need to be re-socialized to tone those impulses down, he explains; although apparently, even when hyped and ready for action, and truly unruly with almost everyone, they’re very good with autistic children.
One can’t really imagine the smooth voice on the other end of the line being the type of super high-strung star who might relate to this fate—top of the world one day, out to pasture the next—but he’s certainly got the dance with stardom credits. In the Woodstock era, Rodgers was a teenage Brit rocker who started a band called Free and wound up epitomizing the nonchalance of the peace-and-love era in a way that made his ascent to the ’70s hit-making machine Bad Company seem a given.
The bands that followed—The Firm and The Law—never made the radar on the same level, though they did offered him the chance to work with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Steve Winwood, Jeff Back, Joe Cocker. From the sounds of things, Rodger is enjoying dabbling in other aspects of life today.
His wife, Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers, is very involved in his charity efforts, helping relocate his U.K. sanctuary in the wake of the global financial crisis and the pressures it caused for the non-profit organization. His latest song, With Our Love, co-written with producer Perry Margouleff, will support the sanctuaries they each support; Margouleff backs one in New York.
Rodgers is set to hit the stage in Kelowna next week and one can expect the new tune will be in the lineup.
“I like to put on a really exciting show,” he said. “…The important thing for me is that people are a part of it.”
Rodgers doesn’t give a lot of concerts these days. He’s just won the Ivor Novello Award—joining alumni like Elton John, Bryan Adams and Iron Maiden—but limits his live performances. According to his wife, it’s part of their strategy to keep that golden voice on pitch as heads toward his own golden years. The string of hits he’s known for—including songs like Feel Like Making Love, Can’t Get Enough, Alright Now—could keep one singing for days, but if there’s one theme that draws them altogether, it’s their soul.
Rock anthems about love paved his way to stardom, so giving back to Critteraide, Crock Talk and the human society, as the couple plan to do with a silent auction in Kelowna, probably should be par for the course in his world.
All the same, his mind is really never too far from music. Rodgers is currently making plans for a Stax Records revival album with hopes of pulling all of the original artists who are “still kicking’ it” together. People like Otis Redding and Johnny Daye—the label had a string of big singers— inspired his own vocal development. As he built his name on his ability to belt out a tune over the electric guitars, Rodgers says he loves it when something just grabs him, like the bluegrass recorded for the movie Oh Brother Where Art Though.
“I like music that comes from the heart,” he explains, breaking into song.
It explains his choice of new artists—Adele. He describes her as tapping into the same emotional pool as his generation’s electric guitar-laced rockers sourced.
As for how he still manages the never ending flow of songs he’s able to generate, Rodgers claims that the writing process will always remain a mystery.
“I listen to what people are saying, look around at the world and I just pick up a guitar and I interpret it,” he said.
Rodgers plays Kelowna Community Theatre on March 15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and he takes the stage at 8:30 p.m., after the Flu. Tickets available at www.selectyourtickets.com.