Smith-Kotzen Adrian Smith & Richie Kotzen
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- 1Taking My Chances04:46
- 4Some People04:22
- 5Glory Road04:54
- 6Solar Fire04:29
- 7You Don't Know Me07:14
- 8I Wanna Stay05:13
- 9Til Tomorrow05:39
Info for Smith-Kotzen
Recorded on the Turks & Caicos Islands in February 2020, produced by Richie and Adrian and mixed by Kevin “Caveman” Shirley, this nine track opus is a consummate collaboration between these two highly respected musicians who co-wrote all the songs and also share lead vocals and trade off on guitar and bass duties throughout the record.
Exploding with powerful melodies & harmonies, the album embodies the spirited attitude of 70’s classic rock with a melting-pot of influences ranging from blues, hard rock, traditional R&B and more, blending the pair’s backgrounds and life experiences to result in a thoroughly contemporary sound.
The record features special guest performances by Adrian’s fellow Iron Maiden bandmate Nicko McBrain on drums for the track Solar Fire, and Richie’s longstanding friend and touring partner Tal Bergman on drums for You Don’t Know Me, I Wanna Stay and ‘Til Tomorrow, with Richie picking up the sticks on the other five songs.
Adrian Smith comments, “Richie and I started working together a couple of years ago. We’d been jamming as we’d been friends for a few years before that. We both share a love for classic rock and bluesy rock so we decided to get together and start writing some songs and it went from there. Pretty much everything on the album is handled between Richie and myself including the production. We had developed a really strong idea of how we wanted it to sound and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. There’s a lot of cool songs on there that we are really happy with.”
Richie Kotzen adds “We had a very fluid process in writing. Sometimes Adrian would send me a riff and I would immediately hear some kind of melody or a vocal idea. And sometimes it was the other way round so it was a kind of circular motion. We’d get together whenever we could and throw some ideas around and it just evolved, which was great because there was no pressure and nothing other than just a natural course and I think the record really speaks for that.”
Adrian Smith, guitar, vocals
Richie Kotzen, guitar, vocals, drums
Nicko McBrain, drums (Solar Flare)
Iron Maiden second guitarist to have joined the band. Adrian was born February 27, 1957, in Hackney, East London, England. Smith, as referred to in Dave Murray's bio, has been friends with Murray since they were kids. Adrian joined iron maiden in 1981, and played lead guitar alongside Dave Murray in iron maidens killers album, the last album to feature their former lead singer, Paul Di' Anno. Adrian has been credited for writing some of iron maidens material, such as "22 Acacia Avenue".
Adrian Smith can be seen playing his signature Jackson model guitar (as seen in picture), a Gibson Les Paul gold-top, and occasionally a Fender Stratocaster.
Iron Maiden are an institution. Over the course of nearly 40 years they have come to embody a spirit of fearless creative independence, ferocious dedication to their fans, and a cheerful indifference to their critics that’s won them a following that spans every culture, generation, and time zone. A story of gritty determination and courageous defiance of the naysayers, theirs has been an adventure like no other, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
Founded by bassist Steve Harris in the mid ‘70s, Iron Maiden were already firmly established as heavy metal’s brightest hopes when they stormed the world with their third album (and first with vocalist Bruce Dickinson), The Number of the Beast, in 1982. It would kick off a decade of classic releases and dogged touring that would come to epitomize the unrelenting, uncompromising, unswerving commitment they are now so well known for.
The Number of the Beast also marked guitarist Adrian Smith’s first song-writing contributions in the band. A childhood friend of Dave Murray, Smith joined Iron Maiden in 1980, and recorded the Killers album in 1981, but did not begin co-writing with the band until on “Gangland” and “The Prisoner.”
Smith left Iron Maiden in 1990, forming his own band Psycho Motel while also playing in Bruce Dickinson’s solo outfit, but then rejoined the metal giants in 1999.
has never been an artist known for playing by the rules. And for this ever-adventurous triple-threat songwriter/guitarist/vocalist, that meant putting on the brakes after a nonstop flurry of band-related activity in order to refuel the creative process for the ten heartfelt and hard-hitting songs that comprise his vibrant new solo album, Salting Earth, out April 14 via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc. In other words, Kotzen tossed convention on its ear by actually taking one step back in order to move two steps forward. “It’s something I really needed to do in order to reset myself,” Kotzen explains.
Kotzen’s “charge to recharge” was officially put into play following the mega-success of the 2015–16 tour behind his band The Winery Dogs’ sophomore effort, the oh-so-appropriately named Hot Streak. And the man’s reset manifesto wound up hitting all the right buttons too. The proof is on display deep within the grooves of Salting Earth, which veers from the balls-out, heads-up declaration of the opening track “End of Earth” to the burning-sky harmonic thrust of “Thunder” to the Prince-like funk-jazz swing of “This Is Life” to the acoustified take-me-as-I-am self-reflection of the album’s final song, “Grammy.”
Once Kotzen caught his creative breath, the ideas for Salting Earth just kept on a-coming. “I have a theory about writer’s block,” he offers. “Basically, I don’t believe in it. In my experience, when I don’t feel inspired or I don’t have any ideas, it equates to not having any output. In order to have output, you need input. So it really comes down to the balance between your artistic side and your life side. You need balance between the two, and that’s why it’s so important for me to take long breaks from music.”
Kotzen’s reaffirming commitment to that life/work balance soon begat vibrant, new music. “It’s in that time when I’m away from it where ideas begin to take shape,” he continues. “Then, when I find myself coming back to music, I end up in a situation with a wealth of ideas and creative energy. When I’m in that zone, the music literally writes itself. Lyrics, music, production, performance — it all happens simultaneously on its own.”
The majority of Salting Earth is the result of Kotzen’s one-man production machine, with the exception of Julia Lage adding background vocals to “Make It Easy,” a tasty, sing-along groove stew. “It’s really not deliberate when the record is finished and suddenly I’m the only performer on it,” Kotzen admits. “It actually comes out of my process of writing and documenting my ideas. It started back in the late-’80s when I had a makeshift studio in my parents’ barn. I grew up fairly isolated, and I soon realized in order to get this music out of my head and onto a format where I could listen to it, I’d have to figure out how to do it alone.”
Part of Kotzen’s Salting Earth reset process also meant having a commitment to challenge himself. “I’m not sure I can totally define how or why my creative process works the way it does, but I will say once again that I believe long breaks help me stay inspired musically,” he reiterates. “I do know that on this record, I wrote a lot more on the piano. The song ‘My Rock,’ for example, has absolutely no guitar in the recording — it’s just piano, bass, drums, and vocals. Not that that is an odd choice, but being that for most of my career I’ve been highlighted as a guitarist, I suppose for people who never bought one of my CDs in the past, this would be surprising. But it’s not so surprising to me.”
For the artist within, the music mined for Salting Earth ultimately came down to being about the relationship between song and vocal. “That’s really it,” Kotzen agrees. “Every other choice is made based on what I feel suits the composition and what will support the lead vocal. That is the foundation on how my music is built. I suppose it’s just how I hear things. If you think about it, when your mind hums a tune, you are humming the melody. When you sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ you don’t sing the drumbeat, do you?”
Kotzen’s previous solo release, 2015’s diverse, far-reaching Cannibals, was a well-received hit among his core fan base, and Salting Earth cuts like the aforementioned “End of Earth,” “Thunder,” and “Divine Power” all showcase the scorching guitar solos and soaring vocals that one would expect from a Kotzen solo album. That said, there’s also quite a vulnerable side on display here that’s perhaps best demonstrated in the stripped-down approach to the album’s closing salvo, “Grammy.”
“That song came to me in the oddest way at the most inconvenient time,” Kotzen reveals of the track that can be filed in the “first thought, best thought” category. One night when he was home alone, “I basically woke myself up with the chorus melody in my head, and in my haze, I knew that if I didn’t at least record the idea, it would be forever lost,” Kotzen explains. “I ended up programming a simple drum beat, and then recorded the acoustic guitar. The lyrics pretty much wrote themselves. By 6 in the morning, the song was finished. I was going to do more overdubs, but I kept playing it over and over, and I just felt like there was something so personal coming out of the speakers. By messing with it, I’d likely destroy the magic — so I left it as it is.” (Good call on that one, Richie!)
Bringing Salting Earth live to the people is Kotzen’s next holy mission. “My real outlet is touring — playing live as much as I can, wherever I can, whenever I can,” he says enthusiastically. “It’s one of the few things you can’t copy, steal, or download. It’s an engaging human experience that’s a give-and-take between both the performer and the audience, and there is nothing else like it on this earth.”
To that end, Kotzen will launch his Salting Earth Tour on April 21 at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, and then the man and his band will tour extensively throughout the United States and continue their journey into Mexico, South America, and Europe. Further tour details will be posted on Kotzen’s official website, www.richiekotzen.com, and additional information regarding upcoming shows and releases can be followed on Twitter (@Richie_Kotzen) and Instagram (richie_kotzen).
Kotzen is clearly eager to hit the road. “I know this is going to be a long album cycle of touring, and already we are talking about going to places I’ve never been before — like Australia, for example,” Kotzen notes. “With the new record being done and knowing dates are being booked around the world, I can feel my creative energy surging once again.”
Said energy surge has been seeded quite liberally all throughout Salting Earth, an album that shows Kotzen as the pillar for how to harness newfound creativity in the best light imaginable. Come and dig his Earth.
This album contains no booklet.