FireHouse guitarist Bill Leverty talks about band’s beginnings, new solo CD “Drive” and his original influences
FireHouse guitarist Bill Leverty has been pretty prolific as a solo artist in addition to his years of writing and recording with his band dating back to their breakout hit “Don’t Treat Me Bad”. Bill’s latest album, “DRIVE” came out recently and he was nice enough to catch us up on that and answer a few questions about FireHouse as well, read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for talking with us Bill….we have your new album and it sounds like there has been a lot of time invested in it. Is it diffifult for you and the other members of Firehouse to juggle your schedules and maintain your other projects?
Bill: First, thanks for talking with ME! My new album is a labor of love. I worked on it in my spare time while FireHouse was off the road. When I’m at home, I try to stay busy making music. It keeps me off the street!
LRI: Drive is an album that might not surprise Bill Leverty fans but maybe some hard rock or Firehouse fans. Did you set out to cover a lot of those pre-Van Halen, classic 70s bellbottom artists or did it just fall together that way?
Bill: I really wanted to cover the era of music that influenced me before I started playing guitar. Many of these songs are still my favorite songs and I tried to keep their original vibe and throw in mine at the same time. It was definitely an educational process for me.
LRI: One thing that is interesting to me is how you channel the rebellious nature of some of these songs like “Fortunate Son” and leave your own mark on it with supercharged solos and energy. How did you balance respecting the originals with reinterpreting them?
Bill: I tried to let these songs tell ME where and when to leave them alone, and where and when to add some of my herbs and spices. When in doubt, I would err on the side of respect for the original recording. I mean, these recordings are some of the greatest of my generation. The producers were some of the very best ever. I tried to learn from them.
LRI: Do you feel like you know this material with as much familiarity as say “All She Wrote” or “Reach For The Sky”? Is it THAT comfortable to you?
Bill: No way. I co-wrote “All She Wrote” and “Reach For The Sky”, and I’ve been playing them for over 20 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love those songs, but as an artist, I really enjoy the process of trying something different and new. These cover tunes off of DRIVE aren’t exactly new, but hey are new to me in terms of recording them. Getting into the studio and digging into them was a great deal of fun for me.
LRI: You have had a complete hands on approach to creating and releasing your solo albums this past decade. Do you think producing earlier Firehouse albums like “Good Acoustics” helped prepare you in any way?
Bill: Yes, but the people who really helped me out over the years are the musicians, producers and engineers that I’ve worked with over the years. First, the guys in FireHouse are all amazing musicians and singers, so it’s pretty hard to make them sound bad. Then, David Prater and Doug Oberkicher, who produced and engineered our first two albums, did an amazing job and helped me a lot along the way. Ron Nevison, who recorded our third album, really took me under his wing and taught me SO much about the process. We got Chris Lord-Alge to mix that album and I was there every day learning from him. With Good Acoustics, we got Eric Schilling to mix and he let me sit in the room throughout the entire mix of that album. I have to say that I’ve been very blessed to be in the room with some world-class people.
LRI: Firehouse achieved the success of many of your peers from the east coast or west coast despite not having those origins. Do you think that unique experience served the band well before, during and after the whole major label whirlwind?
Bill: Yes, it definitely served us well. We lived in North Carolina when we got signed, and there was a very vibrant music scene there. We were able to live in a nice place where we could record and that we could AFFORD. We were also surrounded by so many good people. I think that the Virginia/Carolina influences have helped us tremendously.
LRI: Speaking of classic rock…..I have been waiting for a long time to interview you and ask you about your involvement in one of my favorite classic rock radio tracks. “Don’t Treat Me Bad” has the same glorious burst on its main riff as “More Than A Feeling” or “Keep On Loving You”. What do you remember about the creation of that guitar track in particular?
Bill: Thank you! David Prater had me record six separate rhythm tracks on that album to achieve that wall of guitar sound. He had a modified Fender Bassman that I played through for the first two passes I recorded. Then, we recorded a stereo pair of my mid 70’s modified Marshall. Last, I recorded a couple of passes of my Soldano SLO 100. What you hear in the end is six guitar tracks, all recorded separately, played as tightly as I possibly could so it would sound like one HUGE guitar.
LRI: You were an impressionable kid when you heard these songs you’ve now covered on DRIVE. Does it give you any sense of deja vu when you hear that some of your catalog has affected young musicians or everyday people in the same way??
Bill: Honestly, I haven’t given it that much thought. I am certainly honored that some music that I’ve been a part of has influenced some singers and players, but I still think of myself as a student. I always will be a student because I listen to guys like Steve Morse and Allen Holdsworth. I need to go practice!
LRI: We see that you do guitar lessons sometimes via Skype and have donated a lesson for our friend Mitch Lafon’s new KISS tribute album, “A World With Heroes”. Randy Rhoads had said he learned as much from teaching as his students did. Do you find that to be true as well??
Bill: Absolutely. I really like teaching, but I’m not a great teacher. These days, you can go to Youtube and get some amazing instruction. The more I teach, the better I get. Maybe I’ll be good at it one day. In the meantime, I have a great time doing skype lessons with the people out there who know my music and want to learn my approach. I’m looking forward to this lesson for Mitch’s project because all of the money goes to help fund a hospice in Montreal.
LRI: Thanks again for talking to us. Hope I see you on the road and hope to see a sequel to DRIVE picking up on the bands that influenced you after you started playing guitar but before you joined Firehouse! What else is on your horizon for 2013 and where can we keep up with you??
Bill: Well thank you, and thanks to your readers! I look forward to a lot of FireHouse gigs this year and I can be contacted through my website, www.leverty.com. Thanks again for your support…
Bill Leverty On The Web!