The band Foreigner celebrates 40 years in 2017—and numerous lineup changes, including the departure of lead singer Lou Gramm, who headlined the 2005 Destin Seafood Festival and spoke to Beachcomber from the road prior to the gig. A new compilation, Foreigner 40, is out now on Rhino Records.
You’re still everywhere and not just on classic rock radio. Nick at Nite is using “Feels Like the First Time” in its current ad campaign.
No kidding! I haven’t heard that yet, and I’ve got kids who watch Nick at Nite. That’s really cool.
You don’t hear a lot of juicy Behind the Music‑type tales about Lou Gramm. How did you manage to avoid some of the career detours—drugs, booze, burnout—that affected so many rockers of your generation?
No, that stuff definitely happened, believe you me. I can’t get specific, but at some point you and the world will know.
Of all the songs you’ve written and performed, which is your favorite?
There’s a number of them I like. I guess if I had to pick one right now I’d say “Midnight Blue.” I think it’s very eclectic, has an infectious beat, the hook has just the right sentiment to jump on and sing along with. It’s just one of those songs, and those come few and far between.
Rolling Stone called you “the Pavarotti of the power ballad,” adding that you were “one of the finest singers in metal pop.”
I think that’s—it sounds kinda left‑handed—I honestly believe that’s a compliment. It’s about as good as you’re going to get from them. Me, anyway (laughs).
Are you going back in the studio to record new material? It’s been a while since your last album.
Foreigner had an album out in the mid‑‘90s (Mr. Moonlight). It was a good album, but at the time, all of the record industry was in upheaval. The small independents were ruling. It happened for us in the rest of the world in a big way, but not in the U.S. The past year and a half I’ve been playing with my brothers, and we’re trying to confine our playing to just weekends.
Monday through Thursday we spend at least two of those four days in the studio working on our album. We’ve got about nine or 10 songs done. We want to do a few more. It’s a Christian rock album, with the emphasis on rock, something I have wanted to make. I’m a born‑again Christian since about 1991. I had a serious brain tumor removed in 1997, and that deepened my conviction in the Lord. And I evolved. I wanted to make the kind of album that would be understood and not sound dated or weird or anything. It’s gonna be a rock album with a message.
How does your faith affect your live performances? Some of the old Foreigner songs would seem to clash with your convictions.
I’m still doing a lot of things that give me a little twinge, because I really don’t believe that anymore. A little at a time, we’re weeding them out of the set. There always was a misconception of Foreigner—critics lump us in with Styx and REO Speedwagon. They haven’t really listened to us. Some critics still don’t see the difference. Getting back to what I’m doing now, I’m drawing a line in the sand. This will be something where people say we don’t sound like anyone. The message, feel, and instrumentation are like nobody else.
Would you ever consider doing an album of old songs? It seems like every artist is throwing his or her hat into the “Great American Songbook” ring these days.
That might be fun to do, but that would be my farewell album.
You’ve been going at it for about 25 years now. What would you consider the high points?
Twenty‑seven years with Foreigner, another six or seven with Black Sheep, and four on my own now. I definitely think the high point was Black Sheep getting its first record deal with Chrysalis and then Capitol Records. Seeing Foreigner blossom, that was really fun for a number of years. Then I would have to say my first solo album was a real effort of love. They all were, but that was one I needed to do desperately.
You mentioned your kids. Are they musically inclined as well?
My two older ones aren’t. They’ve had instruments and lost interest, but they love to listen. They are astute listeners. I have six‑year‑old twins—a boy and girl—they sing and are now starting to play piano and drums. They have wonderful voices and a real knack. They keep asking, “Daddy, when are we gonna sing?”