Hello, My Name Is Kevin
This month’s conversationalist is erstwhile IE cover vet Kevin Cronin, who has REO Speedwagon back on the road.
IE: Last we talked, your kids were bursting through the gates of your home studio. I was wondering if you’re besieged currently.
Kevin Cronin: Actually they are at school as we speak and there’s an unsettling calm here. No housekeeper, no children, just my wife and I in the house by ourselves. It’s not normally this calm. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop somewhere.
IE: The new album’s name changed at the last minute, didn’t it?
KC: What occurred to me after a fruitless art meeting was perhaps the album title was wrong. It was one of those things where a woman is pregnant and you start referring to the abdomen as whatever the [chosen] name is, you know, “Bob.” And then the child is born and you realize “That’s not really a Bob, it looks more like a George.”
IE: Then there’s this crazy Wal-Mart box set.
KC: That was another thing: We had planned on a two-CD set right when we were first talking to the Wal-Mart folks. And then at the last minute they decided they wanted it to be a three-disc set. When I got the call I was like, “It’s impossible to record an unplugged concert and produce a DVD in the amount of time you’ve given. I talked to [producer] Joe Vanelli, and we really can’t do it.” Then we got the call back and it was, “You have to do it.”
IE: You kind of come out swinging on the new album. “Smiling In The End” is one of your most aggressive songs.
KC: Yeah, I would agree to that. The band was kind of known for that kind of music in the early ’70s. “Like You Do” comes to mind, but “Smiling In The End” is more aggressive than that. I kind of had a feeling that was gonna be balls to the wall. Interestingly, on the unplugged thing we play it on acoustic guitars and it’s like The New Christy Minstrels.
IE: When you put 10 years between albums, is it easy to approach old fans with new sounds?
KC: If the songs aren’t strong enough, that’s when you run into problems. You’re trying to take a song that isn’t worthy and you’re trying to build it up with arrangement. You’re in trouble when you start trying to do that. It wasn’t by choice or design that there was a 10-year gap between records. When we hit some fertile ground, songwriting-wise, the band reacted to it. There wasn’t any conscious effort to sound a certain way — we sound how we sound. In 10 years you just hope that you improve a little bit.
REO Speedwagon’s Find Your Own Way Home is available now. REO also appears May 9th at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
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