With 22 solo albums to his credit, Richie Kotzen shows no signs of slowing down. The guitar wizard, who has also done stints in Poison, Mr. Big and The Winery Dogs, is hitting the road behind his melodic and powerful new CD, “Salting Earth.”
Mr. Kotzen is touring behind his new album, which brings him to Rams Head Live Onstage in Annapolis, Maryland Saturday. He discussed idle time, leaving a legacy and “salting the earth.”
Question: After 22 albums, what keeps you motivated to make new music?
Answer: I’ve just kinda always written songs [and] documented my ideas. After a certain amount of time, I get a pile of music and start thinking, “Maybe I should share it with people.” It’s kind of a process that is stretched out over time.
It’s not like I plan a record. I just write as time passes, and eventually I have enough material. Then I sit down and listen to things and put together a group of songs I think fit and represent how I’m feeling in this period.
Q: How long did it take to make “Salting Earth”?
A: I had this record pretty much finished last summer. Everything was recorded. But then I said, “I’m gonna take a break from music.” I bought a new home, and I spent a good four months with a hammer and nails doing some remodeling.
I came back to the record and listened to what I did and thought, “This stood the small four-month test of time.” The balance between living life and making music is what keeps it all interesting.
Q: Are you a big studio or home studio guy?
A: I’ve done both. I have a studio in my house. On this record everything I did was done there. The studio is set up as such that everything is miced at all time. The drums, bass ring and guitar rig are set up and miced. Whatever keyboards I have are set up. The vocal signal chain is in there. So I can go in and record whatever I want at any time.
With that setup I can go back at any time and change things. It gives me a lot of flexibility. The fact that I have no deadlines means I can release things when I think they’re ready. From my judgment, if I put something out, I know that when it comes out, that thing that I release is what I heard in my head. If it sounds like something I envisioned in my mind, then I know it’s finished.
Q: Some artists feel like the record is never finished, and even when it’s out they wish they could fix it.
A: You always have that. But the key to moving forward is being able to let go.
Q: With so many albums under your belt, how do you decide what to play live?
A: Well, that’s tricky. The band that I have has been playing together for so long. So we’ve got a lot of songs that we know. In the old days I used to just call out tunes. We would kind of know what the first two songs would be. From there I would just call tunes out and run the set. It was really fun and inspiring to do that.
This time we’ve come up with more of a concrete set list. We’re adding things to the show we didn’t do before.
Q: What can people expect when they come see you live in Annapolis?
A: In the past we would get up there as a power trio, and I would stay on guitar. Now we’ve got moments where I hop over to the piano a couple times. We’ve got a part of the set where I do an acoustic thing. We’ve got a little more depth in the show [and] doing a lot of stuff from the new record. I think we’ve got seven songs from the new record in the set.
The fans’ reaction has been great. People seem to know the new songs, which is a good sign.
Q: Will you ever reunite with The Winery Dogs?
A: Oh yeah, of course. We’re all friends. I’m sure at some point we’ll get back together. I’ll always make solo records. It’s who I am. But at the same time, I have such a great time working with Billy [Sheehan] and Mike [Portnoy], I wouldn’t want to give that up either.
When it makes sense, we’ll reconvene.
Q: Why is the new album called “Salting Earth”?
A: The title came out of a lyric from the opening track, “End of Earth.” There is a line in the song where I sing, “I’m salting a bit of Earth.” What that kind of means is about what you’re leaving behind. It’s not meant to be grandiose or self-indulgent because everybody salts the earth in a way. I was thinking of all the music I have made and experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met.
Q: Do you worry about your musical legacy?
A: God no! That would be the last thing I would think about. I’m very much a person that’s here and now. That’s all that we have when you really think about it. What is really important is being present, being in the moment.
I certainly don’t look back. But I don’t look to the future either. I cherish being in the moment.
Q: How do you spend your downtime on the road?
A: I’ve been touring for so long. In the beginning you want to explore a city. After a while it gets to a point where it’s nice to just chill. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing.
Richie Kotzen plays Rams Head Onstage in Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 by going to Ticketfly.com.