After 40 years, 16 studio album releases, and 15 million albums sold as the frontman for George Thorogood and The Destroyers, the legendary guitarist/vocalist released his first solo album Party Of One via Rounder Records on August 4th. We had the chance to chat briefly with George Thorogood about his experience recording Party Of One, as well as his interests outside of music, his friendship with fellow rock’n’roll legend Johnny Winter, and his words of wisdom that all aspiring musicians need to hear.
I’d like to talk a little bit about your new album. Party of One is your first solo album, is that correct? Thorogood: Correct. The one and only. There will be no more, that’s it.
This is the album to end all albums? Thorogood: This is it. Well, it’s the only one of it’s kind. I’m not saying it’s the last record I’ll ever make. It’s just this solo piece and then move on, you know what I mean?
How did the recording process differ for you -- going from recording as George Thorogood and The Destroyers to George Thorogood “Party of One”? Thorogood: Well, it was kind of like sitting down, looking at yourself in the mirror with no clothes on. No place to hide! I was alone and there could be no overdubs, no things like that. No other guitar player to take the solo, or things of that nature, so it was pretty scary. You had to get it right. So those acoustic records that people like Lead Belly and Robert Johnson made, man, I got all the respect in the world for them. Because you had to play it right all the way through it and, you know, they couldn’t splice it together and do the things they do today. I was a little bit out of my element. I’m used to playing with a guitar, and a bass, and a drummer laying out those heavy sounds, you know what I mean? So this was a little different for me.
That aspect of vulnerability? Thorogood: That’s the word.
Do you have a personal favourite song on the new album? Thorogood: All of ‘em. Actually, it could have been called “Personal Favourites”. If it had a different title, that would be a good one.
Can we expect a solo tour to accompany this new album? Thorogood: A tour? Yeah, but I won't be playing by myself. I’ll have the whole band with me.
What’s your favourite part about touring? Thorogood: In general, it’s being on the stage. It’s an end to a means, or a means to an ends, or whatever you say. There’s a lot of travel involved, and different hotels… I mean, it’s pretty much of a grind, but you do it for that moment on the bandstand. That’s why we all do it. That’s what you look forward to. You don’t say, “I’m really looking forward to another 11-hour ride today on a bus.” You don’t look at it that way. The high point is getting up there on the bandstand and doing the tunes.
Outside of music, do you have any interests, hobbies, or projects that you get up to in your spare time, if you have any? Thorogood: Spare time… Well, it’s going to come as a shock to you, but I don’t think I’m going to live long enough to have spare time. I don’t think anybody has spare time in their lives. Every bit of time is precious, so I don’t look at it as spare time. Every day of my life I try to spend doing something I really want to do with someone I really want to be with. You never know when you’re going to check out, so you don’t have spare time.
Do you then dedicate all of your time to music, or is there anything outside of that? Thorogood: Well, you know, I’m still waiting for Scorsese to call and De Niro, and Nicholson, and those guys. [laughing] You know? I’m ready. I know all the lines. And since Marlon Brando passed on I’m ready to step in.
So you’re a big movie fan then? Thorogood: Yeah, aren’t you?
Of course. If you could only recommend one movie that you think everyone should watch in their lifetime, what would it be? Thorogood: The greatest movie ever made -- King Kong. The original one.
Have a look at the Party of One EPK
Really? I don’t know why that surprises me so much. Thorogood: That surprises you? [laughing] You try to find a better movie. That was the first movie I ever saw and I’ve seen about 50,000 since, and I’ve still never seen one that’s as good as that one.
If you could offer some advice to all of the aspiring musical artists out there, what do you think it would be? Thorogood: Johnny Winter said to me once that the thing I would tell people is to always play for fun, first and last. If you play for fun and enjoy it, you’re gonna do it more. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at it, the more fun you’ll have. So it’s like a wonderful circle that just keeps going, and going, and going. So I would say first and foremost: play for fun.
And I don’t think anybody in the world had more fun playing the guitar than Johnny Winter. Did you ever listen to his music? Every time he plays he has the same lyrics to every song: “Alright!”, “Oh yeah!” [laughing] That’s how much he loves it! That’s John, you know? That’s what’s so sweet about the guy.
Did you spend a lot of time with Johnny Winter? Thorogood: Yeah, I met John a lot of times, did a lot of shows with him. It was great knowing him. Great doing shows with him. Every time I’d see Johnny Winter he’d have new licks on the guitar. I couldn’t believe it. [laughing] I’d say, “There’s no notes left on the guitar!” John would somehow find them. They’d have to create new guitars for the guy that had more notes on it. [laughing] It was amazing!
George, it was great speaking with you today. Really looking forward to Party of One being released publicly on August 4th and to catching you on your current tour. Thanks again! Thorogood: Rock’n’roll never sleeps, it just passes out.