Interview: Producer/Guitarist Gary Hoey Discusses Lita Ford’s New Album, 'Living Like a Runaway'
Lita Ford's new album, Living Like a Runaway, was released today, June 19, via SPV/Steamhammer.
The album, which is produced by guitarist Gary Hoey, could very well be one of the best rock albums of the year. With contributions by Hoey, lyricist Michael Dan Ehmig, Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) and Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), Ford brought out the “big guns” for this project.
In addition to the killer grooves in songs like “Branded," “Hate” and “The Devil in My Head," the album takes you on the musical journey of Ford’s life. The title track recalls her days carrying her own guitar; "Mother" is a personal song for her children.
Bonus tracks include “Bad Neighborhood” and a killer rendition of Elton John's “The Bitch Is Back” featuring The Uptown Horns.
I recently chatted with Hoey and got his take on the music and the process used in making Living Like a Runaway.
GUITAR WORLD: First off, congratulations on the new record. From start to finish, every song is killer; the whole album is a visual experience. This is her comeback album, as far as I’m concerned.
It really is. It’s like a little journey. To me, this is her comeback album. This is the one she was in control of. It’s the one that was supposed to be.
How did this project come together?
Lita and I had met a few times over the years in different situations. We had known each other but had never really worked together. The last time I saw her, she was telling me about what she was going through. She said she was in the middle of a divorce and she was working on some new material and wanted to do another album. I just said, “Well, then it’s a great time to make a record!”
We got together and felt things out. She had already met with a bunch of writers and producers, but when we got together, it really clicked. We had so many of the same music influences and we would finish each other’s sentences. It was just meant to be.
Did you participate in the songwriting for this album as well?
I did. Lita and I co-wrote some of the songs. We also wrote with Michael Dan Ehmig, her longtime lyricist. Doug Aldrich from Whitesnake gave us a killer riff that we ended up working on too ("Bad Neighborhood").
What’s it like to sit in a room, jam and write a song with Lita Ford?
It was awesome! Lita is such a laid-back person and super-cool to work with. She’s up for trying anything. We would just build a song from anything, from just a song title or even just a riff. I remember the first thing she came to me with was just a title, “Love 2 Hate U." It was whoever was holding the guitar. If she played a riff that was cool, we’d work off that. If she wanted to take a break then I would play. We would just trade off until we found what was right.
The nice thing about making this record in the studio at my house was not having the pressures of the record company and deadlines. We took our time and finished it when it was done. That’s why the record sounds so good. I really mean that.
The harmony guitar throughout the record is sweet.
There’s a lot of that on this record. Lita wanted that sound. She said, “Gary, I want the classic Iron Maiden, Metallica, two-part guitar harmony sound.” That was something she really wanted from the very beginning, and, of course, that’s what my specialty is. It’s all over my own records.
Was this a real personal record for Lita as well?
Definitely, and she would tell you so. She poured out everything she was going through on this record. But it’s also an album of strength as well. She wanted to make an album to help people get through some hard times.
It was definitely an emotional ride working on this album, but we always kept our noses to the grindstone and didn’t get caught up in the emotion. We just focused on the work. But there was some blood, sweat and tears for sure.
You’re no stranger to the metal scene, having auditioned to be Ozzy’s guitarist at one point. Tell me a little about that experience.
I remember Ozzy was on the road doing radio interviews, and I heard him say he was looking for a new guitar player. So I went to the radio station, dropped off a demo and a week later I got a call from a manager who told me Ozzy wanted to fly me to Los Angeles for an audition!
It was unbelievable. It literally changed my whole life. Even though I didn’t get the gig (Zakk Wylde did), I’ve got to say it was one of the most significant changes in my life. As a musician, studying all of this jazz and theory to suddenly get a call to go audition for Ozzy Osbourne was surreal. It really made me start focusing on my guitar playing and what I wanted to do.
The coolest thing, though, is thinking about it now and how 20 years later, here I am producing an album with Lita Ford who worked with Ozzy. That’s like going full circle for me. Working with Lita was a complete honor and thrill!
What project are working on now?
Deja Blues is the new record I’m working on. It’s going to be my first full-length blues CD. Matt Scurfield, who also plays drums on Lita’s record, is on it, and my bass player Eric, who's been with me the last few albums, is going to be on there as well.
Lita Ford's new album, Living Like a Runaway, is available now via SPV/Steamhammer. Order it now on iTunes.
Photo: Courtesy of Gary Hoey
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.