Ron Wood Discusses Getting Sober and His New Solo Album
Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2010
Newly clean and sober, Rolling Stone Ron Wood teams up with Slash, Billy Gibbons and an all-star cast of old and new friends for I Feel Like Playing, his hot new solo album.
For 35 years now, Ronnie Wood’s schedule—and much of his existence, really—has been set, changed and rearranged by two people far more famous and powerful than he. So it came as little surprise on a recent autumn morning in New York City when Wood’s publicist called to inform Guitar World that his interview to discuss his new album, I Feel Like Playing, would have to be postponed after two gentlemen had requested his presence at lunch during our appointed hour.
What was surprising, however, was the identity of the dynamic duo—not his bandmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards but rather President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. The two world shakers were in town for the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings, and somehow they ended up hanging out with one of the bad boys of rock and roll.
“We had a lovely time,” Wood says a few days afterward, when our interview takes place. His voice is gruff—chalk it up to lack of sleep and 40 years of cigarettes—but he’s chipper and still pinching himself over the experience of rubbing shoulders with past and present leaders of the free world. “You know, Bill Clinton is a big fan of mine, it turns out,” Wood says. “He told me, ‘Ronnie, I’ve got your paintings in my office and my home.’ And I told him, ‘Well, now you’ve got a copy of my new record. Even better!’”
As one might expect, I Feel Like Playing is a loose, ragged but altogether engaging affair, filled with swaggering rockers (“Thing About You,” “I Don’t Think So”), reflective ballads (“I Gotta See,” “Why You Wanna Go and Do a Thing Like That For”), and the kind of slippery, greasy, tubey-sounding guitar playing that has been his calling card since his halcyon days in the Small Faces (and subsequently the Faces) back in the Sixties.
And it should come as no great shocker that the album is also an all-star assemblage of Wood’s pals. Among them are veteran players such as drummer Jim Keltner and L.A. session guitarist Waddy Wachtel. ZZ Topster Billy Gibbons appears on a couple of cuts, as does Wood’s Faces bandmate keyboardist Ian McLagan. Other friends on the album include Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, and Kris Kristofferson.
But it’s Slash and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea who make their presence indelibly felt on the bulk of the album. “I had such a great time with those two guys,” Wood says. “Mind you, I loved playing with everybody—get me in a room with a friend, hand us some instruments, and something good is bound to come out of it. But it was a real treat to get down and work with Slash and Flea. They put a lot into this record, and I’m thankful to count them as mates.”
Wood’s private life has been anything but during the past year. In December 2009, he was arrested on assault charges against his former girlfriend Ekaterina Ivanova. He has also been back in rehab to kick booze once and for all. From all appearances, he seems to be sticking to the program.
But his public life has been rollicking as well. Last summer, Wood turned in a dazzling performance alongside Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang in Eric Clapton’s Crossroads fest. Over the past year, he’s also participated in a Faces reunion with McLagan and drummer Kenney Jones (with Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall taking Rod Stewart’s place at the mic). He says he would also love to do a proper tour behind his new album. “But that all depends on the Stones and what they’re planning,” he says. “As you know, whenever the Stones machine cranks up, it’s the biggest thing in the world for two years. Hey, not that I’m complaining one bit!”
GUITAR WORLD What is the status of the Rolling Stones? Will you be touring in 2011?
RON WOOD Well, that’s a little difficult to answer. We have a meeting coming up in December, so we’ll see where everybody’s at. I saw Mick the other day—we’re getting along great—and I’m supposed to have dinner with Keith in London next week.
GW Has there been talk that this tour will be the last Stones tour? And would you be recording an album?
WOOD As far as the “the last tour,” they’ve been saying that for 30 years now! [laughs] No idea when that’ll happen. As far as a record, it’s in the cards, I think, but we really haven’t spoken about that.