It's been 25 years since Firehouse won Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock New Artist at the 1992 American Music Awards, beating out Nirvana and Alice in Chains.
These days, the band—and its individual members—is still firing on all cylinders.
Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty has just released a powerful new single called “You’re a Natural." The song, which features contributions by Firehouse drummer Michael Foster and bassist Keith Horne, continues Leverty's trend of releasing melodic singles full of tasty fretwork.
I recently spoke to Leverty about the new single, his gear, Firehouse’s upcoming tour plans and more.
How did “You’re a Natural” come about?
Just like every song I’ve written lately, it started backwards with the chorus first. With this one, the punch line was actually the first thing I wrote—“You’re a natural, a natural disaster.” I didn’t want it to be real descriptive, so it could be about athletics or any kind of work you do. I took it from that line and started working with the guitar to come up with a riff and chord progression.
What was it like recording with Firehouse's Michael Foster and Keith Horne?
They’re phenomenal musicians. Michael took the song to an extremely high level of energy and creativity. As a guitar player, I’m usually thinking snare on beats two and four, but his feel and the way he shifts the beat to go along with the rhythm is remarkable. Keith is another amazing player. You give him the song and he just goes off and does his thing.
What are Firehouse’s touring plans this year?
We like to say we’re always on tour. It’s our creed. I think we already have 15 to 20 dates booked. Last year, we did 62 shows and played a lot of really cool places. We played with a lot of really cool bands and met a lot of new fans as well as ones we’ve known for years. We want to do it again this year. This will be another summer where we’ll be out every weekend and catching up on sleep during the week.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the band winning Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock New Artist at the American Music Awards. At that point, Nirvana and Alice in Chains were already starting to blow up. Did you believe you'd beat them out that night?
Not at all. My thought going in was, “What are we doing here?” [laughs]. At the time, you’d listen to the radio and all you heard was Nirvana, Alice in Chains and the other bands of the genre that were just exploding.
The reality was when the ballots went out, those bands hadn’t exploded yet. Then during the time the ballots came back and were counted and the time before the show aired each one of those bands changed the face of rock music. But the ballots had already been counted. I still look at the award on the shelf in my home and can’t believe it happened.
Following the win, the band released Hold Your Fire. Were you able to start enjoying the success?
We really didn’t have enough time to enjoy it as much as we could have because we were so busy. We’d be up early doing interviews all day and then go to the venue for sound check, have dinner, do the show, more interviews and then get on the bus exhausted and wake up in a new town the next day and repeat the cycle.
There wasn’t a whole lot of down time. But I do remember us feeling that we had worked so hard to get to where we were. Things hadn’t gone right for so long and when they finally did, we were so appreciative of it.
What’s your current setup like?
I have a C.R. Alsip guitar with an FU-Tone tremolo and upgrades that I absolutely love. I’ve also got a Fractal Axe-FX II in the studio and a Fractal AX8 that I take out on the road. I’ve been using it for almost two years. Our sound man really loves it too. Every time we do a sound check, I go last because all he does is turn the faders up and gives me the thumbs up [laughs]. He doesn’t have to change anything. I just plug it in and it sounds like I’ve got the best amps and effects with no buzz, hum or loss of tone. I can’t say enough about it.
Of all of the highlights of your career, are there any that stand out as particularly memorable?
There are so many, but one that comes to mind was shortly before we got our record deal. Back when we were trying to get signed, we had a manager who worked for Bon Jovi. We had met the band a few times and Jon and Richie [Sambora] had taken an interest in us.
One night, we were playing in a club in North Carolina when they were playing in Raleigh on their New Jersey tour. We hadn’t even been signed yet, but they got into a van and drove 90 minutes to our gig and watched from the side of the stage. Then Jon and Tico [Torres] got up and jammed with us.
So I’m standing up there playing and here’s Jon Bon Jovi standing to my right and CJ [Snare] is standing right next to him trading back and forth. That one really sticks in my mind because there were a lot of other things they could have done instead of coming to one of our shows. It was a special time in my life.
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.