BY JANE SPIETZ
English rock band Supertramp co-founders Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies brought us such classics as “The Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” “Give A Little Bit,” “Goodbye Stranger,” “Dreamer,” “Breakfast in America,” “Bloody Well Right,” and “It’s Raining Again.” Roger and Rick wrote songs separately, but shared writer’s credit. Roger left Supertramp in 1983 to spend more time with his family. He continued his work from his home studio in northern California, releasing his well-received solo album “In the Eye of the Storm.”
After his children were grown, Roger returned to the music scene in 2001 to tour with Ringo Starr and His All Star Band. He continues to compose music and tour. Roger’s latest album, “Classics Live,” is a compilation of his 2010 live performances.
Milwaukee is one of only three stops in North America on Roger’s 2014 World Tour! He will be playing for four nights at the Northern Lights Theater. Joining Roger (12-string guitar, grand piano, keyboard, lead vocals) on stage will be Aaron Macdonald (sax, harmonica, melodica, harmonies), David J. Carpenter (bass, harmonies), Kevin Adamson (keyboards, harmonies) and Bryan Head (drums). An orchestra composed of local Milwaukee musicians will accompany them.
Jane Spietz: It is great that you are back touring again. Will you be playing Supertramp songs?
Roger Hodgson: I don’t think of my songs as Supertramp songs – they’re my songs. In fact, I wrote and composed a lot of them years before I recorded them with Supertramp. I wrote them when I was alone, not together with Rick or jamming with the band. A lot of people don’t realize this because Rick and I shared the writers credit on all the songs we recorded together as Supertramp. But some of the biggest hits I recorded with Supertramp were songs I’d written in my late teens before I even met Rick and formed the band with him. Songs such as “Dreamer,” “It’s Raining Again,” “Breakfast in America,” “Two of Us,” “A Soapbox Opera” and even the beginning of “Fool’s Overture,” were all written during that time period.
These songs are my babies – pieces of my heart, and I still love playing them in my concerts today. That having been said, I still get so many people telling me that when they come to my concerts they hear and feel the sound and spirit of Supertramp.
JS: Can you share about the part you played in making Supertramp a success and international phenomenon? What role did you play in arranging the music of Supertramp and producing Supertramp albums?
RH: Supertramp was my dream and passion for 14 years. When people hear my songs they think of Supertramp because my songs were most of the hits that people love, and they are still played on the radio around the world today. In many respects, I was the musical driving force of the band from the time Rick and I started it until we parted ways in 1983. I was responsible for much of the producing of the albums and tours.
It was very important to me back then not to create just a hit single, which most bands were focused on. I wanted to create a whole listening experience where people were taken through a range of emotions –where at the end of the album they really felt like they had been taken on a journey and had a full course meal, if you like. I’d spend days and sometimes weeks choosing the right songs and the right order of songs so one song flowed into the next and the next. I did this for the concerts as well as the albums, and I still do this today.
JS: Tell us why you left the band.
RH: When I left Supertramp in 1983, it was to follow my heart, which was telling me it was time to make home, family, and spiritual life my priority. I wanted to be with my children as they grew up. I had become disenchanted with the music business. Supertramp had been my baby, my life for 14 years but I felt a completion. At that point I chose to have my primary focus be my family and not my career. I also pretty much left the music industry and took my family to a healthier place to raise my kids – up in the mountains of Northern California.
I moved out of Los Angeles and built a home studio so I could continue to create music and, although I made a few albums, I never toured behind them. My kids are now grown and I’m older and wiser and very happy to be touring again these last years. Contrary to what people believe, Supertramp did not break up because I wanted to start a solo career or because of difficulties between me and Rick.
JS: Why are you being advertised as the voice of Supertramp?
RH: Promoters use it because everyone has been hearing me sing to them on the radio and in malls and stores and commercials and everywhere, but they just think of that voice as Supertramp – so it’s to help the public recognize that the voice they hear that they call Supertramp is Roger Hodgson. I’ve only recently started to promote my name. I spent 14 years promoting Supertramp and then took a break from the music business for almost 17 years, just doing a few music projects during that time. So, that is a way promoters are trying to help the public know the name – Roger Hodgson – because they know my voice and my songs.
JS: I heard that you had an accident and broke both of your wrists.
RH: The week my second solo album, “Hai Hai,” was released, I had a fall and shattered both of my wrists. I could not tour and support my new album, so it wasn’t that successful. The doctors told me I would never play again. You can imagine how that would be, being a musician all my life. At first I was devastated and then I decided not to accept their prognosis. I started working on myself through spiritual practices and prayer as well as physical therapy, strong will and determination. Now I’m back playing as good as ever. I hope I can be an inspiration for anyone that has been told that they are not going to be able to do something again. When you put your mind to it, anything is possible.
JS: I notice that you have a lot of young fans in your audiences.
RH: Yes, I am finding everywhere I go that my songs are popular with multiple generations. “Breakfast in America,” “Give a Little Bit” and “The Logical Song” have recently returned to #1 in the charts again. Gym Class Heroes had a worldwide hit with my song, “Breakfast in America,” which took them from an unknown garage band to hitting the top of the charts. Before that, it was the Goo Goo Dolls with “Give a Little Bit” and Scooter with his techno version of “The Logical Song.” It’s amazing to me how my songs have stood the test of time. I love singing and playing “Dreamer” in my concerts, and kids really love it too. “Dreamer” is a wonderful song of celebration that brings out the dreamer in everyone.
JS: What motivates you as an artist?
RH: One of the things that I like most about making music is how it has brought people together from all over the globe and how many lasting friendships have been made through a common love of my songs. It is a very special and personal connection I have with many of my fans and that the fans have with one another. I feel it’s because my songs came from my deepest longing and joy and pain and touch those same places in the hearts of the people who listen. At my concerts, I’m now seeing three generations singing along with me and it’s wonderful to see more and more young people discovering my music.
JS: Which kind of music inspires you most?
RH: I love good music of every genre – classical, rock, pop. My favorite artist to listen to at the moment is a Norwegian group named Secret Garden.
JS: “Breakfast in America” is a great name for your tour and a great album. What are your fondest memories of recording that all time classic album? Did you have any idea it would be such a phenomenal global success?
RH: “Breakfast in America” is a great collection of songs. My songs, “Breakfast in America,” “The Logical Song,” and “Take the Long Way Home,” all became hits, as well as Rick’s song, “Goodbye Stranger.” While we were making it, I felt it could be a big album and spent hours and days trying to come up with the right combination of songs that would all fit together to take you on the best musical journey. I fought really hard to get it right even though the other guys and the record company were getting very impatient. I was in the studio seven days a week for so long that I ended up parking a motor home in the parking lot right outside of the studio and living in it, even though I had a home 40 minutes away. I was working 16 hours a day every day of the week trying to complete it.
I knew we had something good and I could not rest until every song was just right. Talk about being married to your work – I was definitely married to this album. I slept with it, ate with it, and lived with this album until it was completed. I composed the title track to the album, “Breakfast in America,” when I was in my teens just after leaving boarding school, before I met Rick and co-founded Supertramp. It was written on an old church pump organ, which my mother and I found in the back of someone’s garage in England. I bought it for 26 pounds.
I did not have a girlfriend. I was a late bloomer when it came to girls. I was dreaming of going to America, going to California. Funnily enough, Rick didn’t like the song and didn’t want it on the album and even wanted me to change the lyrics. I couldn’t, I liked it and the other guys all liked it, so we went with it the way I wrote it.
JS: I hear that you have a new album out.
RH: For years, fans have been asking me to put out a CD of my live concerts because everyone tells me I’m singing better now than I did when I first recorded these songs with Supertramp 30 plus years ago. So, we recorded a lot of shows and picked the most magical performances – from Norway, Brazil, Germany, Canada and put together “Classics Live.” The first 10 tracks are available digitally at www.RogerHodgson.com and on iTunes and you can find physical CDs at my website and at concerts. This CD will soon be followed by “Classics Live 2” containing more classic hits including, “Fool’s Overture,” “Child of Vision,” and “Even in the Quietest Moments.”
JS: Please tell us what we can expect from your concerts in Milwaukee.
RH: People tell me I am one of music’s best-kept secrets. I have many fans following me around the world because the show I am currently doing with my band is so special. Even many huge Supertramp fans are admitting that the band I have put together actually sounds better than the original, so the audience is in for a wonderful surprise.
This year, in addition to my popular duo and orchestral shows, I am performing with an excellent band of four very versatile musicians. They are high caliber musicians and passionate about the music. You will hear songs that I have written on my life journey. Of course, I’ll be performing all the songs people want to hear from my time with Supertramp. ν
Jane Spietz is a community activist and social worker who loves music.