CLARKSTON — As he heads out this week for another couple months of night moves in arenas around the country, Bob Seger wants to tread lightly on all that speculation that he’s reaching the end of the touring road.
“I gotta say — I take it tour by tour,” explains a T-shirted Seger, knocking ashes from his cigarette into an ashtray in the kitchen of the rustic house he uses for songwriting and demoing. He and his Silver Bullet Band have just wrapped up rehearsals at good pal Kid Rock’s nearby warehouse facility for a second 2011 tour, which begins Wednesday (Nov. 2) with what he calls “a warm-up gig” in Ypsilanti and plays 22 more shows before wrapping up Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, and he wants to keep the future open-ended.
“I just never know how my body’s going to react,” continues Seger, who drew 350,000 to 27 shows, including three at the Palace of Auburn Hills, that he and his Silver Bullet Band played in the spring. “I’m 66, and we’ll see. We’ll see how I feel on New Year’s Eve, after this is over. I could retire Jan. 1 in a heartbeat ... so we’ll see.”
The good news for Seger fans, however, is that he’s also talking about being on the road, down the road. Mentioning that he hoped to play a joint concert with Kid Rock at The Gorge in George, Wash., Seger says that “you notice I’m still not playing the Pacific Northwest yet. I’m still holding out. I want to do The Gorge with Rock.” And as he talks about bringing out a new studio album in the fall of 2012, he comments that he’ll likely “do another tour” to support it.
So Seger isn’t necessarily turning the page that might take him off the road — and after his spring success he’s visibly enthused to be headed out again, this time hitting media centers such as New York and Los Angeles and playing Orlando Calling, a rare festival and stadium date in Florida that also features Rock.
No more Detroit area, or Michigan, shows are on the itinerary, however. “Last time, geez, we did two Grand Rapids, two Toledos, Saginaw, we did three Detroits — so, y’know, next year,” Seger explains.
The enjoyment of doing those earlier shows is what brought him back again, however. “It couldn’t have been much better,” Seger says. “And we just missed so many places ... and I said, ‘Well, we really should finish what we start.
“I’ll tell you why it’s fun,” he adds. “The band is so dedicated, and they really cover me well. The girls (on backing vocals) lift me up, and the (Motor City Horns) lift me up and Don (Brewer, drummer) is a rock, just a dead-solid rock that everyone can play with, and he’s so dependable.
“It’s just a good band. The accumulation is so good, all 14 people.”
There will be a new Silver Bullet member on this outing — Kenny Greenberg, a well-credentialed Nashville guitarist (Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson) who played on Seger’s 2006 album “Face the Promise” and has also been recording some of his new material, including a blazing blues-rocker called “Hey Gypsy.”
“For several years I’ve wanted to play with Kenny and ... see what it would be like,” says Seger, who’s slotting Greenberg in place of longtime lead guitarist Mark Chatfield. “He’s looking forward to this because it’s different for him. He really gets to bring it out.”
Seger is also working with a new sound system and engineer on this tour, and he’s tweaking the repertoire a bit — including another opening number in place of “Roll Me Away” and the addition of Little Richard’s “Hey Hey Hey Hey (Going Back to Birmingham),” the new single from his “Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets” collection, which comes out Nov. 21. He also promises “a couple other surprises ... but I don’t want to give too much away.”
One thing we won’t hear, however, is his 1986 single and GM truck ad theme “Like a Rock.” “We tried that real hard, and Kenny played it great — but I just can’t do that song,” Seger explains. “The last two choruses are so high. It’s a two octave song — it’s the widest range of just about anything I have, and I just can’t get there anymore.
“Don (Brewer) kinda looked at me and said, ‘We don’t have to do this song.’ He was having mercy on me. And I was like, ‘You’re right, Don. Let’s not do it.’ But we tried.”
As the “Ultimate Hits” set shows, however, Seger will hardly have trouble pleasing his crowds on the tour — not with a catalog that’s sold more than 51 million albums and launched 15 Top 20 Billboard hits. And he hopes to add to that tally in the coming year.
Once the tour ends, Seger plans to return to work in earnest on the new album. He has six songs “that I really, really like,” including “Hey Gypsy” and the “possible title cut” called “Ride Out.” “I’d like to have six more that I feel that way about,” says Seger, who’s eyeballing “three months of solid writing” in the Clarkston house between January and March.
“There’s nothing to do here in Michigan, anyway. I’m not a snowmobiler, though I’m going to try that this year, and I’m certainly not a skier. So I’ll just come out and write.
“I should come up with something pretty good in that time. And come April, I’ll record what I’ve got and we’ll put it out in the fall and then do another tour.”
And in the meantime, he’s more than happy to celebrate a grand past with his upcoming tour. “Doing the greatest hits things takes the pressure off this tour,” he notes. “It’s a pretty proven show, and everybody’s really good at it, so I think it’s going to be a real good 23 dates.”
If you go
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and Frankie Ballard perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti. Some tickets remain at $43 and $73. Call 734-487-5386 or visit www.emich.edu/convocation.
Bob Seger nominated to 2012 Songwriter’s Hall of Fame class
Bob Seger is planning to spend much of 2012 focusing on a new album — his first of all fresh material since 2006’s “Face the Promise.” But he wouldn’t mind taking a break in June for a trip to New York to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
Seger, who entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, is one of 12 performing songwriters nominated for the Songwriter’s Hall class of 2012. Six inductees will be announced in the spring, with the ceremony taking place on June 14.
“We’ll see. I’ve got some stiff competition,” notes Seger
who’s nominated alongside Tom Waits, the Who’s Pete Townshend, Steve Miller, Lou Reed, Gordon Lightfoot and others. And whatever the outcome, Seger says he’s honored to be mentioned in such august company.
“It’s very nice to be nominated, and I’m very grateful for that,” he acknowledges.
“I really work hard on (songwriting) ... I leave a little blood on the page and work really hard on my lyrics, chord changes and everything, structures. So it’s pretty heartening to get that nod, just to be nominated.”
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