The second time has been the charm for Winery Dogs -- at least as far as singer-guitarist Richie Kotzen is concerned.
The all-star group -- Kotzen, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer MIke Portnoy -- released a self-titled debut album in 2013 that received plenty of notice. But Kotzen feels that, creatively, last year's "Hot Streak" is a significant step forward.
"It's more of the band's album," Kotzen, 46, a onetime member of the bands Poison and Mr. Big, says by phone from his home in Los Angeles. "The first record, 'cause everything was so new and we weren't sure what was going to happen, was mostly songs I'd previously written and worked into Winery Dog songs.
"On ('Hot Streak') we got into a room and threw ideas around and came up with things together, just being in a studio and jamming and throwing ideas around. I think the band is comfortable enough now that we can collaborate for real, and I think that made this record stronger than the first one."
Not surprisingly, that has Kotzen looking forward to making a third album with Winery Dogs, noting that, "Now the band is comfortable enough that we can really collaborate for real." The issue, of course, is the three members' schedules. Kotzen maintains a solo career apart from the band, while Portnoy has several other concerns -- including playing in Twisted Sister and Metal Allegiance -- and Sheehan is also busy, on the road and in the studio.
The juggle is challenging, but Kotzen is adamant that the three musicians take Winery Dogs seriously.
"The question is always asked, 'Is this a real band?' or 'What is your priority?'" the guitarist says. "To me, it's a bizarre question. I'm doing the same thing I've always done, except I'm doing it with Mike and Billy. My feeling is as long as we enjoying playing with each other and have people who want to see us, we're gonna play."
7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 3.
Stars & Stripes Festival at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway at Schoennherr Road, Sterling Heights.
Admission is free. VIP seats are available for a fee.
Call 586-268-5100 or visit starsandstripesfest.com.
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