Kelly Hansen Interview;
December 19, 2020
Kelly Hansen, the current lead singer of Foreigner is promoting a fundraiser that the band is having for their road crew. Since the outbreak of COVID 19, the band has not been on the road, thus the entire road crew has not had a paycheck and many have faced financial hardships.
The band is selling tour merchandise and other Foreigner related items where 100% of the net profits will benefit the members of their crew at foreigneronline.com.
We had the chance to speak with Kelly about this cause, as well as how he has handled 2020, various aspects of his career and getting back out on the road in 2021.
Greg Drugan: Hey Kelly, thanks for taking some time with me today.
Kelly Hansen: Thank you for your support of this thing.
GD: I think it’s fantastic that you guys are looking out for your road crew. Tell me about this project that the band is taking on and who’s idea was it?
KH: Our crew is a part of our family and a lot of the crew has been working with us for a long time. During this time where we have not been on the road, we’ve all been talking to each other and discussing with each other and we as a band and management wanted to come up with something to help out our crew. The crew, they are the hardest workers. The get up and are there at the venue early in the morning, way before we show up and they are there way after we leave, very late at night packing up, putting everything in the semi and getting up and doing the same thing the next day. It’s really hard work. It’s not a thankless job, but they don’t get very much accolades for it. People have to know that they are responsible for everything you see and hear coming off that stage. They are really important to us and we really value them.
If you go to foreigneronline.com you can click on the link on to help our crew. We’ve designed these packages of items in different price ranges that will get you DVDs or T-shirts or bags and all kinds of great stuff where all of the proceeds go to our crew and you get something nice out of it as well. I’m asking people out there, if they have the ability and desire to help our crew. The fans show us great love, and that’s awesome but it would be amazing if they showed our crew a little love too.
GD: They are the unsung heroes of rock and roll. They are the guys that put the stages together, getting there early in the afternoon and being the last ones to leave.
KH: Not even the afternoon, dude! Sometimes it’s seven in the morning, it’s crazy!
GD: That’s great. So will other items be added to the store or once they’re gone, they’re gone?
KH: We’re constantly trying to find different ideas to offer on there. So they should check back foreigneronline.com and see if we add other items later.
GD: That’s awesome. I’ll definitely get the word out here in Cleveland. I believe you are in California, but it’s snowing here in Cleveland today!
KH: It’s a sunny day here in California! It’s seventy something degrees. (laughs)
GD: Well, it’s a brisk 32 and snow. (laughs) How have you personally handled this pandemic and what have you done to keep busy this past year?
KH: I’m incredibly fortunate. When you live in California, there’s a lot more sunny days. For a long time we were able to have outdoor dining at restaurants but that has stopped. That’s very difficult for the tens of thousands of restaurant employees that have to deal with that. I like to ride my Harley. I got married. We are working on some material because we all have our own studios where we can work on things remotely and send files to each other. We are working on a couple of things. Of course I like to cook. I was a winner on Chopped on the Food Network. So I cook all my meals at home and that’s a lot of meals, that’s a lot of dishes! I love doing that. There are plenty of projects. The honey-do list is long and never ending. I’m keeping busy.
GD: Is this the longest time that you have been away from the road, it seems like you guys are always on tour?
KH: Yeah, the first time in my fifteen years with Foreigner. But before that, I had not been on the road for fifteen years. It’s the biggest break that I have. When this started, I remember I came home on March 12th, that was the day we came home from the road. I took a huge chunk of time off. I didn’t worry about singing or anything like that. But since Thanksgiving, I’ve been training and working out, vocalizing every day and getting ready for whatever comes up in the near future. We are totally booked for 2021 but we have to realize it’s a totally fluid situation. You have to be prepared.
GD: It’s nice to see Foreigner take the lead in doing something for their crew. Hopefully other bands will get on board too.
KH: Yeah, I want to say thank you to everybody for all of the support over the years. It’s really meaningful to me and its meaningful to the crew too. We just wanted to try to do something for them. They are so skilled and we’ve had so many of them for so long, I’d hate to see them go somewhere else or some other line of work.
GD: I would like to take a minute and look back on your career. Who were some of your influences growing up and when did you know that you wanted to be in a rock band?
KH: I got into a band by accident. The people who influenced me were people like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles and performers like Rod Stweart. A lot of R&B and blues. That’s what really connected with me. I didn’t plan to join a band, my friend had a band and he asked me to sing in his band and boom, there I was!
GD: Besides singing, do you play any instruments?
KH: I play the guitar, I can play a few chords on the keyboard. Really the guitar is the only thing I can really play. I used to play the guitar on stage when I was in Hurricane.
GD: Speaking of Hurricane, that was my next question. Are you still in contact with any of the guys?
KH: Jay Schellen who was the drummer in Hurricane, and is now the drummer in Yes has been my best friend for thirty plus years. We keep in touch. The other guys, I’ve seen maybe a couple of times over that time period.
GD: After Hurricane broke up and you were doing your own thing for awhile, how did you end up joining Foreigner, it seems like you are a perfect fit after Lou (Gramm) left.
KH: Thank you. That was more than ten years past from the time Hurricane ended and I started working with Foreigner. In the meantime, grunge had come in really heavy and metal was out and no one wanted to hear a voice like mine. I didn’t want to change to some style that wasn’t me, just to be out there. I had to take a break and do some other stuff. I was engineering and doing some producing and I was working with artist development, and doing some song writing. It was getting tougher and tougher as budgets got smaller and smaller. People could make records in their bedrooms. One day I just said to myself, I need to do what I do best. I had taken enough time out. I said, I’m going to start looking for things and I’m not going to say no until I can’t say yes anymore. One of the things I saw when I was looking online, and this was in 2003 or 2004, I heard about a benefit that Mick (Jones) was doing with the boys in Santa Barbara, just north of here. I didn’t know if it was Foreigner was doing something or if Mick Jones was doing a solo project. I realized that it wasn’t Lou doing it, It was Mick and a couple other guys because Lou had left in 2002. I made some calls and I found out that they were looking for another voice and they came into town. So I sat in and we jammed for an hour, they called me an hour later and asked if I could start rehearsing tomorrow?
GD: Wow! It was that quick and you’ve been there ever since!
KH: I almost never came home! (laughs)
GD: Like you said, you’ve been in the band 15 years, what are the best things about being in the band?
KH: First, it’s the catalog of songs. If you’re a singer, you couldn’t dream of a better catalog of challenging but expertly written songs to sing. The next thing probably would be how we all get along together as a band. All of us have been around the block and we all appreciate what we get to do, more than you know. We understand how fortunate we are. We travel on the road with that in mind and we hit that stage with that in mind. It never leaves my thinking, it’s one of the greatest things because I’ve been in other situations where I didn’t enjoy the people that I was working with. I never want to have to do that again.
GD: I know it may be hard to pick, but do you have a favorite song to perform live?
KH: I’m going to give you my standard answer. I’m not a favorites kinda guy in life or literature or women. What I have is a catalog of songs like apples and oranges and bananas. One day you’re in the mood for an apple and the next day you’re in the mood for an orange. Depending on the gig and the ambiance, is it indoor is it outdoor is it a stadium or is it a small crowd. That all changes how you feel about the songs each night. One might be better than the other on a particular night. I’m just thankful to have a basket of beautifully ripe fruit to choose from.
GD: Excellent answer. Usually, when you are on your summer tours and you are out with other bands, you are usually regulated to the hits. I like it when you play theaters where you can play a deep cut like “Headknocker” or something like that. Is there a deep cut that you like to play that you don’t get to play that often?
KH: We’ve done song’s like “Break It Up,” we’ve done “At War with the World.” So there are songs that we have done but you have to realize you are agreeing to leave out a really big hit that most of the crowd wants to hear. That’s a really good problem to have.
GD: Very good. Have you ever thrown in a Hurricane song into the set? I think it would be cool to hear “I’m On To You."
KH: No, because this is Foreigner! This is not some Top 40 version of Foreigner. That’s what we do. We’re not doing any Dokken songs either.
GD: Alright, very good. You mentioned you’ve been working on some new music. It’s been a while since you have released new music, have you guys been writing some new tunes?
KH: There’s always songs that are in different states of completion that we work on when we have time. But that’s rare because we’re on the road so much. There’s always something in the mix. I was just working on a vocal the other day. So, hopefully we’ll see something! We don’t have a time frame, but we’re not going anywhere right now.
GD: A couple of years ago, they brought of the original guys on stage to play with the band. What was it like perform with Lou (Gramm) and some of the original guys from the band?
KH: A lot of people think that there would be some kind of weird energy or something with the original band members. But they were all so awesome, Lou was amazing and gracious. We all just gathered together to celebrate these songs. It was an awesome experience, we hung out, we had drinks together- some of us, and we got to talk to them about how did you play this part, or what type of guitar did you use? They had funny anecdotes to tell us about their time out on the road. We always had a good time. They get to come out on stage, we’re playing to this big crowd and they get to come and boom, plop right in and play and it’s great.
GD: So no animosity at all. At least you couldn’t tell from the videos that I’ve seen. It seems like it was very cool.
KH: It was very cool. I think it wouldn’t have worked any other way. I wouldn’t want to be involved if there was some kind of weirdness. I really enjoyed singing and playing with everybody.
GD: You mentioned that you are booked for 2021. Are you guys going to redo the tour that you had scheduled with Kansas last year or is it a new bill?
KH: I think that we are not going to do that this summer. They are in the middle of working on what’s going to happen for 2022. They are already booking into that year. But I would love to do that, but we will have to wait and see because there are a lot of factors involved.
GD: Kelly, thank you so much for your time. Again, what you guys are doing for your crew is great! I will get the word out and tell everyone to go to foreigneronline.com and buy the merch packages and help out the crew.
KH: Thank you! Cleveland rocks!
Make sure you check out foreigneronline.com and support the Foreigner road crew while getting some cool merch!