Tony Lewis From The Outfield Interview
With Retro Futura
July 29, 2018
Rock/pop band The Outfield made a huge splash on the music scene with their 1985 debut album Play Deep. On the strength of the three singles, “Say It Isn’t So,” “All The Love” and “Your Love” the album went platinum three times over.
Lead singer Tony Lewis will be a part of this years Retro Futura Tour which will be making a stop at the Hard Rock Rocksino on August 3rd. Other artists on the bill include Annabella Lwin from Bow Wow Wow, Limahl from Kajagoogoo, Modern English, ABC and Belinda Carlisle.
We had a chat with Tony about his career, his new solo album titled Out Of The Darkness and of course, the Retro Futura Tour.
Greg Drugan: Hi Tony, how are you doing today?
Tony Lewis: Very well, how are you?
GD: I’m fine, thanks. How has the Retro Futura Tour been going so far?
TL: It’s been going very well, yeah. We’re about halfway through the tour now.
GD: I think this is the best lineup yet! Have you ever played with any of these artists before?
TL: I think we played with Modern English back in ‘85/’86. I don’t remember it all that well, it’s all a blur. (laughs) It is the first time I’ve played with Limahl and Annabella from Bow Wow Wow and Belinda Carlisle. They’re all three really nice people and Martin Fry from ABC, all of them are really nice people.
GD: How many songs will you be playing in your set?
TL: Because of the slot, I’m only getting to do five songs. If one of the acts aren’t playing, I will get to play 30 minutes, which is another 3 songs. It’s still not long enough for me because by the time I’ve warmed up, it’s time to get off the stage. It’s been a good way to ease back into the touring, because I haven’t toured in about fourteen years. The passing of John (Spinks) my best mate, that was four years ago. I didn’t want to anything with music the first year, I didn’t want to pick up a guitar or anything. Then my wife encouraged me to get back into it. She helped me with the lyrics on the album. We got a record deal with Madison Records. I’m back here on the road and I’m really enjoying it!
GD: Well, we’re glad you’re back! So you’ve got a new record out called Out Of The Darkness. I got to hear a few tracks and the first single “Into The Light” has that classic Outfield sound to it. It’s great!
TL: Thank you. The first three (tracks) have definitely got the spirit of Outfield and that’s what I wanted to capture. As you get more into the album, it’s got more of my spin on it. I played guitar, bass and drums on it. Out of the darkness and “Into The Light” obviously has a lot to do with John’s passing, but also it’s me stepping into to the light and saying I’m not just the voice and bass player in The Outfield, this is what I can do.
GD: Excellent. Like you said, you were away for a while. What was the reasoning for putting out a new record now? Was it your wife, or was it just time?
TL: John had gotten cancer twelve years ago and then it came back. He wasn’t well for quite a few years and we were never going to come back to the US again. After John passed away, as I said before, I didn’t want to listen to music let alone thinking about making music. Then one night, my wife and I went out for a meal and she said you should do what you do best. You need to make music and record music. I struggled with the lyrics, so she helped me with the words and she’s good at telling a story and it all fell together so easily. Her words matched my backing tracks. The songs were written on an acoustic guitar and recorded into an iPad. It was the most easiest recording process I’ve ever experienced.
GD: Technology makes things a lot easier then it did thirty years ago.
TL: Yeah, but you’ve also got to have the songs. Doesn’t matter what format you record in. The new technology does help. There wasn’t much I changed around but it was really stress free.
GD: I got the chance to see you guys open up for Night Ranger back in 1987. I remember it was a very hot Ohio night and you put on a great show! Do you remember that tour?
TL: I remember that tour with Night Ranger, yeah. I remember that they had a banner and it was sponsored by Downy, or some fabric conditioner. We did laugh. I called Jack Blades- Jock Scissors. We were always making fun of eachother, we got along pretty well.
GD: That’s great! What was the best thing about touring in the ‘80s?
TL: The best thing about it was the first time we came over, we had a fifteen seat minibus and we were on a budget and we would double-up in very poor condition hotel rooms. We toured with The Hooters first of all then The Starship. When we came home for Christmas in ‘85 “Your Love” was released just to keep us on people’s minds. That song “Your Love” just seemed to have a life of its own. From spring to summer, it just got so big as a song. It was quite exciting being on the road and seeing it get bigger and bigger.
GD: I bet. Looking back on your career, what got you interested in playing the bass?
TL: I like the guitar better than the bass, but what got me going on the bass was the four thick strings and I liked the power of it. I was a big Paul McCartney fan. When John and I were in a three-piece, we liked three-piece bands like Rush, ZZ Top and Cream. Even The Who with one guitar and one bass and Keith Moon on the drums. I always wanted to play the bass.
GD: Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
TL: I would say The Who, The Kinks, Beatles, Led Zeppelin. We were lucky to be born in the ‘60s and ‘70s and there was Glam Rock as well with T. Rex, Slade, Alice Cooper. Just a cross section of British and American bands, really. That’s how we got our “evergreen” sound, just growing up in that period.
GD: What part of England are you from?
TL: I’m from East London. All three of us are from East London and we didn’t live that far from each other. There was a local recording studio there called Star Studios and all the local bands used to play there and record there. I formed my first school group there with Alan (Jackman), I’ve known him since I was 15. John lived in the next neighborhood to me. We all grew up with the same sort of musical backgrounds.
GD: Who was the first artist you saw in concert and how did that affect you?
TL: The very first group I saw was a band called Status Quo, but they didn’t do very good business here in the US. They’re like a real sort of 12 bar band that did it very well. It’s a shame we lost Rick Parfitt a little while ago. He was the chief anchor man and rhythm guitar player. I saw them at Wembley and I was only 17 years old and it made a big impression on me.
GD: After the Retro Futura Tour, do you plan on playing headlining solo shows? We would love to see a full set from you.
TL: Well, we are doing one show at a time, one tour at a time. There are things that we’ve got irons in the fire but they’ve not been confirmed yet. This tour is a great way of getting my toe back into the water. With my album being out and it’s doing quite well, we will take stock in it and go home for a few week after this tour and I’d like to come out again and eventually do it as a solo project. I’d like to get a band together. I’ve had a lot of people asking for a longer set. Originally I took this slot because Nick Heywood (Haircut One Hundred) dropped out for medical reasons, so I just filled his space. We’ve gotten a lot positive responses from the people.
GD: So you’ve got a band behind you for this tour?
TL: Yeah, for this tour they put a band together for us and I’ve been really, really pleased with them! Two guitar players, a great drummer and a keyboard player. It’s quite a full sound, I’m quite amazed. It’s not The Outfield, it never will be The Outfield. When John passed away I said I’m never going to form another band called The Outfield again. It’s just going to be me now, Tony from The Outfield and we’re going to take it one tour at a time.
GD: I wish you the best on this tour and I look forward to seeing you in Cleveland on August 3rd.
TL: Can’t wait to see you, mate! Thanks, Greg!
Be sure to catch Tony Lewis and the rest of the Retro Futura Tour at the Hard Rock Rocksino on August 3rd. Get your tickets here. Put in the code RETRO and get your tickets for $25!