When Life Was Hard & Fast

Ricky Warwick

When Life Was Hard & Fast

On his first solo album in five years, Northern Irish rocker and Black Star Riders vocalist Ricky Warwick is joined by a star-studded cast of special guests including Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott, Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, and Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed. Co-produced by former Buckcherry guitarist Keith Nelson, When Life Was Hard & Fast also features cameos from Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and Warwick’s youngest daughter, Pepper, who joins him for a duet on “Time Don’t Seem to Matter.” (The deluxe version also includes Warwick’s 2015 covers album Stairwell Troubadour.) “The beauty of doing a solo record is that you can be as narcissistic and selfish as you want to be, because you're not going to annoy anybody else in your band,” Warwick tells Apple Music with a laugh. “So when a song is almost completed, I’ll go, ‘So-and-so would be great on this. Let me give them a call.’” Below, he tells the story behind each track.
When Life Was Hard & Fast “I write a lot with a really good friend of mine that I grew up with in Belfast. His name is Sam Robinson, and he sent me the words to ‘When Life Was Hard & Fast’ and I just went, ‘That's the album title.’ We talked about growing up in Belfast as Gen Xers—pre-internet, pre-cell-phone, how you get kicked out when the sun came up, you play on the streets and get into all kinds of shenanigans and then you'd come home and the sun went down. That sense of randomness we had 30-odd years ago feels lost. And Joe Elliott is one of my dearest friends, so I asked him to sing on it. I mean, the guy that sold 150 million records can’t be wrong.”
You Don’t Love Me “I was writing the riff and the first lyric that came into my head was ‘You don't love me.’ And I thought, ‘I'll come up with something better than that. That's been said before.’ And then I didn't. It’s sort of a pop at people who go out of the way to tell you something negative—especially online. I was always brought up with the idea that if you ain't got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. And my old friend Luke Morley from Thunder does a great solo.”
I’d Rather Be Hit “We’ve got Andy Taylor on this one, a man that’s seen it all with Duran Duran and Power Station. He’s a great guitar player, a great singer, and an incredible producer. I worked with him over in Ibiza for some songs of his, and I asked him to play on one of my tracks. It was written when we had Donald Trump and Theresa May in power in the US and the UK, and I just felt they were so out of touch with the working class and what humanity needed.”
Gunslinger “This is a Mink DeVille cover. I bought the single when I was maybe 10 years old after seeing him on Top of the Pops. He had that real Spanish kind of New York gangster look going on with the pencil mustache and the suit and the black winklepicker shoes. He was doing a great song called ‘Spanish Stroll,’ which was a big hit for him. After I bought the single, I flipped it over to play the B-side, which was ‘Gunslinger,’ and it was just so arrogant and bombastic and the guitars were great. I said to myself, ‘When I’m in a band, I’m going to cover that one day.’”
Never Corner a Rat “I did a show with Black Star Riders somewhere on the East Coast. We were opening for Judas Priest, and I got talking to a guy after the show who’d been in the US Army for 20 years, countless tours of Iraq and all that. When he came back home, he was really struggling with PTSD and having trouble fitting back into life. He’d given all for his country, but when he was back home, his country was like, ‘Thanks very much, have a nice life.’ I just thought it was such a crime, so I wanted to highlight this widespread problem. The lyrics are almost verbatim what he was saying to me.”
Time Don't Seem to Matter “I wrote this song a while ago for my youngest daughter Pepper, about being away from her when I’m on tour, missing birthdays and all that kind of stuff. But there’s also the positive aspect of, when I’m home, I’m around 24/7 and we can go to the movies five times in a day if we want. I had a head cold when I recorded the vocal—you can kind of hear my voice cracking in a few places—but it had something, so we kept it. By this time—she was 11—Pepper was really getting into music, so we got her to come in and sing on it. It was just an amazing proud-dad moment for me—one that I’ll never forget.”
Fighting Heart “This is the first song we put out, and it’s also the first song that Keith and I wrote together for the record. Keith and I have the same influences in rock ’n’ roll—we love vintage guitars and Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Cougar Mellencamp, all that good Americana stuff. So that was the template for this song, and then an uplifting lyric about staying true to who you are and what your beliefs are as you go down the many roads of life.”
I Don't Feel at Home “This song has got a real bluesy Southern rock vibe, and Dizzy came in and played some killer piano on it. Lyrically, it’s about a member of my family that has struggled with addiction for most of their adult life. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, but it could be about anybody who’s struggling with those issues. People need to recognize that this is a disease.”
Still Alive “This was inspired by the movie Hell or High Water, which was so awesome that I actually went to see it two days in a row. I’m a sucker for the old kind of outlaw—the ‘good guy outlaws,’ as I like to call them—guys that you know underneath it all have a really good heart. I took a bit of artistic license on this one and fabricated a story about two outlaws on the run from the cops, but running from themselves more than anything else, with no destination in mind.”
Clown of Misery “This is one of those great accidents that come along every once in a while. I picked up the guitar and sang this song into my iPhone and then sent it over to Keith to see if we should record it. And Keith goes, ‘I think it’s done.’ So the only thing we did was distort it a little to make it sound like one of those old 78 records that Hank Williams or Woody Guthrie would record in the late ’40s. I joke that it’s the cheapest song I’ve ever recorded.”
You’re My Rock ’N Roll “It’s just a bombastic, fist-in-the-air celebration of rock ’n’ roll—and everything good that it's brought me in my life. My wife, my family, so many friends to see in the world and all kinds of experiences—I owe everything to it. And it's got me through so many situations in my life, good and bad. I couldn't live without it, and I don't ever want to live without it.”

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