Interview by Bruce Mee
The first time I met Mitch Malloy was in 1995, in Nashville. I vividly remember driving up the dirt track to his wonderfully appointed house and being pleasantly surprised at his easy-going affable charm, ever smiling countenance and total lack of ego, while at the same time being a little taken aback at the close-cropped hair! Back in 1995 it seemed Mitch was trying to distance himself from the hair-metal image that had taken such a battering with the advent of grunge and the Beavis & Butthead generation, while attempting to make a living in the singer-song-writing scene of Nashville.
Over the years, Malloy’s hair seemed to get longer in proportion to his returning love of rock, and while 2008’s ‘Faith’ seemed to take a more personal and introspective angle to his music, that same year saw Mitch storm the stage at Firefest, playing the majority of his much lauded debut live for the first time, and a truly stunning performance it was too (try to get a hold of the much sought after, long sold out DVD!). 2011 will see the release of only his fifth studio album, but finally, after many a broken promise, sees a return to the glorious days of his 1991 debut. So the first question on my lips was simply, ‘Why now?’
“Well it's funny you should ask that as I thought I was being so unique and cutting edge when I started this CD. And when I was about a quarter of the way into it I looked around a bit on line, which I had not done at all recently, and realised everyone was doing it. Hahaha! Oh well, I was still gonna have a blast doing it and I did. And I did it how I wanted to do it pretty much. It just felt like it was time., and it felt like I had never done it before and it felt like I had never stopped doing it - all at the same time. Like your favorite boots or jeans or whatever, it just was like oh yeah, I know this… and when I did my first vocal on the first song and I listened back I got really emotional actually. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, it was so natural and effortless. Like the song writing was. The songs flew out of me, three a day some days. The day I wrote ‘Falling To Pieces’ it was the middle song out of three I wrote that day. I had no idea if it was any good or not because it was all happening so fast. But I thought it was decent or I wouldn't have kept going.”
Did the album title ‘II’ come as a result of the songs you had written, or did you have the concept before you actually started writing?
“My co producer Victor Broden and I have a habit of thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time and I was thinking that we should call it ‘II’ and he was writing it to me in an Email at the same time [laughs]. So that was that. It happend at the beginning but after some music was written. I let the music lead pretty much as a rule. I don't set out to do anything that the music doesn't tell or guide me to do. I can't force music. Ask Eddie [laughs].”
You’ve mentioned how your creative juices were over-flowing for this album, and you wrote many songs in a short period. How does this compare to your usual method of writing, and what would you say was the inspiration for this purple patch?
“I've never heard that saying, purple patch. I need to get to England more often, haha. Well I have been writing for other markets. You know, ones that still exist, haha, and that is much harder for me. These songs I was writing for myself and only myself, as in I wasn't co-writing with someone that I had to please. Not that there is anything wrong with that that is part of co-writing, but this wasn't like that. This was easy!”
You have many guests on the album. Was this also always in the plan, or just something that happened as you renewed old contacts, and word got out? Tell us about some of the people you have on there, and what they bring to the party.
“It happend naturally because we were wracking our brains trying to figure out who in Nashville could play lead guitar on this music. None of the top Nashville session guitar players know this style, it's not their thing. So it occurred to me one night, hey why don't I ask the guys who are this style, even if they don't live here because now with technology we can do that. Steve Lukather was a big part of the reason I started writing these songs as he wanted to do something with me and asked what I had. So I got to work. So you can really thank Luke or blame him, as it's in a big way part of his fault, haha. His schedule is insane and he ended up not playing on it but I did call in my old buddy Keith Scott from Bryan Adams who is clearly one of the best in the market. He helped define what this style of music is. Also I have Pete Lesperance, the reluctant genius. I don't throw that word around lightly. The guy is a freak, and a friend. And then there is Keith Howland from Chicago. I met him at an awards show in the elevator in Vegas a few years ago. He said to me, “YOU MUST be an artist?” haha. I said yes and introduced myself and he said he knew me. Then he said he was the lead guitar player for Chicago and I was like, OH! Kind of startled. How often do you meet a rock star in an elevator and they say hello to you first? Exactly. He was so nice. Anyway, I never got his number or anything but a friend of mine saw a YouTube clip of him taken on their tour bus talking about me to his band mates. Said he was listening to me on his lap top. So I contacted him and found out he lives in Nashville and we wrote ‘On And On’ together and he turned out to be pretty much the lead guitar player on the CD. He knows the style, grew up with it and loves it and is an amazing guitar player and the nicest guy on the planet. So now he's gonna do shows with me in Nashville. Also we have Hughie McDonald who everyone should know has always been the studio bass player in Bon Jovi. Well, from when they started having hits that is. And when John fired Alec he hired Hughie on to tour as well. Hughie is a huge part of their feel and sound and people may also know he's the bass player on my debut CD. I have been trying to get him to play since then and it never worked out till now. And then there is the great Phil Collen from that little band Def Leppard, haha. Phil had seen me playing out in Nashville last year and we were in touch and we wrote a song together with CJ Vanston, who played keys on my debut as well. Phil is super classy nice guy and a very large talent. He has said he wants to work again on the next CD. He loves this CD and says it's "Rawkin mate". He's so cool.. And CJ is a monster talent producer arranger programmer keys player in LA. But wait, there's more! Dez Dickerson, Mr "You gotta slow down" from Prince and the Revolution played guitar,sang back ups wore a Japanese head band. He sang “you gotta slow down” on ‘Little Red Corvette’ so I had him sing it on my song ‘What I Miss’ [laughs]. When I thought if it, I was working on that song and I started laughing so hard I almost fell off my chair - and there it is on the CD. And also I have Gotthard making a special appearance on ‘Carry On’. I had written it for them when Steve died and I decided to put it on my CD and they love it and wanted to play on it, so they did. And then there are the back ground singers. Jeff Scott Soto cos I couldn't get anyone good [laughs]. Brett Walker, who I still have never met but was way into it and cool and sang great, and then there is Bruno Ravel. Most people have neve heard of him but he has this little band called Danger Danger and I call him Mr Naughty Naughty. Oh, that's right, and he's also one of my best friends, haha. So I kid him. Then there are the Italians: Alessandro Del Vecchio is singing and playing and also Mario Percudani. They are both in my band now. Also I have Josh Zighetti "spaghetti" singing as well from Hungry Heart. I was supposed to have a bunch of other guys playing and singing but it just got to be too much and I had to wrap it up. Anyway, their contributions were huge of course.”
Opening track ‘I’m The One’ could be the bastard son of ‘Anything At All’, especially the intro. Was this deliberate, as a statement of intent, as if to say ‘You wanted it .. you GOT it!’
“Well I had the twelve songs all picked out and we were set to track basics drums and bass the next morning and I had gone to bed and I was laying there thinking, ‘Do I have an ‘Anything At All’? So I got up and went into the studio and wrote ‘I'm The One’. It wrote itself, like it was just sitting there waiting to be written. So yes I admit it, I was actually thinking of an ‘Anything At All’ type vibe when I wrote it but I can never carbon copy stuff on purpose as I'm not that smart, haha. I don't know what I'm doing scientifically enough to do that sort of thing. I operate from the gut and heart so all I could do was think I wanted a song like ‘Anything At All’ and sort of play a riff like that but then the song takes over. I will say though, in production we tried to stay close to the things that made ‘Anything At All’ work, so ‘I'm The One’ has that vibe but it's clearly its own song, and in my opinion a much better song. I know many fans won't agree with that but I don't have the attachment to ‘Anything At All’ that they do and to me ‘I'm The One’ has more energy and I like what it's saying more.”
The album is very much a rocking affair, with nary a ballad in sight. When you were writing, did you steer yourself away from ballads or was it just that the rock was in your blood so much at this point that it was rock songs you ended up writing?
“The rock is easier to write now then it ever was. I don't know why. On the first CD I remember writing rock songs was so hard for me and the ballads were easier - that's why there are so many ballads on the debut. But I went back and looked at the debut song list and realised how many ballads were on that CD so I said to my co-producer Victor let’s not put any ballads, or very few on this CD. So songs that were sort of ballads we turned into mid-tempo rockers, kinda like Def Leppard does.”
Has the writing compulsion abated yet, or do you still find yourself getting ideas in the middle of the night that you have to get up and lay down?
“I've been too busy making the CD to write much but a few things have popped out over the last few months. When I get back from Europe I'll write a new CD and start again. I have a song that I love about Italy and my Italians. I wrote it when I got back from there. I wanted to put it on the CD but we didn't need it, so it's going on the next one.”
You have eschewed going down the label route for this album. What are your reasons behind this, and how do you envisage getting the album out to the fans?
“Home delivery perhaps? That could be interesting. To be honest I'm just tired of asking.... asking asking asking. Not that I did that for this record cos I didn't cos I'm done with it and not doing it anymore. If a label wants to work with me and it makes sense then I would do that. I don't want people to think I couldn't get a deal because I could, I just didn't ask for one or let any labels even know I was doing this. But I have something really cool going on in Nashville label wise. I can't name names but let’s just say some execs who used to run a certain label that I used to be on are gathering in my studio very soon to devise a plan and brain storm ideas for ‘MMII’ and they are doing it simply because they love me, haha. Or like me at least.But seriously they are doing it because they care, want me to succeed and I am blown away by it. So I sort of have a label, in the States anyway...”
You played a storming set at Firefest 5, which was captured for posterity on the fabulous live DVD. What can you tell us about your memories and thoughts of that day?
“Well my memories of the entire thing are fantastic. I loved Nottingham and I loved Firefest and I am so completely impressed by it. The fact that you guys put it together every year like you do is extremely cool. And I am very proud of the DVD.”
You have a different band backing you for FF 2011, and you have already been over to Italy and hung out with the guys. Tell us how this came together, and is it likely to be a partnership for the future?
“I hope so and I think so. These people are not your average people. At least they aren't like the average person I meet. They are extraordinary human beings and I am lucky I chose them. I had options in five countries as backing bands. I chose Italy because I got a good vibe from the players and my wife loves Italy and I wanted to do something special for her by having a band from there as I thought she could then spend some time there too. Turns out now she can’t come over but in the future for sure she will. But yes I am sure I will be collaborating with these people for the rest of my life. They are life-long friends and I now very much would like to live in Italy. We have a few things in the works that I'll announce later when they are finalised.”
Finally, a message for you fans …
“My music has brought me together with some of the best people I have ever known. I'm lucky like that. You've been beside me all these years. You are the reason I'm standing here. YEAAAAAAAHHH OH YEAH!