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Glenn Hughes: Let it shine

Glenn Hughes by Georgina Cates


Photo credit: Georgina Cates

Glenn Hughes was in agony.

“I remember walking off stage at some point during my show in London last year and telling my assistant: ‘I don’t think I can finish the show’. I was sad, I was crying, I was actually in so much pain, but the audience was so amazing they just lifted me.”

It’s a testament to the then 64-year-old’s resilience that nobody noticed – but the mercurial performer knew he couldn’t continue to fight through the pain night after night. Confined to a wheelchair offstage, the only solution was to have both knees replaced – one in December 2015, the other in January – and undergo months of physical therapy. But not content with merely learning to walk again, Hughes also spent the recuperation period writing songs.

“I write every day, it’s what I love most in life,” he explains, “and I get to write about things I believe in. I don’t write about witches and goblins and sorcerers, I write about the human condition. I write autobiographical stuff which is also going to affect other people, because they go through the same stuff I’m going through.”

And this time that stuff is really close to the surface.

“There’s some anger in these songs, there’s some desperation, and there’s a fear aspect – I’m working through the fear,” he admits of the songs, all written alone in his home studio on an acoustic guitar. “The love aspect is in all my work – there’s a lot of joy and celebration – but there is some angst that came out. And that’s the way I write – I just write the way I feel.”

With over four decades of experience – and a CV that includes names like Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion, and California Breed – Hughes knows when a song’s worth finishing.

“Everything I was writing at the beginning of the year, whether it was the denseness of ‘Heavy’ or ‘Flow’ and the lightness of ‘When I Fall’ and ‘Let It Shine’, I knew there were magical moments in there.”

He’s certainly not wrong – those magical moments combine to make the resulting album, ‘Resonate’, his most powerful, honest, and stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks yet. It’s also his best.

Recorded in Copenhagen over 12 days this summer with his current touring band, the visceral performances captured in the studio only reinforce the strength of his songs – which is exactly what Hughes the co-producer wanted.

“The band didn’t really know what I was going to bring to the studio – I didn’t play them anything in advance,” he reveals. “I like to keep it spontaneous.”

So he’d play the musicians – guitarist Søren Andersen, drummer Pontus Engborg, and keyboard player Lachy Doley – a song on the acoustic guitar, they’d rehearse it, and then record it.

“All these songs you’re hearing are first and second takes,” says Hughes. “There wasn’t a lot of fancy footwork going on; there’s not a lot of overdubs.

“And at the end of it, we listened back and we had this tree with all these branches on, and I got to use the many flavours of voice that I have. I have this voice that can shoot off into different tonal soundings and different feelings,” says the man dubbed “The Voice of Rock”.

Which helps explain the album title. “‘Resonate’ really says exactly what this album is: the resonation of not just the instruments but my vocals – it’s a very vocal album.”

It’s also a bonafide return to his roots.

“I am a rock performer and a rock writer,” reasons Hughes. “I can dabble in other kinds of music, and I do, but this album is a return to rock.”

But it’s fresh, vital, and dynamic rather than an attempt to recapture the past – intentionally so.

“My fan base has grown bigger every year because they see what I’m doing, they see I’m still creating,” says Hughes. “I’m not a nostalgic artist. I don’t want to live in that genre – I want to still keep creating.”

Just one listen to ‘Resonate’ shows he means it.

“I’m super proud of the work I’ve put in – let’s just say I busted my ass on this – and I think the hard work has paid off.”

It certainly has. And, with his new knees in place, Hughes is ready to take it to the world.

“I’m going to go around the world with this album, so I just want to thank everyone who hears it and thank them for the love because this album is for them.”

On Deep Purple’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction

“Unfortunately for me, my dad passed away that day. That rings true, but my dad was also looking down on me from the royal box, if you will. It’s not an easy day for anyone who loses a family member, but I’ll say this for me: to be with David Coverdale, my dearest friend and someone who I absolutely love, arm in arm on the stage and off the stage, is something he and I will never forget.

“I was in a lot of grief about what happened to my dad, and not a lot of people knew what I was going through, but I will remember it and I hope my father is proud of me.”

On Joe Bonamassa and Black Country Communion

“Joe and I are really, really close friends, and always have been. We’ve never ever fallen out – despite all the gossip in the UK, there was never a fight.

“We’re deep into writing the next Black Country album and it will be recorded in January. It’s a very important album and we know this, hence the extra hours we’re putting into it, because when you come back after three big-selling records, you’ve got to be prepared. I think every album I do has got to be topnotch songwriting wise, and Joe and I are putting our heads together more so on this than ever before.

“So there’s a lot of time and effort going into it. We’re really, really excited by it.”