Here we catch-up with Stuart Smith of Heaven & Earth who released their latest album ‘Dig’ last year to rave reviews and embark on their debut UK tour starting at the end of June…
1. What have you got planned for the next few months e.g. recording, new musical projects etc.
Joe Retta and I have started writing new material but our main focus right now is on getting ready to take Heaven & Earth out on tour. We’ve just got a new bass player, Lynn Sorensen of Paul Rodgers/Bad Company and a new drummer, Jackie Barnes, son of Australian singing legend Jimmy Barnes so we’ll be spending quite a while in the rehearsal studio getting the sound tight.
2. What sort of setlist can fans expect at the upcoming shows? Do you include any covers at all especially given your Ritchie Blackmore connection?
We’ll be concentrating mainly on the songs from “Dig” but will definitely be adding some material from the previous albums. As far as covers go, we’ve discussed doing some cover songs we like on the encores but won’t really know which ones till we get in rehearsals.
3. Why has it taken so long to get a UK tour together and how did you get M.ill.ion as your support band?
We wanted to come out to the U.K. as soon as we’d released “Dig” back in April last year but until now there have been no offers for us to come and play. Contrary to popular belief you can’t just up and go and tour where you want. There has to be a demand and although we tried hard we could not find an agent that believed in the band enough to pitch us to the venues.
In this case we’ve got Geoff Eaton of Respectable Artists and Dave Clough of the Extreme Music Agency to thank for pushing us out there and the O2 organization for giving us the shot. As far as M.ill.ion goes, they were brought on board by Geoff Eaton and we’re looking forward to touring with them.
4. The latest album ‘Dig’ has again had rave reviews. Have you been pleased with the reaction and have you managed to get the promotion it deserves given that you are not signed to one of the specialist labels like say SPV or Frontiers?
Yes, we’re very happy with the critical response. Nearly every single review we’ve had has called “Dig” the “Best Rock album in the last 10 years” or “Album of the Year”. It’s very flattering but it also sets the bar very high for us to have to live up to when we play live. We look forward to the challenge though.
5. You toured as a member of the Steve Priest version of the Sweet. How did that come about and what were the highlights during the time you were in the band?
I’d been involved with Steve Priest on and off since I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1986 and in 2005 when Heaven & Earth lost Kelly Hansen to Foreigner, Steve Priest called me up and asked me if I was interested in reforming Sweet with him.
I called up all the players and helped him put the band together and we started touring in 2008. There were quite a few highlights such as some of the big festivals we headlined in the States but the main one, I would have to say, was touring South America with Journey.
6. How do you manage to keep getting these name musicians as guests on your albums like Richie Sambora on ‘Dig’? Do you find having guests like this does draw in some new fans who may be a fan of the guest musician but may not necessarily know much about your music?
When I got the deal for the first Heaven & Earth album back in 1995 I didn’t have a band so I just called up everyone I knew and asked them if they’d play on it. At the time Richie Sambora was my brother in law as I was married to Heather Locklear’s sister Colleen, so he was the first person I called. The next was Joe Lynn Turner and once those two had committed it was like a domino effect; everybody wanted to be involved.
I think that having well known guest musicians on an album certainly raises the awareness of it but it’s not going to make the album a raging success just because you have them on there. The music has to stand up on it’s own.
With “Dig” we never really thought about having any guests on it but we brought Howard Leese in because he’s an old friend of mine and we have this tradition that when I record a song with acoustic guitars on we do it together to give that big ambience. Once he was there we said, “oh, while you’re at it, maybe you could put some strings on this, etc”. The next thing you know he’s on three songs.
As for David Paich from Toto, he again is an old friend and when I was at his Christmas party with Joe Retta he heard “I Don’t Know What Love Is” and said that he’d love to put some strings on it so we took the tapes over to his studio and he did his magic.
With Richie Sambora, I went down to East West Studios when he was recording his solo album to borrow a Gibson SG as I don’t have one and I needed it for a certain song.
While I was there, we both signed a guitar for a charity auction and someone took a picture of us both holding it. It got out on the Internet and all the fans started writing in asking us if we were going to do something together again, (He’d sang and played guitar on the first album).
I asked him if he would and he said sure and as we needed a slide guitar on “Man & Machine” I called him up and he came down. At the same time he put on some of that famous talk box of his on the track at the same time. I really owe him as he came in to do it on his only day off in 3 months.
7. As these will be your debut UK gigs and given the healthy market at present for live DVD’s are there any plans to release a DVD of the UK shows? Also will the earlier Heaven & Earth albums be re-issued at some stage?
I think we’d like to record a live DVD if we get the chance. We’ll have to see what happens. The previous albums have already been reissued and are available from our web page at www.heavenandearthband.com.
8. What have been the live highlights so far and why?
The two best were our first show at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, which was also our record release party and the Melodic Rock Festival in Chicago. Both these events were packed houses and the audience’s were 100% into the music.
9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?
I do martial arts, hiking, shooting, reading, swimming and chasing beautiful women.
10. Message for you fans…
Thank you for all your support over the years and I sincerely hope we get to see you on our U.K. tour.
Heaven & Earth’s debut UK tour dates are as follows:
Thursday, 26th June: O2 Academy 2, Birmingham – Buy tickets
Friday, 27th June: O2 ABC 2, Glasgow – Buy tickets
Saturday, 28th June: O2 Academy 2, Newcastle -Buy tickets
Sunday, 29th June: O2 Academy 2, Sheffield – Buy tickets
Tuesday, 1st July: O2 Academy 2, Liverpool – Buy tickets
Wednesday, 2nd July: O2 Academy, Islington – Buy tickets
Heaven & Earth online:
Heaven & Earth EPK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJW97xM5LnY
Video: ‘No Money, No Love’
Behind the scenes footage:Richie Sambora in the studio with Heaven & Earth
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