Oct 14 2013

Interview with Billy Squier

By: Emily Hingle

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Billy Squier is the man with the powerhouse vocals in such rock classics as “The Stroke,” “My Kind of Lover,” and “Rock Me Tonight.” Squier was not just the singer and guitarist of his solo band in the 1980s; he has been creating music since the late 1960s in Kicks, The Sidewinders, and Piper. He was signed to Capitol Records as a solo artist in 1980, and finally hit it big in 1981 when “The Stroke” hit the charts. Billy Squier left the music business some years after his success and enjoys performing sporadically around the country.

WYAT: What are you up to these days?

Billy Squier: I don’t know if what I’m doing these days is of that much interest to Voodoo Fest attendees. Most of my time, I spend in my garden or Central Park walking in the landscapes. It’s something I enjoy doing. I like exploring the pace of what I call the Real World as opposed to the pace of humans. I don’t get terribly stressed out anymore; I don’t lose sleep over it.

What I’m bringing to Voodoo Fest just sort of came up. I was talking to my agent about ideas that would make it easier for me to go out and play without having necessarily to depend on a band and a crew organized. What happens when you have a big operation is that you have to work all the time because you have to pay everybody. So if I want to keep a band and crew up and running, I have to be playing a lot more than I want to. I got this idea of, rather than doing stripped-down songwriter stuff that I’m not really known for, maybe I could string some of my songs together that I could normally do without the band; I could come out and be a rock guitar player and a rock singer and do my stuff, but without all the bells and whistles that go with it. So that was the experiment. I did a festival up here that went really well; it was pretty cool. Steve Rehage told me that he wanted me to come to Voodoo last year, and since the festival went well, I said, “Call Steve Rehage, and ask him if he wants to have me at Voodoo,” and he said yes.

WYAT: You’re no stranger to New Orleans-area festivals because you played at Jazz Fest, too.

Squier: I did. My buddy, C.C. Adcock, is someone you probably know down there from Little Band of Gold. We talked about working together for a while, and so I came down and sat in on a couple of things he was doing. A lot of New Orleans music appeals to me. I’m looking forward to seeing Mac [Rebennack], and it should be a good time.

WYAT: Going back a few decades, you left the music business in the early 90s. Why did you want to do that?

Squier: I just was sick of the music business. I didn’t like what I saw happening; I saw it becoming far more corporate and far more image-conscious as opposed to music-conscious. It wasn’t what I got into it for. The direction of the music industry was not the direction that I wanted to go, so I just walked. I was surprised that I would do it because music was really my whole life up until then; I never thought that I would be in a position when that would happen, but, lo and behold, there it was. Now, I don’t play nearly as much, but when I play, I pick spots where I can play and think I’ll have a good time or a new challenge; something I can do that’s really about the music. Whenever I play, I have a good time. That’s more important to me than anything, more than having a career or being able to be the judge on American Idol.

WYAT: Since that time, the music business has changed a lot with the advent of different technologies, and for smaller bands it can be a lot better. Do you think that the music industry is somehow better since you left?

Squier: I’m hoping that it may be getting better, but not necessarily as much for the reasons you just mentioned. The beauty of the technology is that it’s easier for people to do good recordings and to get them to the public; it’s also bad that so many people can. It’s hard to make a definitive impact. One thing that I think and hope is going on is that, because the music industry as we know it has collapsed, bands can make affordable recordings with the technology and the first place their going to sell them is at shows. I think there is more of an impetus for bands to be out playing live, and I think that’s very good for music because you can’t fake it if you’re playing live. I’m hoping that there are more and more good bands coming up; if you’re going to make it playing live, you’ve got to be good. And if you’re good, you sell your CD at the show. It’s kind of reversing the process that existed for many years. That’s how I see music becoming interesting again and creative. And good bands are going to build followings, not necessarily over night. You’ll see a bunch of bands all the sudden who are doing well. They can do well on their own terms without compromising; making music that they really believe in.

WYAT: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Squier: I’m looking forward to coming to New Orleans; getting in a little trouble, but not too much. That’s the thing about New Orleans: there’s trouble at every turn, in a good way. I’ve never been to Voodoo Fest, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

See Squier do his thing on Saturday, November 3rd at 8:45 on the Flambeau Stage.

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