Formerly, and most famously, the guitarist and musical point-man of Joan Jett's band, the Blackhearts, Ricky Byrd has been called into the service of rock music royalty like the Who's Roger Daltrey, Ian Hunter, and Southside Johnny.
A product of the 1970s New York music scene, Byrd lived out his dreams, toured the world, and worked with his heroes. Unfortunately, those dreams came with the not uncommon side effect of addiction. Now celebrating over 25 years in recovery, Byrd has dedicated much of his time to awareness and fundraising efforts, working with the Rockers in Recovery All Star Band to help those still on their path to the other side.
Byrd also recently took on the role of frontman, and is currently riding the high of his his critically acclaimed debut solo release, Lifer.
We caught up with the New York-bred rocker in anticipation of the RIR band's performance this coming Friday at Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live to discuss his new album, rock 'n' roll life while dealing with addiction, and how "pirate music" will always be "pirate music."
New Times: Why did it take you so long to put together a solo record?
Ricky Byrd: Uh... I'm lazy! No... That's not it! I left the Blackhearts so long ago, and then I did a couple of really cool things with Ian Hunter and Roger Daltrey and Southside Johnny. I tried to put together a couple of bands. To tell you the truth, I know who I am and I know what I do, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to sound like. And then you start trying to fit in, and it's like a process. I put together a couple of bands that were short lived, I did a really cool acoustic thing for a while with Simon Kirke from Free and Kasim Sultan from Utopia, and all of the eye on the ball.
And all of a sudden, a light went off, and I said, "just lead with the truth and do what you (want), and you will find the people that want to buy this." And that's what I did!
It would appear people have been pretty receptive thus far!
Not one bad review! I mean, being in the business a long time, I know that there's a stinker right around the corner! I kind of take them all with a grain of salt because the good ones are just opinions also, but it's a thrill that everyone that's heard it loves it. And not only proper reviewers, but I sold pre-orders on Facebook through my website and every time someone gets one, they write all this great stuff on Facebook, so I can't help but be excited about it!
As someone in recovery from drugs and alcohol, you still fly the flag of swagger-borne rock 'n' roll high and proud. However, someone like Eric Clapton appears to have lost that edge in his sobriety, and I'd say the same about Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes. Do you think that is a side effect of recovery?
I mean, Joe Walsh still has swagger and I know he's sober. I think Clapton just always was a very serious guy, and I think sobriety just made him even more serious. I don't hear any sense of humor in his music anymore, not that he really ever had it, but Derek and the Dominos and "Let it Rain" -- that kind of stuff -- there was an aloofness to it. He takes everything so seriously, he takes his blues so seriously, and blues was kind of joyous even though it could be about losing everything, and maybe that's just his personality. Maybe that's just the kind of guy he is.
I've always thought of myself being somewhere between Keith Richards and Jerry Lewis. I'm just that kind of personality. I can't see Ronnie Wood losing his stride just because he's sober.
I play drunken sailor music, so whether I'm sober or not, it's still the same music!
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