Classic Rockers Whitford/St. Holmes Reunite for New Album, Join Whitesnake Tour Coming to Hard Rock Live

Concert Preview


  • Mad Ink PR
Best known for hard rock anthems such as “Sharpshooter” and “Whisky Woman,” Whitford/St. Holmes formed way back in 1981 when Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and Ted Nugent singer-guitarist Derek St. Holmes issued their self-titled debut. They even toured in support of the album before returning to their respective day jobs. The duo recently reunited to record a follow-up album, aptly titled Reunion. It commences with “Shapes,” a song that features an over-the-top guitar solo and nearly operatic vocals.

In separate phone interviews, Whitford and St. Holmes spoke about the album and the current tour with the hair metal act Whitesnake. The double bill comes to Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park on June 11.

How did the band first come together back in 1981?
Derek and I got to be friends. We did a lot of touring with Ted Nugent back in the ’70s. We were hanging out a lot, and the result of that turned into some song ideas. We thought we had a record, and that’s what happened.
St. Holmes: Brad was getting tired of all the crazy shenanigans in Aerosmith. He finally said, “I’m quitting the band.” At that time, we had the same management company and they wanted to put us together and thought they could get a deal with Columbia Records. We were friends for a long time. I had quit Ted Nugent’s band and was doing a solo band. The solo band fell apart because a couple of the guys had moved. Disco had just hit and Prince’s album had just come out. We were on the same label, and the whole label jumped behind Prince’s album. At the same time, Ted had called me up and asked me to come back and do a record with me. At the same time, Aerosmith and Joe Perry and Brad got back together. It was a natural thing. Everyone went back to their respective bands. That’s why we lost touch for 34 years. We’ve always remained friends.

What prompted you to put the band back together again?
Thirty-five years later, we end up living in the same town. I was living in Boston and Derek was in Atlanta. Then, he was in Chicago, and I was in Charlotte. Now, we live in the same town in Tennessee so we just started creating a lot of music.
St. Holmes: Aerosmith has it wound down to where they do one show and take four days off. By the time they get to the end of a two month tour, they’re exhausted from sitting around and doing nothing. They took a hiatus and Brad wanted to move. I told him to come Nashville. I had been here for a couple of years. Plus, his son was already living here and loving it. He came and checked out and bought a house and we started hanging out and getting coffee at the local Starbucks. We went back to his place where there were acoustic guitars laying around. One thing led to another. He started to show me his ideas he had pent up and I showed him mine and we started to put these songs together.

How’d you go about recruiting the other band members?
Our bass player [Chopper Anderson] is a local guy who’s one of the first guys I met when I moved to Tennessee. He’s a brilliant bass player. He’s done a lot of session work in Nashville. He’s toured extensively with Reba McEntire. He’s a well-rounded bass player who can play anything. All the guys in this band — in their heart, they want to be a rock and roll. This is a good home for us. We tried out different drummers and we got Troy [Luccketta] in there and he just made it all come together.
St. Holmes: It came together pretty quick. It’s funny because it’s 50/50 rock people and country people in Nashville. Everybody loves everybody. The country guys are so enamored when they meet us and likewise. When I got a chance to meet Vince Gill, it was so exciting. It’s a mutual love society. There’s a lot of rock n roll here. A lot of rock guys are coming here and the young kids are putting together a new style of music that will come out of this part of the country. We’ve seen some of the singers on The Voice. Some of them are people you go see anytime downtown. There’s a big scene coming out of here. If you hit every bar on Broadway and you’re a musician, you either say one of two things. You either say, “I’m going to stop playing” or “I need to go home and practice.” Every one of those guys is better. They’re incredible players.

What was the songwriting process like?
We co-wrote all the material and worked it out at home and at rehearsal. Two of the songs were written the first day in the studio. We work really well together. Derek and I work really well together, and the band works really well together. It’s a lot of fun. Sometimes, this process can be a whole other animal. With Aerosmith, there’s lots of writing and rehearsing. In the studio with Aerosmith is sometimes a tedious process. With this band we just do it. We have fun doing it. We work hard and fast. It’s a place where we can all stretch out and let ideas flow.
St. Holmes: Sometimes, Brad will have 75 percent of the song done and sometimes he’ll have 50 and sometimes he’ll have 25. He likes to leave it where he can go, “What do you think?” There are only two songs that I already had done but I wanted Brad’s flavor on it. We usually come up with ideas that we would have done in Nugent and Aerosmith. Let’s take a 1969 or 1970s approach and think about when we heard the first Stones or Who record and how that got us excited.

Was it different this time around?
Not a whole lot. With the first record, we had the recording done in two weeks, and we had the last one done in two weeks.
St. Holmes: This time, we’re not blatantly trying to prove ourselves to anyone. On the first one, we wanted to go, “Hey Ted, check this out. We did this without you.” “Hey Steven Tyler, we did this without you.” Unless you see an Aerosmith show, you don’t know that Brad plays a lot of the cool guitar parts that everyone thinks is Joe Perry. I’m not saying anything against Joe. He is fricking incredible. He is awesome. I would have loved to have had Joe on this album. In the future, maybe we can do that.

What was the recording experience like?
In Nashville, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a studio. The Castle Studios is a great studio. It’s right in the town I live in. We got fortunate because the guy who runs the studio over there, he recorded and mixed the record for us. It’s right up his alley. He did a fabulous job.
St. Holmes: The Castle was fantastic. We wanted something with big rooms to get that Led Zeppelin kind of thing. We approached it that way. We wanted big drum sounds and then wanted to put everything around it. How apropos is it to record at a place called the Castle? It is a castle. It’s a mini castle built in the Roaring Twenties by Al Capone.

Why do you work so well together?
I’m not sure what it is. I think when it comes to a songwriting team or any kind of writing team, you have to be very generous and open and honest. We have all the right qualities that allow us to write well together. Probably the best songwriting experience I’ve ever had has been with Derek. It’s a rare commodity. I’ve played with a lot of people, and songwriting doesn’t happen with everybody. The way we write, it’s just easy to write. It’s not a difficult process at all. We just take advantage of it.
St. Holmes: We listen to each other, we respect each other and we love each other. That’s the bottom line.

Do you share the same taste in music?
Oh yes. I’ll always be a lover of hard rock and blues. That’s never going to go away. That’s where this stuff comes from and when I started getting into music as a teenager, it was all about Zeppelin and Cream and Hendrix. That’s the stuff I’m drawn to. It’s amazing that classic rock is still such a strong medium.
St. Holmes: We’re cut from the same cloth. His birthday is February 23 and mine is February 24. We’re Pisces. Sometimes, we show up and have the same colors on and it’s so wacky. I think it’s some of sort of Zodiac weirdness. We love the same kind of music and that makes it easy.

What do you think touring with Whitesnake will be like?
I think it will be a lot of fun. It will put us in front of larger audiences. We did a short tour in the fall and had a great time. I think this will be a lot of fun. We don’t have to do an entire show. We’ll play 45 minutes. We’ll play almost entirely songs from the new album. We did that in the fall and people really enjoyed it. Sometimes, it’s hard to do that with stuff people have never heard before. The music is very accessible. It’s good old fashioned straight up rock.
St. Holmes: I think it’s going to be awesome. I played on the same stage with [singer David Coverdale] when he was in Deep Purple because we did a lot of Ted Nugent and Deep Purple shows. Other than Robert Plant, he’s one of my favorite singers. I’m looking forward to seeing him sing every night.

I hope “Sharpshooter” still finds its way into the set.
We usually play that. We try to play that one every night.
St. Holmes: I think if anything, we’ll do “sharpshooter.” We won’t have time to go backwards. We’re going to run the new album in the same order live as the album. In the end, we’ll give a taste to Nugent and Aerosmith with a medley we worked up so nobody goes away mad that we didn’t do any of that.

Any good memories of visiting Cleveland?
We’ve had some fun evenings. It’s funny that the Midwest seems to have less of a filter going on than the East Coast and West Coast. They still love rock ’n’ roll. It’s a great feeling to play the Midwest and get that sensation. It’s like, “We love it and we always have loved it. We don’t care about what else is going on musically.”
St. Holmes: I do remember just showing up and Ted was playing in front of the Rock Hall. I just happened to be there with my girlfriend. We were just checking it out. We decided to see his show, and the crew saw us and brought us backstage. We got up there and played in front of a crowd in Cleveland that was three to four times the size they thought it was going to be. We did five tunes. It was the beginning of the coming back with him. It was kind of wild. It was magical. Anybody that knows Spinal Tap knows it’s “hello Cleveland.” Cleveland is great. I’ve been playing the Agora since 1974. I love it. Cleveland people get it, man.

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