FOREIGNER's KELLY HANSEN: 'I Have To Give Up Something Every Year In Order To Maintain The Status Quo Of My Vocal Quality'March 5, 2023
FOREIGNER lead singer Kelly Hansen spoke to FOX17 Rock & Review about the legendary rockers' recent announcement that they were embarking on their farewell tour. The trek is set to launch on July 6 at Atlanta's Ameris Bank Amphitheatre. For the first leg of the U.S. Live Nation-produced tour, FOREIGNER will be joined by LOVERBOY.
Hansen said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I wanna be clear: I have so much gratitude for all people who have supported this band over the decades and have been there unrelentingly. And I just love that, and I want to honor that by not continuing to go on in a way where I can't perform these songs the way they need to be [performed]. It's really hard to sing these songs, and it gets harder every year… There are hard songs to sing when you're young. And I'm gonna be 62 in a month, and it seems like I have to give up something every year in order to maintain the status quo of my vocal quality. And I do that, and I get it and I appreciate it, but I don't wanna be in a position where I've seen other musicians where I look at them or I see a show and I kind of go, 'Wow, that's really disappointing.' I have no desire for that. I have no need to do that. I don't crave somehow the spotlight or adulation or something that makes me do it way beyond where I should. I want this band to go out on top with these songs being strong and the delivery being strong and that be the memory — not something lesser than it should be."
Last month, Hansen told Boomerocity about FOREIGNER's final tour: "We have never taken this for granted, and we understand how fortunate we've all been to be able to have this ride together. That is not lost on us. And the sweetness of us being together with an audience on stage is something that I'm gonna miss. And I'm sure there might be some special events or something like this or that, but this idea of touring nine months a year is the thing that's going to come to a close."
Kelly continued: "Some people say, 'Well, why don't you just go and do four weeks during the summer, every summer or whatever?' The issue with that is that the crew and the band all have to somehow make a living… The band and crew can't do nothing and then all come back together just for four weeks. So everyone has to take on other things. So that means that the way we work now… The way we work now is we do eight, nine months a year, and we can keep everybody together and doing stuff, because we're all really putting in a lot of energy and working and stuff, so it's enough to sustain everybody. But if you just limit it to a couple of weeks or a few weeks, all of a sudden you're gonna have to be using different people. Are you gonna have different musicians? And then the complexion completely changes, and it's not the way I envision it… 'Cause if the year starts in March, it's hard to go, 'Oh, I'm gonna be free for a month in the summer.' You're probably gonna be working with whoever you're working with, and that's kind of the way it goes."
Hansen added: "It's been a very hard and long-thought-out process about making this decision. And for me, I want to live a life and enjoy my family and my friends and spend time with my wife and be able to soak up life. Because, you know what? For the last 40 years or my life, I don't come home from work at five in the afternoon or five in the evening and hang out at home; I'm on the road. And I've done this for 46 years — something like that; 43 or 46 years. So I think it's not unfair for me to say it might be nice to enjoy things before it's too hard to enjoy them anymore."
In a separate interview, Kelly was asked by the 96.1 KLPX radio station what led to FOREIGNER's decision to stage what is being billed as the band's last-ever run of shows. He said: "One of my things that was important to me is that I not be out there doing these songs that I shouldn't really be doing anymore 'cause I can't do them anymore. I wanna do these songs justice and deliver them strong and vibrant and then quit while we're ahead like that. I've seen far too many people who are — for probably many different reasons — still out there when maybe they shouldn't be. And I guess everyone has their own view of their vanity, whether it's visually or instrumentally or vocally, and I think that we're really at a peak right now. It's getting harder and harder to do this really difficult, challenging but wonderful catalog of songs every year, and I just wanna do them right. And I don't wanna start having to do less of them right."
Asked about his post-FOREIGNER plans, Kelly said: "I have a lot to do before this winds up. I just got married over two years ago, and I look forward to spending time with my wife and family and making plans for what is the next step in our future. Because I have other interests; I wanna do other things. I have not yet decided what musical things I might be interested in or doing. But I definitely have a life focus in front of me first. Because I've been doing this for 18, almost 19 years, every year for nine months a year, not having much of a home life. And there comes a point in time where you say, 'Listen, I wanna just have a life.' And when we had COVID, I saw the seasons change for the first time at my house. And I'd never experienced that before. And it kind of makes you think about things."
Hansen previously discussed FOREIGNER's farewell tour in January in an interview with Rob Rush Radio. Asked if this is indeed FOREIGNER's last-ever trek, Hansen said: "Our plan is to do this into 2024. I've been asked many times by many different people to continue doing this. And, really, for me, it's a matter of being able to perform these songs at the level they deserve and that the fans deserve, and I cannot allow myself to do less than that, just as a human being.
"It's gotten tougher and tougher every year to sing this great catalog of songs," he admitted. "And it maybe sounds like I'm whining. I'm not trying to whine; I'm really fortunate to be able to have done this and do this with the band. It's just I don't wanna sacrifice the quality of these songs and the performance of these songs. So I think it's better to say, 'You know what? I'm gonna leave here strong and let the memory of this live thing be strong as well."
Asked what he will miss the most about touring with FOREIGNER, Kelly said: "Amazing crowds and amazing band. I mean, what a great band with people that we all enjoy being around each other. We enjoy each other's company, and playing a catalog of songs that you couldn't dream of, you couldn't buy. And as a singer, to sing so many hits songs — from the start of the show to the end of the show, there's no fluff or filler — and that's just a dream to have happen. And so I'm gonna miss all that. And it's been a hard decision to make, but I think you have to get on to these things early and make sure you're doing the right thing. I've seen far too many other live entities happen that I really feel shouldn't be out there anymore."
When FOREIGNER's final tour was first announced last November, the band's leader and founder Mick Jones said: "Many years ago, I wrote a song called 'Feels Like The First Time', and today we are launching one last worldwide tour. We will be presenting a show that I know will have the same enthusiasm as our very first appearances. The tour will start this summer in America and we hope to get to every place that we have played over the last several years. While I'm sure our fans will have mixed feelings about the end of the road for the band, I know our shows are going to delight audiences everywhere."
Jones continues to elevate FOREIGNER's influence and guide the band to new horizons with his stylistic songwriting, indelible guitar hooks and multi-layered talents while Hansen, one of rock's greatest showmen, has led FOREIGNER into the digital age inspiring a whole new generation of fans. Bassist Jeff Pilson, Michael Bluestein on keyboards, guitarist Bruce Watson, Chris Frazier on drums and guitarist Luis Maldonado provide an unprecedented level of energy that has resulted in the re-emergence of the astounding music that speaks to FOREIGNER's enduring popularity. FOREIGNER has an extraordinary streaming and radio audience.
With more Top 10 hits than JOURNEY and ten multi-platinum albums, FOREIGNER is universally hailed as one of the most popular rock acts in the world with a formidable musical arsenal that continues to propel sold-out tours and album sales, now exceeding 80 million. Responsible for some of rock and roll's most enduring anthems, including "Juke Box Hero", "Cold As Ice", "Hot Blooded", "Waiting For A Girl Like You", "Feels Like The First Time", "Urgent", "Head Games", "Say You Will", "Dirty White Boy", "Long, Long Way From Home" and the worldwide No. 1 hit "I Want To Know What Love Is", FOREIGNER still rocks the charts more than 40 years into the game with massive airplay and continued Billboard Top 200 album success. Streams of FOREIGNER's hits are approaching 15 million per week.
The only remaining original member of FOREIGNER, Jones suffered from some health issues beginning in 2011, eventually resulting in heart surgery in 2012. Ever since, it is never announced whether he will be appearing with the band for specific shows — it just depends how he is feeling.
After singer Lou Gramm left FOREIGNER in 2003, Jones took some time off before regrouping a couple years later with an entirely new lineup, featuring Hansen and Pilson, among others.
In 2018, Gramm revealed that he was retiring from touring as a solo artist. The vocalist made the announcement just months after he participated in FOREIGNER's "Double Vision: Then And Now" concerts, which featured current and original members of the band, including Jones, drummer Dennis Elliott, keyboardist Al Greenwood, bassist Rick Wills and guitarist/saxophonist Ian McDonald.
Gramm was the voice on FOREIGNER's biggest hits, including "Feels Like The First Time" and "Cold As Ice" from the band's eponymous debut in 1977, and later songs like "Hot Blooded" and "I Want To Know What Love Is".
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