DEF LEPPARD Guitarist: 'We Still Have Real Energy Together And Fans Who Love What We Do'

Ted Drozdowski of Gibson.com recently conducted an interview with DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Gibson.com: DEF LEPPARD have performed with Taylor Swift on "Crossroads", and Tim McGraw appeared on the band's 2008 album "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge", singing on the hit "Nine Lives". How did those collaborations occur?

Collen: We read that Taylor Swift said DEF LEPPARD was her favorite band and that if she appeared on "Crossroads", she'd want to do the show with us, so what's how that happened. With Tim, there's a slightly longer story. The brother of Rick Allen, our drummer, is Tim McGraw's road manager. Rick has played with Tim and Faith Hill a few times, and Tim said it would be great to work with us. Later, I met him at a Hollywood Bowl show in L.A. and in about 35 seconds I told him I had an idea for a number, and that became "Nine Lives".

Gibson.com: Did you ever imagine, with your history in rock, you'd be writing country songs?

Collen: It's trippy, really. But when C.J. and I get together and set up a keyboard and an electric or acoustic guitar, that's what naturally comes out. It's been that way since we wrote our first song together six years ago. The songs almost always end up being story-based, and that's country.

Writing anything with C.J. is fun. First of all, he's such a great musician and he has so many ideas for songs and chord changes that when we're together the music just flows. And he's always working on something cool. He's composed music for all kinds of movies (including "A Mighty Wind", "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman", directed by Christopher Guest), co-written songs with the likes of Lamont Dozier and played with tons of great musicians like Tina Turner, Steve Vai, Deborah Harry, Jimmy Buffett and the list just goes on. I can't really sing country songs, so one of our missions in Nashville is finding other people to perform them. When I try to sing country it ends up sounding like Lyle Lovett — a bit more blues inflected.

Gibson.com: What's happening with DEF LEPPARD? Are you writing for a new album?

Collen: I am a writing machine at the moment — writing songs with C.J. and for my other band MAN RAZE, which some people say is a cross between THE POLICE and the FOO FIGHTERS. It's an alternative rock band, and we are going to be recording our second album. We've pretty much written all the songs. We just need to figure out when we can get together and record them. We've got about 20 songs written and need to winnow the list down. I love playing in that band because it lets me really rock out in a different context from DEF LEPPARD and maybe play things a little looser. We can jam and go in all kinds of different directions. Some of the songs are never played the same way twice. It's impossible to do that with DEF LEPPARD because we have a lot of backing vocals and distinctive bridges that require changes in harmony singing and that kind of thing.

I get really busy next week because we start working on DEF LEPPARD again. We'll be collaborating from different places, putting together songs. Usually we try to find a theme for an album, but this time we've been coming up with all kinds of ideas and we're going to be incorporating all of them. So it'll be a nice variety.

With a DEF LEPPARD tour coming up next year, we need to get our next album together and recorded. In the old days, you toured to sell records. Today you make albums to tour. Once we hit the road it becomes a well-oiled machine and there's little time for anything else. But it's always great to be back out playing with the band again. We've been together for quite a long time now, and we still have real energy together and fans who love what we do. That's really cool!

Read the entire interview at Gibson.com.

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