Richie Kotzen

Waterfront, Norwich.

Richie Kotzen

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Doors 6PM
Curfew 10PM

Richie Kotzen has never been an artist known for playing by the rules. And for this everadventurous
triple-threat songwriter/guitarist/vocalist, that meant putting on the brakes
after a nonstop flurry of band-related activity in order to refuel the creative process for
the ten heartfelt and hard-hitting songs that comprise his vibrant new solo album,
Salting Earth, out April 14 via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc. In other words,
Kotzen tossed convention on its ear by actually taking one step back in order to move
two steps forward. "It's something I really needed to do in order to reset myself," Kotzen
Kotzen's "charge to recharge" was officially put into play following the mega-success of
the 2015-16 tour behind his band The Winery Dogs' sophomore effort, the oh-soappropriately
named Hot Streak. And the man's reset manifesto wound up hitting all the
right buttons too. The proof is on display deep within the grooves of Salting Earth, which
veers from the balls-out, heads-up declaration of the opening track "End of Earth" to the
burning-sky harmonic thrust of "Thunder" to the Prince-like funk-jazz swing of "This Is
Life" to the acoustified take-me-as-I-am self-reflection of the album's final song,
Once Kotzen caught his creative breath, the ideas for Salting Earth just kept on acoming.
"I have a theory about writer's block," he offers. "Basically, I don't believe in it.
In my experience, when I don't feel inspired or I don't have any ideas, it equates to not
having any output. In order to have output, you need input. So it really comes down to
the balance between your artistic side and your life side. You need balance between the
two, and that's why it's so important for me to take long breaks from music."
Kotzen's reaffirming commitment to that life/work balance soon begat vibrant, new
music. "It's in that time when I'm away from it where ideas begin to take shape," he
continues. "Then, when I find myself coming back to music, I end up in a situation with a
wealth of ideas and creative energy. When I'm in that zone, the music literally writes
itself. Lyrics, music, production, performance - it all happens simultaneously on its
The majority of Salting Earth is the result of Kotzen's one-man production machine, with
the exception of Julia Lage adding background vocals to "Make It Easy," a tasty, singalong
groove stew. "It's really not deliberate when the record is finished and suddenly
I'm the only performer on it," Kotzen admits. "It actually comes out of my process of
writing and documenting my ideas. It started back in the late-'80s when I had a
makeshift studio in my parents' barn. I grew up fairly isolated, and I soon realized in
order to get this music out of my head and onto a format where I could listen to it, I'd
have to figure out how to do it alone."
Part of Kotzen's Salting Earth reset process also meant having a commitment to
challenge himself. "I'm not sure I can totally define how or why my creative process
works the way it does, but I will say once again that I believe long breaks help me stay
inspired musically," he reiterates. "I do know that on this record, I wrote a lot more on
the piano. The song 'My Rock,' for example, has absolutely no guitar in the recording -
it's just piano, bass, drums, and vocals. Not that that is an odd choice, but being that for
most of my career I've been highlighted as a guitarist, I suppose for people who never
bought one of my CDs in the past, this would be surprising. But it's not so surprising to
For the artist within, the music mined for Salting Earth ultimately came down to being
about the relationship between song and vocal. "That's really it," Kotzen agrees. "Every
other choice is made based on what I feel suits the composition and what will support
the lead vocal. That is the foundation on how my music is built. I suppose it's just how I
hear things. If you think about it, when your mind hums a tune, you are humming the
melody. When you sing 'Happy Birthday,' you don't sing the drumbeat, do you?"
Kotzen's previous solo release, 2015's diverse, far-reaching Cannibals, was a wellreceived
hit among his core fan base, and Salting Earth cuts like the aforementioned
"End of Earth," "Thunder," and "Divine Power" all showcase the scorching guitar solos
and soaring vocals that one would expect from a Kotzen solo album. That said, there's
also quite a vulnerable side on display here that's perhaps best demonstrated in the
stripped-down approach to the album's closing salvo, "Grammy."
"That song came to me in the oddest way at the most inconvenient time," Kotzen
reveals of the track that can be filed in the "first thought, best thought" category. One
night when he was home alone, "I basically woke myself up with the chorus melody in
my head, and in my haze, I knew that if I didn't at least record the idea, it would be
forever lost," Kotzen explains. "I ended up programming a simple drum beat, and then
recorded the acoustic guitar. The lyrics pretty much wrote themselves. By 6 in the
morning, the song was finished. I was going to do more overdubs, but I kept playing it
over and over, and I just felt like there was something so personal coming out of the
speakers. By messing with it, I'd likely destroy the magic - so I left it as it is." (Good
call on that one, Richie!)
Bringing Salting Earth live to the people is Kotzen's next holy mission. "My real outlet is
touring - playing live as much as I can, wherever I can, whenever I can," he says
enthusiastically. "It's one of the few things you can't copy, steal, or download. It's an
engaging human experience that's a give-and-take between both the performer and the
audience, and there is nothing else like it on this earth."
To that end, Kotzen will launch his Salting Earth Tour on April 21 at The Canyon Club in
Agoura Hills, California, and then the man and his band will tour extensively throughout
the United States and continue their journey into Mexico, South America, and Europe.
Further tour details will be posted on Kotzen's official website,,
and additional information regarding upcoming shows and releases can be followed on
Twitter (@Richie_Kotzen) and Instagram (@richie_kotzen).
Kotzen is clearly eager to hit the road. "I know this is going to be a long album cycle of
touring, and already we are talking about going to places I've never been before - like
Australia, for example," Kotzen notes. "With the new record being done and knowing
dates are being booked around the world, I can feel my creative energy surging once
Said energy surge has been seeded quite liberally all throughout Salting Earth, an
album that shows Kotzen as the pillar for how to harness newfound creativity in the best
light imaginable. Come and dig his Earth.