Something Else! Interview: Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp

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At the turn of the 1980s, Roger Hodgson and Supertramp were coming off a blockbuster album in Breakfast in America that had just spent 15 weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. By the end of the decade, he was out of music.

There had been an on-again, off-again solo career, begun just four years after that 1979 smash — but it had only amounted to a pair of studio efforts before this terrifying accident left the guitarist with two broken wrists, deep questions about whether he’d ever play again, and a newfound focus on constructing a family life away from stardom.

Time passed, people forgot. By the time the man who once sang a song called “The Long Way Home” finally began taking the long way back to fame in the early 2000s, he had become an apparition. Supertramp, now led by former writing partner Rick Davies, continued on without Hodgson in the interim — and many overlooked the contributions he’d once made.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Every one remembers Supertramp’s hit-making era in the late 1970s. There were other times, however, when we wanted to tell them: “goodbye, stranger.”]

Through a series of tours, first as a sideman in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr band, then on lengthening concert trips, Hodgson doggedly worked to re-establish his own name. All that was left, ironically, was to reconquer America — a place he hadn’t toured as a solo act since 1983, and a place he’d long since called home.

Hodgson joined us in the latest SER Sitdown to talk about that continuing U.S. tour, as well as key moments from his career in Supertramp — and how that devastating injury helped reshape his life, and his career …

NICK DERISO: Let’s start by talking about the new tour, a long-awaited opportunity for you to reestablish your own place in the Supertramp legend.
ROGER HODGSON: You’re right. I’m so happy to be doing a U.S. tour. I’ve toured the last eight years everywhere else, but America. My biggest challenge was, obviously, connecting the dots — because everyone knows my voice and knows my songs, but they don’t know the name. I had become less familiar to them. It’s going very well. People are very, very happy to see me. They don’t have to travel abroad to hear these songs. I’m having the time of my life. It’s great to play my home country. I’m enduring the rigors of touring because, really, I love what I’m doing — giving people what I can through these songs, and through the love that I have for them. I’ll keep going as long as I can.

NICK DERISO: Why is Supertramp so underrated? When people talk about the decade of music in the 1970s, the band doesn’t seem to get its due. Yet, the Breakfast in America album was a certified blockbuster, and the songs themselves continue to resonate.
ROGER HODGSON: I know it’s not underrated with the fans, and those who really get it on a deep level. But I never really paid attention, in Supertramp or even after, to what was in vogue or what was in fashion. I always steered the band in the way I thought it wanted to go, in the direction the songs were suggesting. In that sense, the critics never knew what to do with us. We weren’t a band that had major scandals to write about. We weren’t a band that had major problems to write about. It was really just about the music, and the artistry surrounding that music. Unfortunately, that can sometimes become boring for those in the media.

[ONE TRACK MIND: Former Supertramp frontman Roger Hodgson goes in-depth on cuts from throughout his career, including “Give a Little Bit,” “Fool’s Overture,” and “The Logical Song,” among others.]

NICK DERISO: The Wurlitzer played a central role in many of your compositions with Supertramp, including hits like “The Logical Song” and “Dreamer.” What was the appeal of the instrument for you?
ROGER HODGSON: I’ve always had a very percussive keyboard style. The action on the Wurlitzer really lends itself to being percussive and rhythmical. The Fender Rhodes is the other electric piano, and you can’t do that. So, the Wurlitzer, we were very drawn to it. There was “Dreamer,” and “The Logical Song” and, actually, many others on that instrument. It has a wonderful feel to it.

NICK DERISO: Maybe it was the timing of the track, coming as it did toward the end of your tenure with Supertramp, but it always seemed to me that “Take the Long Way Home” was a kind of indictment for fame – or at the very least, a moment to reminisce about earlier, happier times.
ROGER HODGSON: That’s one of the messages, definitely. It is very much about losing one’s way, and taking the long the way home — on different levels. There’s the domestic level, with the wife, and also it’s taking the long way home toward who we truly are, in our hearts. It’s a song with many levels to it.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Supertramp was many things in its time — art-rockish proggers, post-Beatle popsters, kinda-classical rockers, memory-defining radio monoliths. What they never were: Forgettable.]

NICK DERISO: I remember you endured a catastrophic injury just after the 1987 solo record. What did it take for you to come back from breaking both wrists? Were there times when it felt like it would be too much overcome?
ROGER HODGSON: It was a huge life change for me. It was very sobering — and enlightening, in a way — to face life where maybe I couldn’t play music again. I spent three months in casts, not knowing if that was going to be true, and then 10 months of recovery. It was a huge wake up call, on a lot of levels, for me. It stopped me taking anything for granted. But it also really instigated a huge transformation in my being: I felt like I wanted to get back to the last part of what I was here for — to share music. I wanted to do that again. It took a lot of prayer, intention and determination, and absolute commitment to making my wrists work again. It took a long time, but I was finally able to do it.

NICK DERISO: Your solo career has been marked by starts and stops — with that, of course, being one of them. But this U.S. tour seems to suggest that you’re ready to make another go of it. Can we expect new songs soon?
ROGER HODGSON: I’m taking it a year at a time. I have so much material, you wouldn’t believe it, for a new album — if and when that happens. Right now, I’m just really reconnecting with the fans and reconnecting with the public, and reestablishing myself in my own right. I feel older and wiser, and I’m singing much better. I’m definitely in the prime of my life. The live shows are really what’s pulling me, what’s feeding me. That’s what I’m feeling like I need to do. I am doing new songs and if fans want to hear them, they will hear one or two of them in the live show. But fans have such a deep relationship with the older songs, the ones they’ve been listening to for 30 years. They hold so many memories for them. I can fill a two-hour show with all of the songs that people want to hear already!

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Great interview! That’s the kind of articles I like to read, good questions and good answers. We can learn a little bit more about his feelings, thoughts, very interesting always what he tell us, how much we can learn from his strength.

    I’ve been always a huge fan of Roger, even in Supertramp times. It was his voice and songs that introduce me in the band and made me love the whole ST work.
    I think, all Supertramp fans are very fortunate to can enjoy Roger’s shows, they are so powerful!!! Because, when you attend to one of his concerts, you feel you have to see him once and another, no matter how far you have to travel. It’s worth!!!
    I haven’t seen ever such communication between Artist and his audience, as Roger does, all the feelings you can experienced: It’s a thrill, a blast, chills and goosebumps, all at the same time…

    I love all Roger’s songs, the classics and this collection of not well known songs from his solo work, after Supertramp. But, I think, it would be great to have a new album, with new songs, if we have to buy them one by one, through i-Tunes, or through his website, be sure, we’ll do it 😉

  • Spike

    Great interview! I’m a huge Roger Hodgson fan and love learning about his life and music!

    I’ve been to several of his concerts and they are just amazing! He’s better now than ever before and the band he’s performing with is better than Supertramp was! He’s really put a great group together! It’s so obvious how much fun they are having and you can’t help but share that joy with them! Go to a concert! You will sing, dance, laugh and cry. All at the same time!

  • Candy

    Very good article, Nick!

    There is no doubt that Roger was the main composer of the great successes of the band at the time when it belonged to her, thanks to his compositions million albums sold worldwide, and his voice and his songs were recognized by almost anyone anywhere in the world. The soul and spirit of Supertramp live, to offer the magic of the original sound of their songs ..

    Roger Hodgson returns to the stage with all the force of his music and all the energy of his heart. A treat for the senses, enjoy one of the universal geniuses in the history of music. With his magnificen­t repertoire­, his unmistakab­le voice, and musical quality, he will engrave an unforgetta­ble moment in your memory. If you want to increase your happiness, this is your show. It will create a totally positive feeling. I’m sure when the show is over, you’ll be thinking about the next one. Roger connects with his audiences in an extraordin­ary way. If your goal is to attend a show where there are no barriers between music and the heart, this is your show.

    The songs and music by Roger Hodgson, represent much in my over my life for over 30 years, timeless music, very popular today, few groups or artists reach this level. And that’s how they think many people around the world, these are the feelings about Roger people with his music and his person. Now we can enjoy his last great work in iTunes “Classics Live”, the songs were recorded in different countries of their live shows, Brazil, Norway, Venezuela, France and Germany. Great successes that we enjoy in your new Tour 2012 “Breakfast in America”, which will visit different countries worldwide, do not miss it !!

  • Mazcee

    So good to see Roger’s concerts being loved in his home country. Have seen Roger perform solo shows, with his fantastic band and with orchestra and choir. They are all special. Travel to see Roger’s performances if you have to, you won’t be disappointed. Hear all those songs that have been with you for over thirty years, sing your heart out, hug your neighbour and be filled with every emotion going. Now that’s a concert!

  • Karine FONTAL

    Very interesting review. Quite different from what we are used to about Roger Hodgson, lately. Going a bit deeper into analysis, far from the same old basic questions. Well… something else, hehe. Learning new things about my idol… Thanks!

  • guitar62player

    There does not seem to be enough words available to describe a Roger Hodgson concert experience.

    A Roger Hodgson performance is beyond description……from the minute he and the band hit the stage, it is ALL TO CLEAR he is there for the fans. Roger spends his time on stage connecting with his fans. He makes eye contact, points, responds to shout outs, laughs, giggles and last but not least “Smile continually”.

    Now, let’s talk about the voice that sounds better then ever and the musicality of all on the stage…. An evening with Roger Hodgson is time well spent….. Go, travel…..see Roger live. It will be an adventure that is life changing……..