Foghat’s Roger Earl talks about tour, new record, wine, and more

Although Foghat is in the middle of an extensive North American tour supporting their new album, Under the Influence, the band is planning a special record release party and performance at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City on September 21. In addition to special guests such as Savoy Brown guitarist Kim Simmond and former Buddy Guy guitarist Scott Holt, the evening will be an opportunity for fans to enjoy some of the Foghat Cellar Wines collection at the bar, where there will be a meet and greet with the band members.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” co-founding band member and drummer Roger Earl told this week. “About a month ago, I started writing a setlist. There’s going to be 5,6, maybe 7 people onstage at various times, so I want to put together a setlist that works so that we don’t start falling all over each other.”

Under the Influence debuted at #17 on the Billboard Hard Rock Album chart. The last time the legendary blues rock band charted on Billboard was in 1983, when Zig-Zag Walk peaked at #192 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Earl cherishes the support of both longtime and new fans. “They’ve supported us through everything. They supported this album. I’m not so sure I would’ve given up ten bucks to buy an album that’s not even recorded yet,” he said, laughing while explaining that the Pledgemusic campaign Foghat launched last year helped the band determine how many copies of the album to produce via their own label.

“We get a lot of young people now, like teenagers and 30-year-olds. I guess either older siblings or parents have turned them on to our music,” the iconic drummer remarked. Foghat was formed in England in 1971, and he is the only original member still with the band, as well as the only one to appear on all 17 albums.

Although classic rock fans tend to go to concerts to hear their favorite songs from a band’s early career, Foghat diehards have been remarkably receptive to the new songs that have become regulars on this tour. The album’s title track, “Knock It Off,” and “Hot Mama” are in the setlist. When Scott Holt joins the band onstage, “Upside of Lonely” is also included.

“I know from past experience that when I go to see a band and they say ‘Here’s a new song from our new album!’ and you go ‘Oh, dear,’” Earl said. “The fans have been great, they’ve been cheering [for the new songs]. The songs go down really well. They actually fit into the set.”

That should come as no surprise, since the album was conceived, written, and recorded as a sort of homage to the band members’ musical influences. “Blues. Rhythm and blues. Rock and roll. I guess there’s even a little bit of jazz tinge in there, with some of the attitude on songs,” he said, while praising producer Tom Hambridge’s work.

While Earl enjoys all of the songs on Under the Influence, “Upside of Lonely” is one of his favorites to perform. “I love playing with Scott Holt, who’s playing rhythm guitar and singing [on this song]. Kim Simmonds is also playing lead guitar on that,” the drummer said. “The first time I heard that song — Tom Hambridge wrote it — I was in Nashville and there’s a club there called The Bluebird. Basically, songwriters get in there and sit in the round, like four of them, and talk about their songs and play them. And that was the first time I heard ‘Upside of Lonely.’ It’s played like a slow blues song… I was talking to Scott and I said ‘Let’s try to have a Memphis kind of feel to it.’ And I think it worked.”

He is eagerly looking forward to performing with Kim Simmonds, who gave Earl his first break as a professional musician with British blues rock band Savoy Brown in 1968. Foghat and Savoy Brown were featured bands on a Rock Legends cruise last year where the longtime friends wound up guesting on a few songs with each other’s bands. That gave Earl the idea to ask his old bandmate to play on Under the Influence. “It was a lot of fun reconnecting after all these years, because not all of us are around anymore,” he said.

Meanwhile, B.B. King’s is a favorite place for the legendary drummer to see some of his friends and musical influences perform. “I saw Jerry Lee Lewis there earlier this year. I’m a big Jerry Lee Lewis fan — in fact, I blame him for me getting into this business,” Earl recalled. “My father took me to see him when I was 13 years old, in South West London — at the Mitcham Majestic [Cinema, on July 14,1962] — and I was never the same. He was fantastic [at B.B. King’s last year], he played for well over an hour and he’s over 80 years old. He looked a little frail, but as soon as he sat down at the piano, everything changed.”

Despite the rigors of touring, Earl wouldn’t have it any other way: “The one thing I enjoy is playing. The guys in the band, and we have a great crew — we’re all good friends and we get on well. It’s the music that keeps you going. That hour and 15 minutes, hour and a half you get each night. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Tickets for the record release party at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (237 West 42 St) on Wednesday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. range from $35-$75 (booths can be reserved for $300 and $450) and are available here.