This week in Prague and Brno the English singer Chris Norman, founding and long-time member of the popular band Smokie, will be performing. His concert in the Brno DRFG Arena will be on Saturday 6 October and he will perform at the Prague Forum Karlín two days earlier.
In the mid 80’s you left Smokie and decided to pursue a solo career. With hindsight, do you regard this choice as the right one?
Yes, in 1986 I decided to leave Smokie and perform as a solo singer. With hindsight, I see this as a good choice and I am happy with the way things went. As a solo singer you can control your career, you are free to do what you want to do and what you don’t, you can choose who you’re going to cooperate with. I see that as a great advantage.
You have inspired several generations of younger musicians and singers. Do you follow what’s new on the scene? Who have you found interesting in the past few years?
Yes, I do follow it. For example, when I drive I love to turn the radio on and listen to young artists. Ed Sheeran is very talented, I like Adele… Generally, these days there’s a lot of talented young artists. I also listen to different music styles.
This year you brought out your new studio album Don’t Knock The Rock. How was it created?
The title song Don’t Knock The Rock is one of the first that I wrote. I had had the main riff for a long time, but it took a while to build the whole song. Sometime at the end of 2016 I decided to create a whole album around it. That was when I began writing most of the songs. I wrote eighteen or twenty and then I chose the ones I liked most, and which went with the concept of the album. It wasn’t meant to be a purely rock album, but at the same time I wanted to keep the spirit of rock and roll – if only because of the name. Thus I also used ballads in my concept, but only when they included a guitar solo or some other element which we connect with a rock song. I then connected the songs into a meaningful whole, finished writing a few things and went to record the album in the studio.
You publish something almost every year, be it a classic album or a compilation. What do you do so you don’t repeat yourself?
I always start writing new songs about a year and a half to two years after I publish an album. I don’t really think about the problem of repeating myself. When I write a song that I like, I feel satisfied. I say to myself: “That’s a good song, I’m going to record that on my next album”. Really, I should already be thinking about my next album, but that is going to take longer this time, because I’m currently working on several projects. For example, I’m preparing a selection of hits that will be called The Definitive Solo Smokie Hits that will be coming out before Christmas. It won’t be a studio novelty, rather a compilation. And then I will take a small break before the next album.
You started singing at a very young age. Do you have a recipe for keeping your voice in good condition?
I don’t do anything with my voice. I just play and sing, but I regard singing as my practice. Really, I keep in condition by singing constantly. At the moment, my voice is fine and I hope it will stay that way. I don’t know what I would do otherwise.
How important are your songs’ lyrics for you? And do you have any favourite topic?
I don’t have one favourite topic, but texts are generally very important for me. Of course I release albums in countries where they don’t speak English and where people don’t really understand what the songs are about. But they should get at least the basic feeling of the song. But lyrics are really very important for me. They can be about something I know, or about something I’ve only heard of. In any case, I try to make my texts sound good and not stupid. I don’t know if I do it well, but at least I try.
How do you choose your accompanying musicians for your albums and tours?
On tour, I play with my permanent band, with which I have played in the past few years. They’re amazing musicians – the guitar is played by the brilliant English player Geoff Carline, then I have musicians from Germany, sometimes players from Italy. It’s a real mix of musicians that I’ve known for a long time, who know me personally and know my music. When I record an album, I invite them to the studio or I record a lot of the material myself. On Don't Knock The Rock I play a lot of the instruments myself, but I also have Geoff Carline on the guitar and Dorin Goldbrunner on the drums. I also have strings in some of my songs and I also invited my accompanying vocalist Michelle Plum for some work. So I tend to choose my co-players to fit my current project.
This week you will be performing in Brno and Prague. Will you be playing songs from your new album or will it be the old hits?
It will be a mix of old and new songs. I’ll certainly be playing something from the newest album, then some hits by Smokie. I usually alternate – two or three solo songs, two or three by Smokie. I choose songs from the 70’s and 80’s and newer ones, sometimes completely new. So everyone has a chance to hear what they haven’t yet heard.