After nearly 40 years in the music business trenches, Great White lead singer Jack Russell has learned one thing – what comes around goes around, though some musical trends need a generation or two to make their impact felt again.
“It's really strange – 'cause I look at a lot of these shows that are all ages, and you see a lot of young kids,” said Russell. “I mean, you see eight-year-old kids wearing our T-shirts, down to their knees, you know? It's really uplifting; it's cool. I think we have another chance at starting to sell records again, hopefully.”
Russell has witnessed many such moments on this year's “Pirate's Life” tour. However, the South Bend stop is among a handful of unplugged shows that will feature Russell and guitarist Robby Lochner performing in a VH-1 “Storytellers” format.
The idea, as Russell explains, is offer to a peek behind the band known for classic '80s-era hits like “Rock Me,” “Save Your Love” and its version of the Ian Hunter song, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.”
“We're telling stories about the songs, stories that people have never heard before – and songs nobody's ever heard in that (acoustic) form,” said Russell. “It's really cool – we have a lot of fun doing it. And the crowd feels like they're really part of the show, you know?”
Work is underway on a new album that should be out later this year, and marks the formal bow of the band that Russell's fronted since 2011. (A court ruling allows the singer to tour as Jack Russell's Great White, while his ex-colleagues continue under the Great White banner.)
“It's coming along swimmingly – it's going to be a really, really balls-out record. I haven't done a record in a long, long time. Once we get the thing rolling, it's not going to take long,” he said.
One major ingredient in Russell's satisfied mindset is his current Great White lineup, which – unlike the classic '80s hitmaking version – gets along well personally.
“We're all really great friends. It's not like how things were before – we let the little things just start to eat us up,” said Russell. “I don't blame them (former colleagues) the for not wanting me to sing with the band – I get it. But the fact of the matter is, I'm sober, and I have been, for quite some time now.”
For Russell, the death of Warrant's lead singer, Jani Lane, gave him the wakeup call that he needed.
“Jani Lane died on the very night that I woke up from my last surgery,” recalled Russell. “Somebody told me, 'Oh, your friend died, you might want to think about quitting drinking.' That was the first day I got sober, 'cause I thought that we were invincible.”
Russell also sees the new album and unplugged shows as a way to tell another side to the story – since Great White are sometimes dismissed as one-hit ''80s hair metal merchants, though he always saw the band as hard rockers with a bluesy edge.
However, don't expect Russell to apologize for his '80s music role. “It was really a magic time back then, because we were doing stuff that we'd never done before,” said Russell. “And we're still doing it, to some degree, at this stage – still playing to big crowds, and some not so big. But the big thing is, we're moving forward.”
Whatever trends come in and go, Russell sees no substitute for self-belief. “When I was growing up, I told myself every day, 'I'm gonna be a rock star, I'm gonna be a rock star, I'm gonna be a rock star.' And, one day, there I was – and I wasn't surprised, because this is something I'd led myself to believe was gonna happen,” he said.