By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Although many may remember her as, "The Metal Queen," Canadian rock goddess, Lee Aaron, has triumphantly returned with an 11-song, rock/pop masterpiece entitled, 'Fire and Gasoline.' This is Aaron's first studio record in 12 years, and has her collaborating with all-star musician and best-selling author, Sean Kelly.
'Fire and Gasoline,' is an amazing comeback record, and is destined to put Lee Aaron back on the charts. All 11 tracks on this release are brilliantly crafted, clever, and radio-friendly, and deserve your immediate attention. This is truly one to crank up and roll down the windows to!
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with Lee Aaron.
Rock Music Star: I’ve listened to your new CD, ‘Fire and Gasoline,’ many, many times since I got the download last week. It’s good to hear some good fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. One thing that I found very interesting about this release is that you’re working with a friend of mine- Sean Kelly. How did you come about meeting Sean? In what ways did Sean influence you on writing this record?
LA: (Laughs) I’m curious to how you know Sean.
RMS: I worked with him, with his other band, Crash Kelly. He’s done a couple of shows for my website. I’ve interviewed him many times. He is a great guy.
LA: He’s a great guy; you’re right about that. On this album, Sean and I co-wrote five songs. The other six are written just by me. The way it came about was, Sean- I don’t know if you’re aware- he’s also an author. So, about three years ago, he was working on a book called, “Metal On Ice,” and it was a Canadian music history book about all of the hard rock, and mainstream rock bands that he loved, and he found influential to him in the mid-late 80s, and had been unfortunately somewhat neglected in most of the Canadian music history books. And so, the book that he wrote filled in a very important gap in that area of Canadian music history. So, him and I connected over the book, because he’d sent out a series of interview questions to me, and had asked if I’d be willing to answer them for the book. So, we connected that way, and he really liked my answers. His follow-up was like, “Wow, these are great answers. These aren’t what I was expecting from you.” We sort of connected that way. That led to a companion CD that went with the book, where he talked some of us into re-recording some of our hits, which then led to a concert. So, we sort of got to know each other quite well through that. That led to conversations, like he said, “If you ever need an East coast guitarist, I would just love to play in your band.” So, I hired him to play on a few shows that I was doing, and there was just such a great musical chemistry when working with Sean. He just seemed to really gel with the other members. He seemed to work so well with my bass player and drummer. We all got along so well. The conversation was just kind of like, “Well, you should join my band.” (Laughs) So, that led to, “We should write some songs.” That’s sort of how it came about. The writing process- Sean had some ideas on his phone. We were just in a dressing room one night, and I said, “Let me listen.” I listened to a few of his iPhone memos that he had just put down with an acoustic guitar. I said, “I kind of like that one. I don’t really like that one, but I like this one.” So, he demoed them up, just as a basic music track, and send them out to me. I wrote a vocal topline- lyrics and melody on top, changed the arrangement a little bit. So, that’s how we came up with a couple of songs. Three of the other tunes, he basically just sent me an iPhone memo of a riff, and I took it into my studio and wrote on top of that. Basically, they were just cool ideas. I know that, when we talked about writing, and he started working up some ideas, a few of the ideas that he sent me, I felt, almost sounded like he was trying too hard to write for Lee Aaron- they sounded a little bit like Lee Aaron cliché to me. So, I rejected them. I said, “I don’t know, this one sounds like I’m trying to make a ‘Bodyrock 2016,’ and that was not my intent on this album.” I’ve kind of, traditionally reinvented myself over and over again, even in the rock realm, somewhat in Canada. I was trying to be more fresh on this album. So, some of the ideas he sent me didn’t work out, but he’s always up for a really great challenge. It was really fun working with him.
RMS: As far as the record goes, I think it’s a really good collection of songs. I love the opening track, “Tomboy,” is just catchy as hell. Once you were finished with all of the songs, and you stepped back and listened to them, and put them in order, how gratifying was it, for you, to hear the finished product?
LA: Oh, very, very much so, for a couple of reasons. You know, in the past, when I had made records- certainly in the 80s and early 90s, when the giant corporate record industries still existed- every record that I did had this sort of stamp of whatever producer I was working with, if that makes sense. ‘Call of the Wild,’ I worked with Bob Ezrin, who was, obviously, one of the biggest producers in the world. Not that that’s bad. In fact, when I was young, it was a very big learning curve for me, to be working with some of these producers. Peter Coleman, who had produced quite a few Pat Benatar records, did my fourth album- my self-titled album. But, this was the first rock album where I wrote most of the material on my own, and actually produced the record myself. So, in terms of it being a vision that was very much uniquely mine, this album is more so that way than any other album I’ve ever made. To sit back and listen to that as a collection of work- to be honest with you, it’s one of the only albums, of my own, that I can listen to over and over again, and still feel satisfied with it. I don’t mean for that to sound egotistical in any way, but I think it’s more of a pure vision than any other record that I’ve made.
RMS: Listening to some of your other material, this seems to be your most complete and solid release. It seems like you have a lot of confidence on this one.
LA: That’s an interesting observation. Like I said, my only explanation for that is that, when I went in to make this record, I was feeling that, the only person I was really interested in pleasing was myself. Again, what can I say? Back in the 80s and early 90s, when the corporate record industry was alive and well, you were kind of operating under this umbrella where your record label was going, “Well, we’re spending a quarter of a million dollars to make this record, so we’re going to have some say in how this goes down.” And, rightfully so. If I was investing a huge amount of money in someone, I would want some say in how this goes down. But, to some degree, that was fairly influential in the songwriting process, and the production values of those albums. And, even how I was marketed. So, now that the record industry has completely fallen apart, I decided there were a couple of ways I was going to make another rock record. There were a couple of ways that I could do this. Crowdfunding was suggested to me, and when I looked at all of the crowdfunding platforms online, I was almost overwhelmed by it, because it just seemed like so much follow up I’d have to do. I’m going to have to send out fan packs after the album comes out. I’m going to have to do signed microphones, or whatever you’re offering.
RMS: Yeah, someone’s going to pay you $5,000 and you to play in their living room.
LA: It just seemed really complicated. And also, there’s tax implications if you do get a lot of money. And then, I thought, I don’t want to feel like I’m making a record because my fans are paying me to do it. So, I ended up opting out of that idea, and just deciding that I’m going to make a record that I want to make. I’m gonna go out and power tour, like I went out last summer. I did enough shows in the summer and banked enough money to put that record together. So, I didn’t feel like I was under the weight of anything else to have to do it. One of my feelings about the songwriting process was to not put any filters on myself. I didn’t want to put any parameters around myself for songwriting. I just thought, whatever comes out naturally, I’m just going to go with that. I’m going to write about subject matter that’s relevant for me right now. If my fans have grown up with me, that’s gonna be where they’re at now, too. Most of my audience- they’re not 20 anymore. These are people that have lived through trials and tribulations and parenthood, which is where I am at right now; my kids are 10 and 11. So, I wanted to write about things that were relevant for me. Does that make me more confident as a songwriter? I don’t really know, but it made the whole experience of writing very authentic for me, and that was really what I was hoping and aiming to do.
RMS: I think you accomplished your mission there. What are your promotion plans, right now? You played a lot of dates in Canada over the years. Are we going to see you in the United States anytime soon?
LA: Well, that would be great. In Canada, where I live, this is my biggest listenership, and my biggest record-buying audience, only because I spent years here, establishing myself. So, right now, things are really going well. We’re killing the Amazon top 20 best sellers for physical CDs. So, I think what the goal is, at this point, is to continue to do as much promotion as I can at sort of a grassroots sort of level in the US, to get a little bit of a ground flow going with this album, there. The first week the album came out, we sold a surprising number of records there, considering I had never had a release. So, I think that’s the motive I have- to keep doing that, and if that translates into enough interest and enough sales, then, what we’re hoping to do, is look at coming down there to, hopefully, get onto a few key festivals, and get some exposure down there. Hopefully, that would lead to a more in-depth touring schedule for us. It’s not like you can just jump in a van and come down and tour on fumes, right? (Laughs)
RMS: Exactly. And, at this point in your career, I don’t know if you’d want to do something like that.
LA: Well, no, not really. It’s funny, I had this discussion with Nancy Wilson a few years back. We had done a show together, and at that time, her twins were pretty young. I asked her, “How do you do it?” She said, “It’s called being a Weekend Warrior.” We were laughing about it. What you do is, you do pockets of dates, and that’s basically what I’ve been doing the past few years that my kids have been small, as well. I’ll talk to my agent, and I’ll go, “Let’s do Southern Ontario. We need to go do there.” We’re talking, right now, about cementing in some dates for the end of June, where I’ve got a big festival date there. I’m going to go do Toronto, Ottawa. Hopefully London, Niagara, or Montreal. You target the key cities there, and come in and do four or five targeted shows in those markets, and then go home for a couple of weeks. And then you fly back out and do the east coast, you know what I’m saying?
RMS: Oh, yeah. I think a lot of bands- especially bands from the 80's do their touring, nowadays, like that.
LA: Yeah, so that’s something that’s been really effective- not having my whole family fall apart- going out and doing targeted shows, and coming back for a couple of weeks, then going back out and doing more targeted, selected shows in certain markets. So, that’s sort of the plan. Again, I was talking to one of my agents recently about, “Let’s get this thing going. Let’s start by doing a showcasing in LA, and possibly a showcase in New York in the States, and see where that leads.”
RMS: You started off very young; you were 15-16 when you started out your career. What kind of sacrifices did you have to make, in order to start your career so young? What things did you miss out on, because of the fact that you were working on your career, when other girls your age were going to school?
LA: Well, I did finish school, just so you are clear on that. I did graduate from high school at 17. I was starting to do some shows, at that point. But, yeah, I graduated with a couple of scholarships, believe it or not, to go to University. My parents were a little disgruntled with me, about the fact that I didn’t. I was just like, “Well, I’m going to go on the road for a couple of years, and I’ll see if it works out. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to University.” But, from 17 forward, things just incrementally built year after year for me. So, I actually never ended up doing that when I was younger. I actually went back to college a few years ago, recently, and got a teaching degree, just because I wanted to challenge myself again. But, I did actually finish school at a much later date. Being on the road that young… it’s hard to say. It’s hard to know what I really missed, because I was doing something else, that I thought, at that time, was so wonderful. I guess I sort of missed the college parties, or that sort of era of my career. I joke around sometimes and say, “I guess I did a lot of my growing up in public,” (Laughs) Right? From the ages of 16-23, I look back on those years and go, “Eh, I guess I made some mistakes.” As a young girl, I think I possibly allowed myself to be marketed in ways that I wasn’t comfortable with, only because I was so young and naïve, I didn’t really understand any better at that time. I probably missed out on forging some really strong female friendships. To this date, many, many of my very good friends are men. Although, that did change a few years back, when I went back to college. I made a couple of really good girlfriends at that time. You’re asking me sort of a personal question with that- but that’s probably what I did miss out on.
RMS: I ask that question is because, everyone just assumes that, “Oh, wow, a rock star. What a great life.” But, there’s some sacrifice that goes into that, too. It’s not just going out and living your dream. There’s things that you don’t get a chance to do, that normal people get to do.
LA: Oh, absolutely. Even well into my 20s, when I was touring the albums that had become fairly successful for me. Here you are, gallivanting around the world in the tour bus with a bunch of guys, and the wonderful part about it is, you get to be a rock star, and you get to see the world. So, there’s a really rich cultural experience that goes along with that. But, you’re not staying connected to a foundation of people, like your family and a good circle of friends. When you come home, and you’re off the road, you’re not necessarily getting a phone call to be invited to that barbeque on Saturday night, because you haven’t stayed connected to a whole circle of people. So, developing strong friendships- later on in my career, I realized how important it was for me to be doing that, because I was feeling disconnected when I arrived back home. So, I really put a lot of effort into that, a little bit later on in my life and my career. I’m fortunate to say that I have a lot of really great friends at this point in my life. The one thing that you do find happens is, you start feeling disconnected with one of your worlds from the other world. Which one is reality?
RMS: In your current set list, that you’re playing right now, are you playing songs from all of your records that you’ve had over the years, or are you concentrating on the current stuff?
LA: Oh, no. My live show is a pretty broad range. I don’t really play anything from my first record, but from, ‘Metal Queen,’ forward, I sort of cherry picked songs that were hits for me, here in Canada, as well as fan favorites. The show, more recently, incorporated a few tracks from, ‘Fire And Gasoline,’ as well. We’ll incorporate a few more, when we go out in the summer, to do some shows.
RMS: My final question for you is: After working with Sean, have you had any desires to write a book, yourself? Maybe an autobiography, or something like that?
LA: (Laughs) It seems to be the trendy thing to do, doesn’t it? Yeah, the suggestion has been made to me multiple times- that I should write a book, as well. So, is it in the back of my mind? Yeah. In, fact, I’ve journaled quite a bit of stuff that would probably be interesting content for that book, at this point in time; just journals that I’ve made over the years, and blogs that I’ve written online. I mean, if you get a chance, at any point, on my site, leeaaron.com, I have a blog archive that goes back quite a few years, actually; probably about 10 years. Sometimes I only wrote like, two blogs a year, but they’re little snapshots into my world. Not all of it is about music. Some of it is about experiences on the road, friendships that I’ve had, visits that I make to and elderly lady that lives here, in town. It’s just little glimpses into my world. Some of it is quite funny, so you might enjoy it. So, the suggestion has been made to me a few times. “Wow, you write really well. You should write a book.” So, the idea is certainly there, in the back of my mind, to do so. But, I don’t think that I would make it just a traditional, historical biography of my life. I think I would make it little snapshots into my world that are humorous and interesting. Nobody needs just another traditional biography from me. There’s just too many of them out there.
RMS: Yeah, and it seems like a lot of these rock biographies are just going after the sleaze factor. They’re just trying to sell books. I think it all started with the Mötley Crüe book; that was just as sleazy as you could possibly get.
LA: Oh, well. For me, I think that, if I were to write a book like that, I think it would be funny road stories. I might touch on a relationship or two that I had, but I would never be writing a big huge kiss and tell, because that’s not really part of my past. So, funny stories about motherhood; what it’s like trying to be a rock star and a new mom at the same time. (Laughs) I’m a crazy person. Things that I think would be funny, and far more relatable to my fans, now, who have walked through some of the same experiences that I have. I haven’t actually read the Lita book, so you’re the first person that’s really mentioned that to me; I didn’t know that.
For more on Lee Aaron, please visit www.leeaaron.com
Thank you to Chip Ruggieri for setting this interview up. Also, to Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.