Bob Seger says the end is not imminent. But it’s in sight.
Though his current Rock and Roll Never Forgets Tour — which rolls into The Palace of Auburn Hills for two hometown shows next week and concludes May 11 in Edmonton — is going “just great,” and a new album is on tap (we hope for this year), Seger says he can see a time in the not-too-distant future when he’ll no longer be touring and recording.
He’s more matter-of-fact than melodramatic about it, however.
“I wouldn’t say I’m in the planning stages of retiring, but I’m wide open to it now, and I don’t know how much more there is to prove,” Seger, who turns 68 in May, says by phone from Portland, Ore.
FYI: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and Joe Walsh perform at 7:30 p.m. April 11 and 8 p.m. April 13 at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $85 and $65. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
“I wouldn’t mind putting out one more record, one last swan song. That’s all I’m concerned with right now is trying to make that as good as it can be, and then we’ll look at everything else and play it by ear.
“I’ve had a great career, y’know? It’s been a great run. I don’t want to overstay my welcome. And this tour is just going great — big crowds and places we haven’t played in 15, 17 years. It’s really heartening.”
If that really is his plan, then Seger — a Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee who’s sold more than 52 million albums — is making a lot of noise on the way out.
One of the most exciting things about this year’s concerts is the presence of new material in the set — from the opening version of John Hiatt’s “Detroit Made” to the reflective original, “All of The Roads” (also known as “All The Roads”) and another cover, “California Stars,” whose Woody Guthrie-penned lyrics were adapted into song by Wilco and Billy Bragg.
All three were recorded during late January in Nashville and are slated for the album — Seger’s first of all-new material since 2006’s “Face the Promise” — which he has firm plans to finish after the current tour wraps.
“I think I can soundly say I’ve got two-thirds of it done, virtually done,” Seger says. “I’m going to pare it down to eight songs and then figure out what I still need and then try to write the songs that will best complement those eight. That’s what I’m gonna start doing May 12. I’ll go right into writing after that.
“I’ve told Capitol (Records) I want this out at the end of August, and they said, ‘OK.’ So hopefully I can turn everything in Aug. 1 and have it come out at the end of August.”
We’ve been here before with Seger, of course — including on this album, which he’s had in various stages of completion since he hit the road again in 2011. He laughs when that’s mentioned, but claims he’s resolute about getting it finished this time.
“I guess you never know,” he acknowledges, “but I’ll tell you, even if I have to do covers, I don’t care. I just want to have good songs on it, so I don’t care if I write ’em or not. But I’m going to try to write them and definitely get this out.”
Seger says the album, once dubbed “Ride Out,” now has “several working titles” — including possibly “All The Roads” — while previously discussed songs such as “Wonderland,” “Ride Out” and “Gates of Eden,” a ballad Seger says his son Cole is encouraging him to play live, are still in the mix.
“Detroit Made” and “California Stars,” meanwhile, came from hearing them on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country channel. He hoped to record the former with Kid Rock but that could not be worked out before each went on tour this year.
Those tours, of course, intersected in mid-March, when Seger and Rock played shows together in St. Paul, Minn., and Fargo, N.D., culminating with a joint encore that, unexpectedly, found Seger rapping on a rendition of Rock’s 2001 single “Forever.”
“Oh, that was so much fun,” Seger says with audible relish. “That was my idea. When we were rehearsing he said, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ I said, ‘We’ve got to do ‘All Summer Long.’ That’s a given.’ And then I said, ‘But I have a dream. I want to do ‘Forever.’ I’ve always loved that song. It’s one of my favorite Kid Rock rock/rap songs. I listen to it today and it still knocks me out as much as it did when I came out.
“I got a lot of heat — from (Rock) and from the (management) office. They were scared of it. I said, ‘No, we’re gonna do it.’ I said (to Rock), ‘You’re gonna do 80 percent of it. I’m not gonna try to palm myself off as a rapper. But I’m gonna give you a breather when you need one.
“I just kept pushing and pushing for it, and it worked. Everyone relaxed.”
Seger and his Silver Bullet Band have also been delighting fans on this tour with the return of “Like a Rock” to the show for the first time since 1996. “I really wanted to bring it back for a long time,” says Seger, who credits the arrival of new guitarist Rob McNelley in bringing the song back. “I started looking around for somebody who could play (‘Like a Rock’), and we started trying guitar players in Nashville … and (McNelley) just killed it.
“It’s a very hard song to bring off on guitar, and we worked on it for about three days and he had it cold. I said, ‘OK, now we can finally do it again.’”
Seger won’t entirely disappear once the tour ends and he returns to the studio. He duets on a new version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” for John Fogerty’s new album, “Wrote a Song For Everyone,” which will be released May 28. And he’s featured in “The History of the Eagles” documentary, which comes out April 30, talking about Glenn Frey’s early days in Detroit. But his primary plan is to “shift the focus” to finishing the album.
And then … maybe more touring to follow?
“I don’t know — I’m not even going to go there right now,” Seger says. “I just want to finish (the album) and then we’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it. I just know we’re having a great time now. I’m very blessed. I’m pretty happy right now.”
By GARY GRAFF
Of The Oakland Press
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @graffonmusic
Photo by Ken Settle