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Jeff Pilson | FOREIGNER

By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Photo by Karsten Staiger

When your musical influence as a child was one of the greatest rock bands in the world, it makes sense that you would grow up to be a musician with an extensive career that lands you to end up in another world-wide phenomenal rock band. Bassist/Vocalist /Producer Jeff Pilson is an extraordinarily talented multi-instrumentalist who has been a key part of multi-platinum rock band Foreigner for almost twenty-years. Foreigner released their self-titled debut album in 1977 which went multi-platinum, as well as the three that followed (DOUBLE VISION in 1978, head games in 1979 and 4 in 1981). They continued to stay strong, and in total they have ten multi-platinum records, several top five hits, have sold over eighty-million records world-wide and are not slowing down. Now, they are taking their hits on tour and South Florida fans will have the opportunity to see their amazing show on July 8th at the iThink Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, and on July 9th at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa.

Catching up with Pilson just prior to The Historic Farewell Tour, he revealed some details about the show that he and Lead Vocalist Kelly Hansen, Guitarists Bruce Watson and Luis Maldonado, Drummer Chris Frazier, and Keyboardist Michael Bluestein will be taking on the road, as well as some insight to his music, that special influence, other projects, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with The Historic Farewell Tour?

Jeff Pilson: Fans can look forward to hearing so many songs that they forgot they knew we did and they’re gonna be singing their hearts out. They’re gonna have an amazing time, and it’s gonna be a fabulous night of music. Loverboy are amazing. So, it’s just a lot of bang for the buck.

SFL Music: How did it come to be that Loverboy is on tour with you guys?

Pilson: Well, because we wanted to pick somebody that we knew was real strong on their own, and we wanted somebody that was great because we want a great show. We’re one of those bands that like it when the warm up act is great because then it gets us pumped, and Loverboy does that. They are great every single night and we love their songs, and they’re a great bunch of guys. So, no one better to tour with this year.

SFL Music: Is there going to be anything else released to coordinate with the tour? Any new videos or box sets?

Pilson: Not immediately before the tour. We just put out a package when we were doing our Vegas residency. So, that was just available to people for that, but no, nothing yet. We’re hoping next year to have some new material in some kind of a package. Don’t know all the details yet, but there is new material floating around, so we’re gonna try to come up with an interesting way of putting it out next year.

SFL Music: What would you say influenced you originally to become a musician?

Pilson: Ah, there’s no question about it. It was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Watching that, it’s firmly planted in my brain and that’s absolutely what started me.
SFL Music: What was it about that? It just inspired you?

Pilson: Probably didn’t hurt that the girls were screaming (he laughed). Even though I was just a little kid, I somehow sensed that, that was a good thing, and I love music. My mom was a singer in a big band. We used to sing around the house, so I loved singing The Beatles songs when they came out and I just fell in love immediately. I think when I saw them doing it onstage on the show, I think that’s when it sort of cemented like, hmm. Maybe I could do that (he laughed).

SFL Music: Did you take formal lessons? You play several instruments.

Pilson: Yeah, I studied. I went to the University of Washington. I didn’t graduate, but I did study there. I tried to take a credible, legitimate path (he laughed) as long as I could, but basically rock and roll came a callin’ and I had to heed the call.

SFL Music: You’ve played with Foreigner since 2004. Prior to that you were in Dokken. You formed War & Peace in ’89, worked with Dio in the 90’s and MSG. What would you say that you took away from those experiences and working with those musicians that you might use today or may influence you when you’re writing music?

Pilson: Well, I think if you had to boil it down to the gist of what I learned is, passion and perseverance are really, really important. I think you have to be passionate about music, otherwise it’s an assembly line job, and who wants that. And then, the music genuinely shows it when people feel that way. So, I think passion is key number one important, and number two in perseverance. You know, music is not an easy living. Most jobs aren’t just automatic. Most of them you have to work at and you have to work at this just like anybody else, and the harder you work, the more it pays off. There’s just no question. The great people that I’ve worked with generally have a deep passion about music and they either work hard or they know how to make other people work hard for them (he said laughing). Either way, I think it takes passion and perseverance.

SFL Music: Is that what you would recommend to a new artist?

Pilson: I would.

SFL Music: You’ve also worked with Robin McAuley, Reb Beach and Matt Starr with Black Swan. When I interviewed Reb about the music he wrote for the GENERATION MIND album, he spoke highly about the band and your incredible writing skills. What would you say is the secret to writing a great song?

Pilson: Ooh wow! You know, if there was a secret that you could describe, it would be in many books and whoever put out that book would be a bazillionaire. There is no actual secret. It’s a mystery and that’s the beauty of it. I think really the key to songwriting is to keep yourself in an open space because if you get attached to ideas too early, you’re cutting off the inspiration that could come to take it to the next level. I think you always have to keep an open mind and don’t get attached to an idea just because it was yours or just because it was the first idea you heard and you like it. I think it really takes being open and that’s not always easy because a lot of times, the passion to write also means the passion to fall in love with what you just did. To be self-analytical and accurate while still maintaining the passion is a tricky balancing act that requires a lot of dedication and concentration. So, my suggestion is, always just stay open. Never attach yourself too hard to anything.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. Is that what you would you say is the secret to the longevity that you’ve had with your career?

Pilson: Well, I don’t know if it’s the secret, but perhaps it’s a tool that has allowed me to you know, survive this business (he laughed).

SFL Music: You also did some acting in 2001 in the movie ROCK STAR. You played on the soundtrack. You were the Musical Director. How did that all come about?

Pilson: Well, I got a call sometime during the year 2000 from a guy by the name of Tom Werman. Tom Werman is a music producer and he had produced Dokken’s TOOTH AND NAIL record. When we did that record together, we got along great, and we carried a good rapport. So, when it came up that they were gonna do the music to this movie, they were gonna hire just a session bass player to come in and play bass on the recordings, and that’s what I got hired for. So, I came in to do the recordings which I fully enjoyed and thought it was gonna be a great thing, but what happened was, we started rehearsing and I started rehearsing with Zakk (Wylde) and Jason (Bonham) who were going to be in the movie as the band. We started rehearsing, and after a couple days of rehearsal, the director came up to me and he said, he goes, “I really wanted this to be as real as possible and I’m really loving this vibe. You guys feel like a band and you’re actually an important part of it, so would you consider being in the movie?” And I said, oh let me think about it, yes! So, I auditioned like everybody else for an acting role, but I did, I got the part, and it was just an amazing experience.

SFL Music: You’ve done some amazing work over the years including some projects with George Lynch (former Dokken bandmate). Your last release was “PHASE 2” in 2021. Is there anything coming up in the works for fans to look forward to?

Pilson: Absolutely! Actually, I’m working on the next End Machine record as we speak. In fact, Steve Brown who plays drums for the group Tesla, but he’s also the little brother of “Wild” Mick Brown who was the drummer of Dokken and was the original drummer for The End Machine, but Mick has now since retired. So, his little brother who is an amazing drummer and singer all in his own right, is actually driving down today and we’re gonna start the drums for the next End Machine record. So, small world.

SFL Music: Yeah. Is there an estimation of when that will come out?

Pilson: What I’ve been told is next spring. So, I guess next spring.

SFL Music: Now on your site you have Yoga. Is that a tool that you use to keep yourself going strong?

Pilson: It sure is (he laughed). It sure is and in fact, I hold a weekly virtual meditation class. If you go to Hot For Yoga SCV, Santa Clarita Valley.com. So, hotforyogascv.com, you can find out information on how to take my virtual meditation class and there’s other virtual classes as well. Pilates, yoga, yin yoga. There’s all sorts of things. It’s a really cool program. So yeah, yoga’s been very, very important to me, and both the postures and the meditation have really helped me be able to traverse this crazy world that I live in (he laughed).

SFL Music: Did you get additional training or take any courses? How did that come to be?

Pilson: Yeah, over time. I studied with a guy by the name of Richard Hittleman who wrote a lot of books and had a Yoga For Health T.V. series in the 50’s, ‘60’s and’ even into the early ‘70’s. So, Richard, I consider him my guru and like I say, I studied with him and I’ve been doing yoga since 1978. So, it’s quite the thing for me.

SFL Music: That’s very cool! Was there anything else that you want fans to know?

Pilson: Just come on down to the show. Get ready to sing your lungs out and have some fun.

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