The history of rock n roll is a brilliantly vibrant one, packed with rebellion, turbulence, love, and above all, incredible music. The impassioned man in the middle of it all, Bernard Fowler, known for his musical diversity, impressive collaborations and stylistically innovative process in creating lyrical narratives, sat down and chatted with me about touring with The Rolling Stones on the upcoming No Filter tour, his new album Inside Out, his contributions and performances on A Bowie Celebration, and projects on the horizon.

ADB: You have such an impressive and lengthy career that continues to grow. What do you love most about music? What drives you to continuously make music?

BF: What do I love most about music? Well, it’s the way it makes me feel. Always. It’s the creative process, you know? It’s the fact that it starts off as an idea, and is able to flower and blossom into a full composition from my own mind. It’s incredible. It’s also how I make a living [laughs].

ADB: What is your creative/songwriting process? Can you describe to me the first time you wrote a song, and who influenced you to be a musician?

BF: It all begins in my mind. It starts in my head. It’s a melody, a line. It’s something that I repeat in my head. The more it repeats, the more I think about it, the more it grows. The key is to keep it with you. Try to put it on anything—telephone, recorder, whatever—get it down. If you don’t write it, it’s going to get lost.

ADB: How would you describe your style, without using genre labels?

BF: Good music.

ADB: Inside Out is a record that dissects and deconstructs The Rolling Stones’ songs. What was the inspiration/influence behind this? How did you decide to put your own creative spin on Stones covers?

BF: After The Bura, I wanted to do something different. I mean, I’ve done lots of stuff, worked with all kinds of people across genres. There were a bunch of different ideas that I had, but spoken word stuck with me. I’m not really sure where [he] got the idea. But, I was thinking about The Stones, how The Rolling Stones have really good lyrics. I did wonder if I should include Sympathy for the Devil, as it is a very popular song.

ADB: You mentioned how you wanted to do something different, and spoken word is definitely different. You said that things other people run away from, you run to. What advice would you give to musicians who want to take on things that may be difficult, or maybe take on a not-as-popular genre of music that people may “run away from?”

BF: I like so much stuff. I’ve never wanted to be trapped in a particular environment or genre or style. Had I let that happen, more people would be familiar with my work, but I fought against it. I just couldn’t see myself being isolated to one genre. I’m R&B from birth, no doubt, and there’s a hint of it in the record. I’m passionate about so many different things and I’m willing to try something different. I think artists need to branch out and not be so comfortable in their place. My advice to musicians would be to just go for it. If nothing else, it will help you grow as a player.

ADB:  What I appreciate about Inside Out is that it analyzes The Stones’ lyrics, and goes into depth of their meaning. Why do you think it is important to discuss issues, such as prejudice, drugs, violence, injustice, in today’s society? Do you think addressing this in music could make a change?

BF: The thing is, the same shit when these songs were written, is still happening now. We have grown some, but clearly, not nearly enough. It points out to people what is happening, because all these issues are still happening now. We need to look at ourselves and ask, “what can we do to change it?” There are so many more things to write about than love. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best songs ever written are about love. I love a great love song, but there’s more important things to write about right now.

ADB: How did you become involved with the Stones? What is the best aspect of working with them?

BF: I was singing with Herbie Hancock. My producer had gone to London, and I’d gone with him. We’d gone to this house and Mick Jagger was sitting there. I’d worked with Mick on his first solo album, as I had been living in London with Tackhead. Mick asked me to come to the studio, as they were making the first Stones album they’d made in eight or nine years—Steel Wheels—one by one they all came in. Mick asked if I’d tour with them.

ADB: Your vocals have been featured on hundreds of artists—not just the Stones: Herbie Hancock, Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Mayer, Rod Stewart, Robert Plant, Duran Duran. Who are your favorite musicians to collaborate with? Why?

BF: Everyone. Everyone I have gotten the opportunity to work with, whether it be Tackhead, Nicklebag, Stevie Salas. I like writing songs and they come to me fast. I love Robert Davis, he’s a great guitar player, great writer. There’s Alice Cooper…everyone I’ve had the opportunity to work with, I’ve really enjoyed it.

ADB: You were one of the world-class musicians that performed for A Bowie Celebration, an evening of songs to celebrate David Bowie’s life and work. How did you get involved? Why?

BF: A little more than three years ago [guitarist] Earl Slick approached me and asked: if I had dates, you would sing? I told him absolutely. Station to Station is my favorite Bowie album, and I agreed to do that. I called and talked to Earl about it, and I said, “Earl, I’ve got to ask you a question. Listen, have you talked to David about this?” Earl laughed and said, “I knew you were gonna ask me that. I mentioned to David, and David said ‘cool.’ First thing that David asked was, ‘Who are you going to get to sing?’ And I said, ‘Bernard Fowler.’” David told him that it was a good choice. I began preparing it for it, and David was supportive of it. Right before we started, David passed. I asked Earl if he’d known David was sick. He didn’t, not to the degree that he was. I would talk to David and never did he tell you how sick he was. Once we performed at the gig, it was full of Bowie fans. People were crying. I’m  happy I did it, and had planned it years in advance. We weren’t part of people jumping on the bandwagon due to David’s death. We’d had his support.

ADB: I saw your performance of Bowie’s “Heroes,” a track that has a lot of meaning for me. What was it like performing that track, especially in honor of David Bowie himself?

BF: Incredible song. The feeling, the energy in the room…it’s just amazing.

ADB: Any projects on the horizon after The Stones’ No Filter tour that you’d like to tackle?

BF: Yes! I’d like to do a follow-up to The Bura, and now that the spoken word concept is well-received, I’m already thinking about the next project. The wheels are in motion. I’m looking forward to the third project. I don’t want to reveal too much [laughs], but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. 

You can catch Bernard Fowler rocking with The Rolling Stones on their No Filter tour at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, July 7th.

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