Just because you’re in lockdown doesn’t mean you're locked out from creating. Case in point? Sammy Hagar & The Circle’s timely new album called Lockdown 2020.
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Hagar and his band got in early on the trend of creating songs out of separate recordings from their phones. “It was actually my social media guy, Jon Luini’s idea,” Hagar said. “I’m not a technical guy at all and I’m going ‘I like the idea of doing something.’”
While it turned out to be a stroke of genius, the idea to create this series came about because the band was set to go on tour before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“We had a tour booked for June, July, and August and man we were really chomping. I think that’s why we got in on it so early because we were just about to go into rehearsal,” Hagar says.
“[Luini] came up with this idea and I said, ‘well maybe we’ll make a new record if we’ve got nothing to do.’ Then I thought, ‘well, we can’t make a record all in the same room cause we can’t get in the same room with the engineers, blah, blah blah.’”
Luini advised Hagar on the numerous pieces of equipment he would need to record at home, but Sammy wanted to try and keep things as simple as possible. “I’ll just sing right into my [phone] microphone,” Hagar said while recalling his initial conversation with Luini. “[Luini] goes ‘well it might not be good enough quality.’ So I go, ‘well let’s find out!’ It was really that experimental.”
Hagar then put a drum, bass, and guitar track into his ear and recorded a selfie-style video of himself singing into his phone. Despite the initial skepticism about his methods, the results were flawless. “I’ll never make a record any other way!” Hagar jokes.
Hagar estimated it cost the band $300 per recording to create a song and video. “We ended up with a record that cost $3,300,” Hagar said with a laugh.
The series was an immediate hit with fans as videos from the Lockdown Sessions have garnered millions of views.
The songs that comprise Lockdown 2020 weren’t picked arbitrarily. Hagar felt each cover had a special meaning to the band. “We were having fun with the first three songs playing our favorite songs,” Hagar said. Those three songs were “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Good Enough.”
“Then it started getting serious,” Hagar said referencing the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I thought, ‘the world needs to hear something and that everything’s going to be alright.'” That led to their magnificent cover of the Bob Marley classic “Three Little Birds.”
“I’m a positive person,” Hagar says. “I’m a fatalist optimist, or however you want to phrase that!”
When the band put their video and recording for “Heroes” together, it was done as a thank you to all frontline workers that have risked their lives during the pandemic. “There were a lot of people that didn’t get enough credit,” Hagar said. “There’s some real heroes out there man, people helping other people.”
Proceeds from their “Heroes” cover were donated to various food banks. “I’ve been supporting food banks for 11 years,” Hagar says. “Every show I’ve done anywhere, I donate to a food bank in that city. I’m a big believer that food banks are the root.”
Like it did for many, 2020 presented Hagar with a set of challenges and a renewed perspective. “There’s a lot of good things that happened,” Hagar says of the past year. “I also think that we were getting, as a race on this planet, all of us, we were getting a little out there and taking a lot for granted.”
“Hopefully, this kind of set people back, brought them back down to earth a little bit. It’s a hell of a way to do it, but that’s my hope that when we come out of this, people are going to be a little more thankful and maybe more considerate of others,” he added.
Being forced to shelter in place and abandon a normal work schedule was an adjustment at first, but is something Hagar feels he benefited from. “It helped me realize, what if I didn’t have anything to do, how am I going to deal with myself and how do I deal with not being so driven all the time?” He said. “It really helped me, I’ve calmed down.”
“The Lockdown Sessions kept the band together,” Hagar added. “It kept us in touch musically, kept us thinking creatively, kept us talking and discussing music and arrangements.”
Aside from discussing the album, Hagar gave Castle the origin story of his legendary “The Red Rocker'' nickname.
The nickname traces back to a show RADIO.COM station KISW held on January 22, 1978 where admission was $1. Hagar encountered a fan the day after he performed at the gig. “I walk out of my hotel room the next morning and some guy named Big John, who’s still a fan, walks up to me with a newspaper and says ‘hey, can [you] sign the paper?’” Hagar says. “And I go, ‘hey I’m getting recognized! We just played for a dollar and I’m a star?’”
“Anyway I sign it ‘Sammy Hagar’ and he goes ‘can you sign it The Red Rocker?’ And I go ‘sure!’ The guy in the newspaper called me 'The Red Rocker’ and it was the first time ever.”
Sammy Hagar & The Circle’s latest album Lockdown 2020 is available to purchase now.