Foreigner’s Kelly Hansen Talks Music, Audiences and Vegas
Some rock and roll bands have been lucky enough to have managed longevity and Foreigner is one of those bands that have been going for the last 45 years! Starting in 1977, they churned out hits from “Cold as Ice” to “I Want to Know What Love Is”. All of those classic, beloved, rock songs that still bring audiences out to see them in 2022. Kelly Hansen took over the lead singer position in 2005 and has been delivering his high energy moves to the Foreigner catalog. Foreigner is coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Monday and at the end of the month into April, they have a residency at the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas. So if you are headed to visit Sin City be sure and check them out. Kelly Hansen took time to talk to The Suncoast Post before heading to Florida.
SP: Hi Kelly! Looks like you are getting on the road and coming to Florida for a slew of dates including Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 14th.
KH: Yes we are, yea bring it on. I am ready, let’s go for it!
SP: Kelly, when I have photographed you in the past, I thought you had a resemblance to Steven Tyler, have people said that to you?
KH: I think that I came from like the Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, you know, mixture of kind of different front men. You see a move or you see a thing that gets done in a certain way that and you absorb that into your repertoire and that becomes one of your things. But you know, I never studied Steven Tyler or anything like that.
SP: So there is the story of how you did the tape and you sent in your vocals but I was trying to learn, how did that even come about?
KH: In about 91, I was in a band called Hurricane and we got dropped from our label and then I realized that with the with grunge coming in and a different style of music coming in and metal being kind of dead, my voice was really not clean tenor was not really invoked. So I realized I was gonna have to kind of sit out for a while and do other things. I was interested in producing and engineering, songwriting, artist development and all kinds of stuff like that. But after about 10 years of that, it started to really to as far as the returns were diminishing that via the budgets were getting smaller, to make albums ’cause more people were able to make them at home and you get less time to make them and things like that. Then the whole record business changed and label wanting these 360 deals with artists and all again stuff so. It really became more work for less and less. And I said,” you know what, maybe I need to go back to what I do best, and that’s being a lead singer”. So I had a couple of gigs that passed me by, and I hadn’t even got the call. I would never like surprised. But then that things didn’t just fall on my lap like they always have. So I realize I need to be more proactive about my life and my career and. So I said, “you say yes until I can’t say yes anymore”. And I was looking around and I I read an article about a charity show that Mick was doing in Santa Barbara with a couple of the guys from Florida. And I wasn’t keeping up with Foreigner. I didn’t know that they had been dormant for since 2002. But I got in touch with management ’cause I heard about that charity show and I didn’t know whether that meant that Mick was doing a new band or soul thing, or whether it was born gonna before and after some back and forth. You know, we got the thing with the whole tape thing and that’s kind of how it came about. He was looking for a new voice. I was not happy with where my career was at the time. So, but it was a Serendipity that got us together.
SP: That’s really interesting. So were you a Foreigner fan? You know, when Lou was fronting the band?
KH: I was very aware of the band because I really liked the production and the songs. They were, they had they kind of had an R&B based rock sound that that was kind of my background as well. So I’m not a favorite type of person. I just like things individually for what they are. So that was my experience with Foreigner as well. But I was very aware of them.
SP: I’ve watched you many times through the lens and you’re just a great front man for that music and obviously have helped keep the band going since 2005! What it was like for you to work with Lou Gramm , Dennis Elliott and the other original members when you guys did the 40th Anniversary tour?
KH: Well, it was great. I mean with to work with everybody, the whole group. Yeah. I mean, it was really great. We’ve met some of the guys before and that kind of thing and but everybody was very generous and very giving. And we were very friendly and Lou gave me, you know, all the ropes that I was looking for. He was very open to any suggestion that I had and it was just all very, very cool, you know? And it was great to be able to work with people who we have so much respect for. And we were able to, you know, hang out and have drinks and talk about what guitar did you play on this part of this song or what was your amp setting for this song or things like that? You know that musicians do and, and so they were great. I mean, I think that’s the true way that musicians should be, is that they’re word comrades, you know, and we all share a commonality in this song catalog. And so I think that kind of binds us in a way.
SP: I saw that you guys are going to be doing a residency at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Have you played there before? So what is that like for you guys, is there a difference in the audience in doing a residency than just a regular show?
KH:. That’s correct. Yes, we have played the Venetian before. Well, there are many things that are different about doing residency, and there are many different kinds of audiences. There’s the hard tickets concert audience. There’s the State Fair audience who, like, bought a ticket and there’s a band playing there and they don’t really know who it is. You know, there’s all different types of situations and you have to be, as a fun manner to perform, right. I’m kind of like an MC. So I have to kind of treat and handle those audiences differently. And the thing about Vegas is that the audience is comprised usually of people from all over the country, all over the world, all in the same room at the same time. They’re all looking to have a really good time ’cause, that’s why they’re coming to Vegas. They’re usually not too complacent. They’re usually up for it and the thing is, for us is that because we’re gonna be playing in the same place for so long, you know, all the stuff stays set up so we can kind of stretch out a little bit. Maybe do some more interesting things that we can’t do in the regular show night after night when we’re traveling the country. So there’s a lot of differences to be sure. Wherever it is, we go to play,
I make the joke that I’m famous for that day in the casino. Because all the people that are in the casino that day know that you’re gonna play, are they gonna come see you? So all of a sudden you’re famous. More famous than you normally are for that day (laughs) and because of just how I have to take care of myself, I’m not out a lot like I’m not downstairs in the bar, you know, meeting people and hanging out. So I’m not really a part of that whole team too much.
SP: Now you live, you live out in LA. Are you free to kind of move around there? You don’t get really spotted too much on the street there.
KH: Well, you know, I’m in this zone of not very famous, but in some circles, kind of famous and but in L.A. it’s never been. Most people are just like if you’re in the entertainment business, L.A. is really easy on you because I see big stars all the time here in L.A., you know, and it’s like it’s not so big of a deal. It’s kind of cool because you have certain amount of anonymity. That’s correct, right to where if don’t have that, you know, the insanity that goes on.
KH: I hate to ask this question ’cause. I’m sure you’ve had it a zillion times. Is there any particular Foreigner song that’s a favorite for you to sing?
KH: Well, like I said before, I’m not a favorite type of person, but some days I’m in the mood for an apple. Some days I’m in the mood for an orange and OK and some days we are great on one song or groove, really great on another song, but every night is different because the situation is different and the ambience is different. Outdoors, indoors, as a very great drive is the audience really close up to you or are they far away? All those things are variables that make each night completely different and that means you have to handle them completely differently as well. So I’ve just been lucky to have been speaking of apples and oranges, I’m just lucky to have this, this beautiful basket of ripe fruit that I get to choose from and eat from on a nightly basis. SP: It’s a great gig. KH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s it! You can check out everything Foreigner at Foreigner online
Vicky Sullivan Photo