RICK NIELSEN DOESN’T always take himself too seriously. Music, however, is another story. He vividly recalls working at his father’s music store in Rockford, Illinois, as a kid and being surrounded by interesting characters. It was hard work, but it was educational.
“I started working when I was 8,” he says. “I goofed off a lot, though I still do… [Laughs] [I remember] the different people I’d meet and the different music I was around — all the Top 40 records and the guitars.
I started out as a drummer, so I was most interested in drums, but then I got addicted to guitars. They were easier to carry around. I enjoyed meeting all the different people. I rented Sam Kinison a PA because he was an evangelist in those days!”
Nielsen’s love for music has remained steadfast, and he’s been a cornerstone of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick — which also features singer/rhythm guitarist Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson — since they started out in 1973. It’s resulted in an impressive string of hits, including “If You Want My Love,” “Dream Police,” “Surrender,” “I Want You to Want Me” and “The Flame,” not to mention that aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, which took place in 2016.
Earlier in 2021, the band released their milestone 20th studio album, In Another World — their first since 2017’s one-two punch of We’re All Alright! and Christmas Christmas. It’s packed with overarching hooks, playful, tongue-in-cheek and optimistic lyrics — not to mention a buildup of energy that hits like a cascading tidal wave. Nielsen credits the band’s Midwestern upbringing as the catalyst that keeps them going strong after nearly five decades — often playing more than 150 nights a year — which is why it was so tough for them to slow down when the pandemic hit. Fortunately, when the shutdown occurred, they had In Another World in the can and pretty much ready to go. It was recorded — pre-pandemic — at Love Shack Studios in Nashville.
“Everybody in Nashville plays guitar great,” Nielsen says. “I’m glad I’m not competing with those guys. Not that I’m great in any city, but at least I’m different! We’re Cheap Trick. We do what we do. We’re in competition with everybody, but, then again, not really. We’re in competition with ourselves.”
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