As he prepares for the nostalgia of Bad Company's 40th anniversary tour this summer, Paul Rodgers is also looking ahead with not one but two new albums in progress.
One, Rodgers tells Billboard, is a collection of soul covers -- "emphasis on Stax," he says -- that he and producer-engineer Perry Margouleff recorded at Willie Mitchell's famed Royal Studios in Memphis. "Perry went down there and told me this studio, where a lot of Stax material was recorded, still exists as it was in the old days," Rodgers recalls. "Well, Stax is very dear to my heart, and he said, 'There's great sessions musicians. Let's go down and do some tracks.' So we did and it was awesome. It was such a beautiful vibe. I walked from the studio to the control room and they have all these tapes stored up there, and I looked at one of the boxes and it had 'Ann Peebles, 'I Can't Stand the Rain' ' written on it in Sharpie. I was like, 'Wow, is that the original Ann Peebles?' They said, 'Yeah, she recorded that here.' So I said, 'Let's do that track!' It was fun to be that loose and yet that tight. It was great."
Rodgers says he also recorded songs by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, "all my heroes." He hopes to mix the album during May and have it out possibly by this fall. Meanwhile, he and Margouleff are also working on a new solo album, Rodgers' first of original material since "Electric" in 2000. They've been recording at Margouleff's analog studio in New York, and Rodgers, who's hoping for a 2014 release, says "it's sounding very different, actually. Some of it is Led Zeppelinesque, in a way, 'cause Perry is a big Jimmy Page fan. So there's a tendency to sound a little Jim-ish, which is not a bad thing."
Meanwhile, Rodgers is looking forward to the Bad Company tour, a 22-date trek that begins June 15 and includes 13 shows with Lynyrd Skynyrd -- who introduced Rodgers to his wife, the former Cynthia Kereluk, in Vancouver during the mid-2000s. "I was touring with them as a solo artist and they knew Cynthia and kept saying, 'Wait 'til we get to Vancouver,' and I kept saying, 'Yeah, yeah...' " recalls Rodgers, who married Kereluk in 2007 and became a Canadian citizen in 2011. "They had a feeling we would get along great, and we did. We got on like a house on fire, and the rest is history."
The Bad Company tour, meanwhile, came about last year when Rodgers' manager pointed out that "if you put the band together in '73, that's 40 years. Do you want to do anything to celebrate it?' I said, 'Yeah, let's tour.' There was plenty of advance notice for it, and we were all up for it."
A new Bad Company album, however, remains a long shot, even though bandmates Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke "probably do mention it from time to time. Anything's possible. I do keep an open mind, I must say. But there are no plans right now, no."