Bob Seger Addresses Talk of His Retirement: 'I Don't Want to Overstay My Welcome'

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band performs in 2013
Scott Legato/WireImage

Bob Seger of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band performs in concert at The Palace of Auburn Hills on April 11, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 

A lot can happen between Bob Seger albums: changes in presidential administrations, a few iPhone generations, a third of Derek Jeter's baseball career. “I’m so fast,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer says with a hearty laugh. Ride Out -- his 17th studio album, and first in eight years -- is a modest affair, touting both originals and covers of John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg and Wilco. With the LP having arrived on Oct. 14 on Capitol, Seger is ready to talk.

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Another album that took its sweet time. How do you decide when they're ready?

A good song, bottom line. If anything’s on the bubble of being an average song, it's gone. I just try to keep the quality up as high as I can. It's an ongoing thing and I play them for everyone who's close to me and figure out which ones work the best together. Probably 25 were cut, and then there were another five or six that I came real close to cutting because maybe were a little too esoteric -- or a little too one way or another.

After 50 years of songwriting, has your definition of what’s a good song changed?

It's melody, lyric, maybe a little unique-ness. Do I sing it well? Sometimes I'll write a song I can't really sing and it'll get eliminated. Or it might not make it through the studio process. I might think it's a really good song but I won't like the way the studio band did it.

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Ride Out seems to suggest a farewell.

People have said, "Ride Out; that sounds a little final there," and I'm like, "No, that's not really what I meant." It's to ride out, clear your head from all the stuff that's making you crazy. But it could serve as a final title. So if I decide, when I turn 70 in May, that enough's enough, it is kind of like summing up. The deciding factor for whether I leave or not is my voice, whether it holds up. I want to be graceful about it. I don't want to overstay my welcome.

Fifty years ago, did you have any idea music would be the lifetime's pursuit that it has been?

I always did, actually. I started writing songs when I was 17. I had planned it: "I'm going to get big by the time I'm 25. I'm going to be done when I'm 30 because nobody lasts more than five years! (Laughs.) But if I learn to be a good songwriter, I can continue to help other people who have careers and it'll be fun." That's how I felt at 17. It's hard work, but it's very rewarding work.

This article first appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of Billboard.

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