Ian McLagan’s “United States” may not be mourning his late wife Kim in quite the same was as 2009’s wrenching “Never Say Never,” but rest assured she’s still very much a part of the 10 tracks on its successor.
“There’s a lot of references to Kim in all my songs, it seems. She was just my muse — IS my muse. It continues,” the Small Faces/Faces keyboardist and onetime Rolling Stones sideman tells Billboard. “I think about her daily. She was the most special person I ever met. The songs aren’t all about Kim, of course, but sometimes they might be partly about her and partly about somebody else, or any number of people. It’s not, like, a memoir or anything like that. I don’t hang on to grief anymore, but I hang on to memories, and I’ve got a life of great memories to refer back to. Her influence is everywhere, and I feel her everywhere.”
Then, McLagan adds, there’s a track like “Love Letter,” which he says is nothing less than “a love letter to my darling wife; ‘I send you a love letter, but I can’t find you anywhere.’ It’s me sending a love letter to Kim, saying goodbye, but it’s sort of universal, too.”
“United States” has been a long time in coming; McLagan and his crack Bump Band recorded it during 2012 at his Doghouse Studios in Manor, Texas, where he resides, but he’s been waiting to strike the right deal to release it — in this case with Yep Roc, which puts it out on June 17. The title, he says, refers not to the country but to “people in motel rooms, people in their homes, just couples coupling, really, united. And I thought, ‘Surely someone’s used it,’ but when we googled it, no. So there it is.”
McLagan is also notes, with pride, that “United States” has the best fidelity of the eight studio solo albums he’s produced. “This is the first album I didn’t engineer, and the whole band benefited from that,” says McLagan, who nevertheless produced the set. “My job in the past has been to put mics on instruments, and ‘Let’s play,’ and honestly I’m not a mechanical guy. My thought was always, ‘We can fix it in the mix.’ So this time I had Darwin Smith set up the studio and I just had to play and sing, and you could hear the difference immediately. It proves I definitely have to use Darwin or someone else whenever I record, I think.”
McLagan says he has enough songs ready for yet another album, though he’ll be focusing on “United States” for the immediate future. He and the Bump Band play Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders at New York’s City Winery on Friday (May 17) and are planning to do plenty of promotion around the album’s release — including the 10th anniversary show at the Lucky Lounge in Austin, Texas on June 26 and a month-long visit to England immediately after.
Next year, meanwhile, looks “very promising” for a Faces reunion, this time with Rod Stewart finally joining McLagan, Ron Wood and Kenney Jones.
“It looks like next year will be the charm,” says McLagan, who’s been playing occasional Faces dates with Wood, Jones and Mick Hucknall since 2009. “Rod apparently is keen and I’m as keen as ever. My door’s always been open to that. To be fair, (Stewart) was sick when we were at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I think this time he really means it. I’m smiling. I’m hoping. He talks very positively, and I’m happy to hear it.”