Dive into the singing Paul

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EDIT the on-stage swearing from some festival weekends these days and you’d probably leave them running three hours short.

As one of our classic blues rock voices, former Free and Bad Company foghorn Paul Rodgers isn’t a fan of the F-word in his chosen profession.

Take Eminem’s sampling of his rugged dulcets for the 2009 hit Beautiful.

“Sometimes he does something that says something, but foul language in lyrics is not something I do,” declares Paul ahead of a Sheffield City Hall solo show tomorrow.

“I like some of the things Eminem does, but I wasn’t sure about the way they used that sample. Originally what I approved was slightly different.

“I guess they just changed it in the studio. For me, in all honesty, I don’t like effing and blinding in lyrics – it doesn’t really appeal. But, I’m flattered he used my voice.”

Paul, Middlesbrough-born and now resident of rural Canada, is no stranger to Sheffield. In 2010 he filled the Barkers Pool venue with Bad Company, reconvened after 30 years, and before that Sheffield’s Arena fronting a revived Queen, a hugely successful combination for Queen fans who maybe missed the Freddie Mercury heyday.

Along with Cosmic Rocks, an album of under-whelming new songs, it ticked the box for nearly a million gig-goers – the bulk of them in Ukraine’s Freedom Square, Kharkov, where Queen played to 350,000 people.

“It is the biggest square in the world, it’s visible from the moon or something,” recalls Paul.

“It was just us, it wasn’t as if it was a festival. It was an awesome thing to be part of, not least because across from the stage was the old KGB building, and god knows what went on in the bowels of that place. It shows you how much rock ‘n’ roll reaches out across borders and touches people, though.”

Either way, the experience gave many chance to hear a legendary singer in the flesh. With a new solo album in the pipeline he’s not keen to rush into anything else, however.

“It did become all-inclusive,” he says of Queen, whose shows also featured a few Rodgers classics. “It soaked up all of my life for that period of time although I did manage to do something with the solo guys between tours.

“Anything I do I give my full focus. After four years I decided I couldn’t keep giving it that because there were other things I wanted to do. The guys had other things they wanted to do also.

“I do keep my options open, though. I would work with Queen again, probably for a charity. We were together for four years and toured the world a couple of times, had numerous live CDs and DVDs out. We finished off with a studio album of new material, so I don’t think there was much more we could do.

“It was a wild ride. It’ll all be in my book when I write it, finally.”

Tomorrow’s show will feature a Free-loaded set from a band that includes Black Country Communion drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin legend John.

“That’s where my heart is,” he says of the solo angle. “It’s taken years but I’m finally bringing my solo act out.”

Although for many Paul is Free and vice versa, for a while he shied away from performing their iconic hit All Right Now, a song which last year chalked up its four millionth play on US radio.

“And it’s constantly rising, it’s quite amazing. There was a whole period of time I never played it, though. After I’d left Free and went off to Bad Company and The Firm and made a blues album, all for that time I didn’t play it.

“It was only when playing a blues tour in support of a tribute to Muddy Waters album...it blew the doors off the place. It was great to revisit it and it’s stayed in the set ever since. I had Jason on drums then too. He brings a great passion to the music. He has his dad’s spirit.”

While Paul has been playing all instruments for the demos of his new album, on stage it is all about him and the mic stand.

Aged 61 with 30 albums behind him, not only does he have to ponder a set-list that could potentially span hours, he has to keep those tonsils firing on all cylinders.

“The voice does take a battering, but I don’t play too many shows per year. I try to keep it to a natural minimum so I’m fresh for every show. A lot of people will do 200 shows where I’ll do 30.

“But I’m still trying different things, I’m learning all the time. I’m taking time out to do this interview from the studio where I’ve been playing all the instruments because I hear all the instruments when I write a song.

“But I like to be free of doing that on stage because I like to focus on the singing.

“The music industry may have shifted slightly off its bearings but one thing remains the same – rock ‘n’ roll is very organic in its nature. And it’s very real, it’s about emotion and passion and about connecting with each other – and partly being a storyteller.

“That’s what I like to do when I sing, to reach out and connect to people. I love to feel connected to an audience and that we’re understanding each other. That’s why I write simple lyrics because they get across to so many people.

“It’s definitely a shared event. We might be the ringleaders, the focus of attention, but everybody is part of the show.”

Support tomorrow is from Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz.