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Richie Kotzen



October 10-12, 2024

About the Artist


Richie Kotzen has always been on a clear, laser-focused mission as an artist. While he is rightfully acknowledged worldwide for being a stellar guitar player, an emotive singer, and, frankly, a balls-out dynamic live performer to boot, Kotzen is quite aware he must maintain an ever-vigilant eye on ensuring one particularly important creative arrow in his artistic quiver continues to be properly nurtured — and that is his songwriting. 

“My whole existence has been driven by songs,” Kotzen admits. “I realized when I was very, very young that if I didn’t have a song to sing that, was mine, I probably wouldn’t have much of a future as an artist. That’s where I come from. It’s like I get to live my dream scenario, because my job is doing what I love to do, which is making music. It’s how I live.”

Good songs are indeed Kotzen’s creative stock in trade, and the man has spent decades making sure he delivers the goods on a consistent basis. As a vocalist, Kotzen’s impassioned style exists at the crossroads where the likes of Paul Rodgers, Terence Trent D’Arby (better known these days as Sananda Maitreya), and Rod Stewart meet. All that primal vocal energy also feeds into his love of great songwriting. To that end, Kotzen cites Daryl Hall, Elvis Costello and Don Henley as a few legendary songwriters he respects and looks up to, and of whom he takes cues from for inspiration. “I’m more of a conversational writer,” Kotzen explains. “I don’t write about aliens and spaceships. It’s more about what I’m thinking, and what I’m feeling. Here’s the thing — I wait. I wait until I have something to say — and usually, that’s when it all comes together. When something strikes me, I’ll sing it into my phone, and then it’ll either live there and wait until another day, or I’ll work on it and it’ll end up on an album. That’s my process.” 

That said, the muse struck Kotzen in a much different kind of way when he got together with his longtime friend and confidant, Iron Maiden guitarist/backing vocalist and songwriter Adrian Smith, to lay down nine galvanizing tracks for March 2021’s collaborative triumph, SMITH/KOTZEN, in addition to its follow-up four-song Record Store Day EP released later in the same year, November 2021’s aptly rousing BETTER DAYS. What both these hard-charging S/K releases reveal is a creative relationship previously only hinted at through their shared musical brotherhood. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Kotzen reveals. “Adrian would come in with either a lyrical concept or a riff, and then we would work on it together. That would usually lead me into writing another section for the song. If he came in with a chorus, I’d be writing a verse — or, if he came in with the verse, I’d come up with the chorus. We just ping-ponged our ideas back and forth like that.” 

The reason SMITH/KOTZEN works so well is quite simple. “The reality is, Adrian and I connected artistically. We just hit it off,” Kotzen confirms. “The shows we performed together on the West Coast and in the U.K. were a blast!  We are both very much looking forward to an SK II much sooner than later.”

Kotzen’s undeniable push-pull skills are apparent not only all throughout SMITH/KOTZEN, but also by way of his continually resonant collaboration with Return to Forever legends bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, along with keyboardist Rachel Z and violinist Karen Briggs, in the jazz-fusion supercollective known as Vertú — “a highlight of my career I’m still very, very proud of,” he clarifies. 

In addition to that creative benchmark his ongoing role as the frontman and primary writer of the quite formidable rocktastic three-piece band known as The Winery Dogs was on display once again with the band’s third studio release simply titled III.   The band released their album on Richie’s own birthday, February 3rd of 2023 and commenced on a 95 show world tour in support of the recording.

‘We took a super long hiatus after wrapping our tour cycle for our second album.   Seven years I believe it was.   Getting back in a room with Billy and Mike was just like putting on an old pair of shoes. Our creative process picked up right where it left off years before.”

With The Winery Dogs now headed back into a musical rest cycle Kotzen is primed for what’s next.

‘I’m always writing and I’m super excited to say that now in 2024 I’ve got new music I’m dying to share with you.   I released my new single ‘Cheap Shots’ on May 1st of 2024 and it is looking like there will be a full length album to follow later in the year.”

Kotzen is an avowed, inveterate solo artist with 22 albums released to date under his own name. None of them are more personally affecting than his February 2020 three-disc retrospectacle 50 FOR 50, released via Kotzen’s own Headroom-Inc. label. Ostensibly intended to celebrate his 50th birthday at the front end of that fateful year, Kotzen found the genesis of 50 FOR 50 by combing through his personal archives to hone in on 50 tracks in various stages of almost-completion in order to come up with the right finishing touches to get them across the finish line. In the process, many of these songs took on a much bigger weight than the songwriter had perhaps initially envisioned.

“I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve done,” Kotzen declares. “And I’m still super-excited about it. A lot of times folks think everything you write about literally happened to you, but sometimes you may write a song about something you saw someone else go through. You may fabricate scenarios and characters from your own mind without even realizing you’re doing it, so the source of creativity becomes much broader than strictly writing about what happened to you specifically.”

With new music recorded and his new single ‘Cheap Shots’ already streaming he’s now set to return to the live stage with a vengeance in the power-trio format he loves so well, starting in May of 2024 with two Southern California warm up shows and then heading to Europe June 2nd for a 6 week run of dates.  This will be followed by an extensive North American Fall tour.     After all, playing his music live is what brings everything together. “I like the flexibility in the level of improvisation I can do in that trio format. I go to that place in my head where I know what I’m feeling when I’m singing onstage, and I connect with it,” Kotzen observes.

Understanding the imprint of his own global artistic reach ultimately brings Richie Kotzen full circle with the feelings evoked by the music he cherished during his own youth, not to mention his regard for the musicians who made it. “Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky in that way,” he concludes. “People tend to gravitate toward others who are carved out of certain like-minded stones, and then you figure out how you fit into each other’s orbit. Me, I like to do that with my music.” Considering how the impact of Kotzen’s ever-expanding catalog stretches to the literal edge of the Earth, we expect the shared orbit of his songs and what they mean to his listenership and fanbase at large will only continue to widen.

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