KNOX NEWS FEATURES KELLY HANSEN
Since Kelly Hansen joined Foreigner as the group's new lead singer, things haven't slowed down.
"We're on a continuous tour," says Hansen in a call from his hotel in Hollywood, Fla.
After taking a break for the holidays, the band has just finished a run of acoustic shows that coincided with the release of the group's "In Concert: Unplugged" and is again on tour with the regular electric show.
"I'm always aware of the history of the band. That's ever-present. I think maybe part of me has a desire to prove that I'm worthy of this material even though I'm not the original guy. That's always there, but that's maybe a personality thing with me. But it feels great and comfortable and I think the band sounds great and we know what we're doing, so that's a good thing."
Foreigner began in 1976 when British guitarist Mick Jones found himself in town without a gig, due to the Leslie West band breaking up. Jones and keyboardist Al Greenwood decided to form a band and recruited guitarist Ian McDonald and drummer Dennis Elliott, vocalist Lou Gramm and bassist Ed Gagliardi.
Atlantic Records signed the group (originally named Trigger) and released its debut album in March 1977. The disc contained "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold as Ice" and "Long, Long Way from Home," all of which became hits and spurred the album to sell 5 million copies.
The group followed with the albums "Double Vision," which sold 7 million copies, "Head Games" and "4," both of which sold more than 5 million copies as well. The band's talent for creating strong hooks helped give their songs staying power. "Hot Blooded," "I Want To Know What Love Is," "Urgent," "Juke Box Hero," "Waiting for a Girl Like You," were evergreen on pop and classic rock stations.
Hansen joined the group in 2005, after Gramm and all the original members, excluding Jones, had left the group. Hansen had been in the band Hurricane which had gained some success until disbanding at the beginning of the 1990s.
"I had spent some time doing a bunch of other things in the industry, but I wasn't doing what I thought I did best, which was singing," says Hansen.
In 2005, he saw a story about Foreigner doing a charity show in Santa Barbara, Calif., with temporary lead singer Chaz West, and he called the group's management hoping to try out as the group's new lead singer. After submitting a recording of his own vocals over instrumental Foreigner tracks, Hansen became the first person to audition for the group.
"We jammed for about an hour and a half and I remember I got home at 6 p.m. and, unbeknownst to me, they were having a roundtable discussion about me. They called me at 7 and said, 'We're booking shows for next week. Can you start rehearsing tomorrow?' "
Hansen says things have rarely slowed down since, and he hasn't really thought about doing anything outside of singing with Foreigner.
"We've been constantly in demand, so there's no time to do anything else, even if I really wanted to. But that's OK. We're in the middle of recording some new stuff right now."
He says it did take a little time to find that sweet spot when taking over lead vocals in an established group.
"I think it happens in stages. You'll think you're in a place where you think you have the best feeling you could have and, at some point, you'll go, 'Oh, this is even better!' Or you'll have a time that was exceptionally grueling and then you get through it. But it always ends up with me feeling really fortunate to have this opportunity."
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 2
Where: Tennessee Theatre
Tickets: Sold out
Also: The Wartburg Central High School Choir will accompany Foreigner on the song "I Want to Know What Love Is."