Into The Light with Tony Lewis from The Outfield
Tony Lewis from The Outfield has returned, and is ready to burst into the light in nothing short of an epic way. In addition to releasing his first solo album entitled Out Of The Darkness, Tony Lewis is currently on the road with the Retro Futura Tour alongside Belinda Carlisle, Martin Fry of ABC and other blasts from the past! Out Of The Darkness is an absolute triumph, presenting an artist ready to create the next great chapter of an already brilliant career. Highwire Daze Online caught up with Tony Lewis to discuss a few of the songs from Out Of The Darkness and his participation on Retro Futura. Other topics included the passing of his Outfield co-conspirator John Spinks, his fondness for their biggest hit Your Love, the inspiration he feels from the fans, and a whole lot more! Read on…
We’re here with Tony Lewis from The Outfield. How has the Retro Futura Tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlights for you?
It’s been going really well. Out first show was Chastain Park in Atlanta – and our next show is Salt Lake City tomorrow. It’s been a lot of fun, because I’ve got to meet Limahl from Kajagoogoo and Martin Fry in the band ABC – and the guys from Modern English and Annabella from Bow Wow Wow – and Belinda Carlisle – she’s been headlining most of the shows – and yeah, it’s been a great experience!
How has it been to revisit the various Outfield songs on this tour?
It’s been great. I mean, I’ve got a first solo CD coming out. And it’s Retro Futura – it’s all about the 80’s and it’s all about The Outfield. I’m playing Outfield songs still – especially Your Love, All The Love In The World, Say It Isn’t So, Since You’ve Been Gone – all the hits. And I still get excited playing them and singing them.
Let’s talk about the solo CD. Is there any overall story or concept behind the title Out Of The Darkness?
It’s relative to John (Spinks’) passing. John passed away four years ago. And that first year, I didn’t want to pick up a guitar, I didn’t want to listen to music. And my wife said, “Why don’t you do what you do best. Get back on the road and record some songs – do some writing.” I had some backing tracks but I was struggling with the writing – and Carol helped me with the lyrics and she did quite a few songs. Out Of The Darkness is basically “stand up and be counted” – I wanted to say to those fans – I wanted all those people who knew me from The Outfield to know I’m not just the singer and bass player from The Outfield – I produced this record – and played guitars, keyboards, drums, bass – and just enjoyed doing it. Out Of The Darkness is a title that was there from the beginning – and it’s about me stepping into the light and coming back on tour again.
What was the easiest and then most difficult part about basically doing this entire album on your own?
I didn’t really struggle with anything. I only thing I really struggled with was the lyrics, because my first song was like “I’m going out tonight looking for a fight.” And my wife was like “People are not really going to like to hear that.” It was like the frame of mind I was in. She helped me out. And I also picked up various production techniques from producers over the years. Me and John had produced our own Outfield albums after we had left MCA. So yeah, I really enjoyed it – I did the drums tracks and the bass tracks and guitars – and I had the backing tracks all ready to go. And Carol’s lyrics really fitted the songs. Some of the songs we did from scratch on acoustic recording into an IPAD. It was a gradual period over a year and two. And Randy Sadd who did promotions for The Outfield from 2000-2002 – he said “I’m coming over to London. Do you want to meet up and have a drink?” And I said “Yeah, I’m up to meet you and I’ve got these songs. What do you think?” And he said “Yeah, I think I could get you a record deal with Madison Records in Atlanta because he knew Tanner (Hendon) the owner. And Tanner the owner – he’s also a drummer and he said “I could play on a few of these tracks if you want.” And I said “I’d love you to.” So I signed last October, and the rest is history.
Select any two songs from Out Of The Darkness and what inspired the lyrics for you.
My favorite is Loving You – it was inspired by the birth of our first grandchild – and that was the inspiration behind that story – it was the very first song we did – me and Carol together. I had the music – I had the guitar parts and everything, but I didn’t have the lyrics. And the other song that I really find interesting in is I’ll Still Be Here – it’s basically about the long separation from home touring. Carol’s basically saying “After 34 years, I’ll still be here.” We’ve been married 34 years – and that’s what inspired that lyric. It’s quite a dark song, and sort of breaks the album up a lot, because the first three tracks are very much in the spirit of The Outfield. But them two songs, especially Loving You is my favorite song, but I’ll Still Be Here I find the most interesting song off the album.
Had Carol ever written lyrics or been involved with music before?
No, she had never written before. For me, when I used to co-write with John, I was always very, very critical of my own songs. Having her stories on a blank canvas – for me I found it easier to put it into a song. And it just happened like that and it happened quite naturally. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was probably the most easiest albums I’ve ever recorded.
Are you playing any of the new songs on the Retro Futura Tour?
On this tour, I do five songs. I do four Outfield songs and then Into The Light, which is the latest single (from the solo album). We really haven’t gotten enough time to do any more songs. But who knows. maybe after this tour at the end of the summer or after the start of next year, we might come back and do a solo tour and play my own stuff. That would be the plan.
Since you are playing Into The Light, why don’t you tell us a little about that song?
It’s basically the theme song from the album Out Of The Darkness. I’m basically coming out of this four year period after losing John and me losing my way a little bit and not being on the road. This is my first tour I’ve done in 14 years. I’m back into the light – I’m back into the spotlight of making people aware that I’m not just the bass player and singer from The Outfield – I play guitar and drums and keyboards – I’m back into the light! I’m back into the spotlight of touring as well.
Do you still like playing Your Love after all of this time?
I love playing Your Love. It’s my favorite Outfield song. That song was written in 20 minutes in me and John’s flat. I was just sitting on his amp and he shouted down the corridor to me “Write this down. Josie’s on a vacation far away. Come around and talk it over.” And I wrote it down and then he put guitar to it and I said, “That sounds like a good little pop song.” It was written in 20 minutes and I still have the original lyrics sheet. And we didn’t know then that it was going to a huge song! It just makes me happy that people have latched on to that song. A lot of people come up to me after signing T-shirts and CD’s – they stand in front of me and they say “Your music has really changed my life. I met my first girlfriend with your song.” Or “it reminds me of leaving high school.” They’ve always got a story, and it’s quite heartwarming. I’m just so glad to be back in the U.S. and touring again and singing that song.
As far as you know, did John leave any Outfield material that may see the light of day?
There were a couple of songs that didn’t make Replay that are good. A lot of the stuff we started when he was ill, and I didn’t want to finish them off without him. So that’s why I wanted to draw the line and start a new chapter and do my own songs. When John passed away, I didn’t want to reform The Outfield. When John passed, The Outfield for me was no more. I’m Tony from The Outfield, but I’m just doing my own project now and just happy to be back out here working again.
Do you have any messages for Outfield fans who are reading this right now?
I just can’t thank them enough. So many positive comments on social media – on the fan zone. They’ve been since we first started – back in ’84-’85 – and I can’t thank them enough. They’re inspirational to me. And hopefully we can make some new fans on this tour…
(Interview by Ken Morton)