- 22 Feb 22
The guitarist and singer of The Almighty, Black Star Riders and many more projects is ready to get on the touring circuit again.
Like many artists who released an album during the pandemic, it's only in 2022 that Ricky Warwick will get to tour tracks from his 2021 solo record When Life Was Hard and Fast.
In a new interview with Hot Press weeks before his March UK and Ireland tour (including dates at The Academy Green Room in Dublin and Limelight 2 in Belfast), he chats from his Los Angeles home about the joy of getting back on the road, returning to Ireland to play shows and the legacy of Thin Lizzy. The Irish hard rock band was just one outfit Warwick was involved with in a musical career spanning back to the '80s.
As part of your upcoming tour, you'll be performing in Dublin. How does it feel to be back playing live again?
It's wonderful, just wonderful. It's been over two years since I've been able to tour, obviously - with everything that's gone on. So to finally get back on the road and play is so good for the soul and mind. Getting back to doing what I love and visiting Dublin is also magical; it's somewhere very dear to my heart. I lived there for seven years. I've got many friends there so I can't wait for March 15.
Your last album came out during COVID, so it must be particularly exciting to play songs from that record?
It came out during 2021 and we knew about a year beforehand what the release date was going to be. Everybody thought the pandemic would be over in a year, and obviously, sadly, we were all wrong, but we stuck with the schedule.
The album came out and did extremely well, but the only problem was I couldn't get on the road and tour it - hence why I'm doing it over a year late.
But the album's out now; people have had a chance to listen to it and hopefully, they'll be able to yell the words back at me on stage when we get up there. I'm just delighted now to finally get the chance to get out and play some of the songs from the record live.
You've got a great band together to play with you; how was the coordinating that?
The guys are amazing in the band, they're friends I've known for years but they're also fantastic musicians.
You've got Ben Christo on guitar from The Sisters of Mercy, we've got Jack Taylor on drums who plays in a band called Tax The Heat, which is a great, great band. Then we've got Richard Vernon on bass, who was in The Mission UK.
So great players, amazing people and powerful chemistry. I'm very honoured that they're coming along for the ride and to be part of Fighting Hearts for this run and I just can't wait for people to see it because the band is really something else.
Is there a song, in particular, that you're really looking forward to playing again?
I've been waiting for two years, I think I'd get up there and play anything! I'm jonesing to play so many songs off the record because I've only been doing shows online acoustically, which has been great, but it's obviously not the same as playing live with a full band.
The title track of the album is going to be great live as well as 'Fighting Hearts'. Plus, I'm looking forward to playing a couple of songs from my other bands, The Almighty and Black Star Riders.
I expect the atmosphere will be great. Everyone's so happy to have live music again.
That's it. Two years was a hell of a long time for everybody to have their lives disrupted. Things that we took for granted were just removed from us - it's horrible. It's scary.
People need to get back, get out and socialise, reconnect with each other, and do the things they love again. If that's going back to concerts, then more power to it - I can't wait.
It must be special to play Belfast right after Dublin too?
It's always good to come home, absolutely. As I said, I lived in Dublin for seven years and I've got so much family up in the North, being from North Down.
There are sisters and cousins that I haven't seen for two years. So to get a chance to play some rock 'n' roll and then catch up with friends and family that I haven't been able to hug or hang out with is a win-win.
It was the 36th anniversary of Phil Lynott passing away last month. You played a number of shows as part of Thin Lizzy a few years ago - what did they mean to you as a fan and and later as a band member?
Everything. Where do you begin?
Growing up in the late '70s and early '80s in Belfast, because of the situation, a lot of bands wouldn't come over to play and the ones that would were our own. The likes of Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers, Horslips and Rory Gallagher. All amazing, but there was nobody like Phil.
There was nobody that looked like him, nobody that sang like him, nobody that wrote or played like him. I always say to any young artists that ask for advice, "Go on YouTube, watch Thin Lizzy and watch Phil. That's what you need to be like; that's your benchmark right there. If you can get anywhere close to that, you're onto a winner."
He had it all in abundance and then some. His poetry and his writing are so unique. A song like 'Black Rose', the lyrics: "Where the mountains of Mourne come down to the sea" - I grew up in North Down and out of my kitchen window I could see the mountains of Mourne. That resonated with me as a kid. Here's this guy singing about somewhere that I know.
It was just the real deal. Lizzy has just been a constant influence throughout my whole life, and that hasn't changed.
Even though I've had the honour and privilege of singing the songs, I still listen to Lizzy as much as it did when I was 14. To me, they're the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
I think it sometimes gets lost how significant their legacy is outside of Ireland as well. We don't always recognise how big some Irish bands are.
It's that Irish thing; I think we have that.
I wrote a song about it on my last solo record called 'Celebrating Sinking'. We're very, very good at keeping people's feet on the ground. I kind of love that thing with being Irish and being from Ireland that we don't let people get too carried away, but sometimes that can be a bad thing.
Instead of patting ourselves on the back, we're a bit scared to do that as a culture. But I also like the fact that you can just go back home and no matter what you've done or who you've played with, it's just "Get the beers in. It's your round and it doesn't matter."
I like that about our way of life, but I think we undervalue what a great nation of artists we are and the wealth of talent in Ireland.
It must be a bit of a different atmosphere in Los Angeles?
It's a bit more sunny! I've been here seventeen - eighteen years now and I've seen my kids grow up here as well. It's totally different to Ireland.
There are many things I love about living here, but I do get very homesick and that's been very apparent the last couple of years with not being able to go back home and visit family. Ireland's always home to me.
What plans for the year do you have after the tour? Is there a new solo album on the way, or is there work planned with any of your other bands as well?
They'll be a few more Fighting Hearts shows over the Summer. We've just finished the new Black Star Riders album this week and the first single will be out in September, so we'll be going into promo from then onwards.
We're looking at a January 2023 release for the album and a bunch of shows to promote it next year. I'll hopefully start work on a new solo record as well in 2023 too.
Ricky Warwick and The Fighting Hearts play The Academy Green Room on March 15 and the Limelight 2 in Belfast the following day. Tickets are available here.