Interview: Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy Discusses The Band's New Album, 'Don't Let Up'
Photo courtes: Ash Newell Photography and used with permission.

With more than 17 million in album sales and well over 3,000 live shows during their thirty-five-year career, Night Ranger continues to define the art of guitar-driven, arena rock with a sound and style that’s both instantly recognizable and uniquely their own. Their arsenal of hits includes the anthemic “(You Can Still) Rock in America,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Four In The Morning” as well as their signature classic, “Sister Christian”.

Night Ranger's brand new album, Don’t Let Up [which will be released on March 24] is stacked with all of the elements that made Night Ranger one of the biggest bands of the MTV generation, including the lead vocal trade-offs with Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy as well as the dual guitar harmonies of Brad Gills and newcomer, Keri Kelli. But not only do songs like “Somehow Someway”, “Day And Night” and “Truth” pay homage to the band’s glory days, but they also propel the band well into the 21st century. Proving that even after three decades together, Night Ranger shows no signs of ever slowing down.

Night Ranger is: Jack Blades (lead vocals/bass), Kelly Keagy (drums/lead vocals), Brad Gillis (guitar/vocals), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (guitar/vocals).

AXS recently spoke with Kelly Keagy about Don’t Let Up and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: This year marks the 35th anniversary of Night Ranger’s debut album, Dawn Patrol. What goes through you mind when you look back at that era?

Kelly Keagy: I remember we were all just starting out as young, enthusiastic musicians. We were just starting to bond but weren’t thinking of anything like we were going to be this big hit. Instead, we just wanted to get the record out and go play live. I remember when we were making that first record we felt so good about what was going down. There were good sounds coming out and we couldn’t wait to get to the next record [Midnight Madness].

AXS: What was the writing process like for the new album, Don’t Let Up?

KK: For our last three albums we just stuck to the formula of starting out with Brad, Jack and I getting in a room and playing along with musical ideas. It starts out as a clean slate. Then we’ll set the map and go from there.

AXS: This is the first studio album with guitarist, Keri Kelli. How did you connect with him?

KK: We originally brought Keri in to do a tour of Canada with us. We brought him in with no rehearsal and he hit the ground running right from the get go. Keeping him with us and going into writing sessions for this album was great because he had a lot of ideas.

AXS: What can you tell about the single, “Somehow Someway

KK: That song came out of an idea that Brad and Keri had from two different sessions. They had the idea and we start jamming on it and putting the energy behind it. Before long, we had a tune.

AXS: How about the song, “Day and Night”?

KK: That was one of the first tracks we wrote at my home. I remember we got so excited about it that when we went to shoot our recent live DVD, “35 Years And A Night in Chicago”, we put that song in the set. We hadn’t even settled on the lyrics and we played it live. Then when we went in to do the album we finished it up.

AXS: What was the recording process like for Don’t Let Up?”

KK: It was a first for us because we wrote the songs all in the same rooms during different sessions, but then we took those templates and recorded our parts separately. It was an experiment but everyone in their own studio was able to get the sounds that they wanted. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

AXS: What are the band’s tour plans like?

KK: We’re ramping up dates and will likely end up with 50-60 shows this year. We’re excited to get out there and roll out some of the new material as well as some from the last few albums in addition to the hits.

AXS: Was the song “Sister Christian” from the Midnight Madness album originally intended to be on the Dawn Patrol album?

KK: We had the song, but the way we worked as a band was by going with what worked best at the time. On the first album, we really wanted to make a point of showing that we were a rock band and not focus too much on the ballads — although we did have "Call My Name”, which was a great song. But when the second album came along, that’s when we had the inspiration for “Sister Christian”. That’s when we said, “Ok, let’s take a look at this.”

AXS: Did you have an idea at the time of just how special that song would be?

KK: Even before we got signed we knew that it would be special because whenever we played it in the clubs it got such a great reaction. It was the combination of how we were playing it and the emotion behind it. At the time, we had an idea the song was going to surface again sometime in the future.

AXS: Did you always know that music would be your calling?

KK: I did. Right after I graduated high school I moved to L.A. and was already in two bands that first summer. Then I got a call from a buddy who told me about a band in Oregon that wanted to do clubs and play five to six nights a week. So I spent the next twelve years playing night clubs in cover bands. I didn’t know if I’d be able to support myself but I made it work. It’s the only thing I wanted to do.

AXS: Of all the highlights of your career are there any that stand out as most memorable?

KK: The Midnight Madness album and tour was what really propelled us into the limelight. That was when we finally got people to start listening to what we were doing. We had “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and “When You Close Your Eyes”, and then we hit with “Sister Christian”. Suddenly, we would pull into towns and people would tell us that 10-15,000 seat shows were sold out. It was amazing! We didn’t stop for an entire year. But we still have that same feeling now 35 years later. We still have a great time playing together. That’s what it’s all about.