Lita Ford Talks ‘Living Like a Runaway,’ Motherhood + Touring With Def Leppard
Lita Ford is back with the new disc ‘Living Like a Runaway.’ The deeply personal album shows the singer at her most vulnerable and honest point as an artist. Loudwire had a chance to chat up Lita about her new album and her summer tour with Def Leppard and Poison. The singer also discusses her own personal struggles and why a pair of tracks that deal with the mother-child relationship in very different ways are among the most personal songs she’s ever written.
You’re being as open and honest as you can be on this album, so why was this the time to basically lay it all out there for everyone to hear?
Well, it’s something that I’ve really wanted to do for a long time. I wanted to make this record and I was having problems at home with my ex-husband and I wasn’t really able to function properly. He really held me down and once the divorce was done I was just able to just be Lita.
The music was rolling off of me. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t stop writing. [Producer] Gary Hoey and I hooked up and Gary really brought the best out of me unlike anybody else. It sounds like the old Lita, but it sounds current, which I think is really difficult to do these days. I think Gary really added a lot to my vocals because I’ve gone places with my voice that I’ve never gone to before. It was just so real, this album, so emotional and angry and heartfelt at the same time.
It says in the bio that I’ve been through a lot of emotions on this record and there were times where we had to stop tracking because I was literally crying and then we would come away with some of the best material we had ever written. It’s not that Gary Hoey and I have sex, we don’t, but it was like having the best sex you’ve had in your life when you got done you’d come away going, ‘Yeah, man, this rocks. Alright!’ We couldn’t stop listening to it. And we had help from his wonderful wife. She kept us fed and happy and we just stayed in that studio for actually a year to write this album.
Between Gary and yourself, you’ve got some metal guitar licks on the album, but also a lot of melodic elements, as well. Can you talk about putting the music together and the back-and-forth relationship of what you want on your songs?
We would both come up with ideas to start the song with and I would jam a lick and he would jam a lick and we would just put ’em together and try to come out with the best possible feel for that song. Sometimes we couldn’t do it and sometimes we would just throw it away. ‘Ugh, let’s just start with something completely different, this isn’t going right,’ and we wouldn’t give up until we came up with the appropriate riffs or vibe for that song. We did lay down some harmony guitar parts, and I would lay down a solo and Gary would be like, ‘Hey let me put this over it.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, it sounds great.’ So we really did come up with a lot of beautiful melodic guitar parts where when we play it live it’s just going to be over the top. I think a lot of bands have forgotten about those, those singing guitar parts, a la Judas Priest and Scorpions. They really had a knack for it and it seems to have gotten lost over the years, so I’m real happy to have had this on my record.
Getting into the music a little bit, mother and child relationships really play into this record. You’ve got a song like ‘Living Like a Runaway’ that kind of talks about your mom’s advice to you. And on the same side you’ve got ‘Mother,’ which is talking to your own kids. Can you talk about both relationships and how your experiences with your mother informed your parenting?
I had the best mom. I really had the best mom and dad. They were my No. 1 fans. They would come to shows and my dad would come with his six-pack of Coors beer and he would do the heavy metal horns. And my mother was very inspiring. I would call her from the road all the time, because in The Runaways days we were still teenagers. We were underage and we had to have an adult accompany us on tour. We weren’t allowed to play in clubs that served liquor. It was really weird. But I would always call her for support and she would always say to me with this thick Italian accent, she would say, ‘You just go kick ass of those people.’ And in the lyrics of ‘Living Like a Runaway,’ she would say ‘Run baby run, cross New York City and through the streets of L.A.’ which is where we grew up and I incorporated it into my own song to my kids.
And this song [‘Mother’] for my kids is a little bit different than ‘Living Like a Runaway’ because my children have been alienated from me in this divorce. And the father refuses to let me have anything to do with my kids. I can’t get them on the phone. I can’t text them, they don’t respond. I can’t e-mail them, and if I go over there and knock on the door, I’ll probably end up having to physically fight a 300-pound testosterone monster. So I don’t have any relationship with my kids and the only way I have to reach out to them right now, except through attorneys, which I’m f—ing sick of, is to write them this song. They don’t know what happened in this divorce and the father is making them believe it’s all my fault. Mommy’s the bad guy. So I wrote them this song, so hopefully one day they’ll hear it and they’ll know that I love them and they’re my life.
There’s a line in ‘Living Like a Runaway’ about being a teen riding in the back of a limousine, living life on the run. It must have been surreal to be at that age and doing what you were doing. Obviously you’ve had years to reflect on that time, and is there anything the you of today would tell the you of back then?
Well the teenagers at that age are pretty rebellious and pretty independent these days especially. But I remember riding in the back of that limousine and staring at the stars. I literally used to stare at the stars and in my mind I would ask for God to please make me a better guitar player and please take care of us and watch us and guide us through this, and I think he did. I had my idols in music and I looked up to them and I think they helped me get through The Runaways days. And in the second verse, it says, ‘God says run baby run,’ and he’s telling me to go and be a rock star and run across the world, but I think other people have their own reasons for running. Some of it may be from the law, you know it could be from their homework, something as simple as homework.
There’s that line that ‘You can’t slow down and you can never stay when you’re living like a runaway,’ in other words, you’ve gotta keep moving and I would wake up in the morning in The Runaways in some freaking hotel room and I didn’t know where we were or where we were going and the tour manager saying ‘Get up, we gotta leave, we’ve got a flight.’ And I was thinking, ‘It’s four o’clock in the morning, are you crazy?’ And he would just say, ‘Get up and get on the plane and you can go back to sleep,’ and I would say, ‘No, I’m going to sleep now,’ and I would get back into bed in our hotel room and be like, ‘Screw the flight, I’m going back to bed now.’ It didn’t work. They used to bang on my door and drag my ass out of bed.
The tune ‘Song to Slit Your Wrists By’ has got a great industrial feel to it, and Nikki Sixx had big hand in that song….
Actually Nikki wrote that with Dave Darling and they wrote that 15 years ago, and it was a song that he dedicated to his ex-wife. I heard it and it actually popped up on my desktop on my computer, and I looked at it and I thought, ‘Song to Slit Your Wrists By,’ Nikki Sixx, and I thought, ‘I don’t have any Nikki Sixx songs on my desktop. Where the hell did this come from?’ And I listened to it and as soon as I heard it I went, ‘Whoa! I gotta do this. It’s perfect.’ It would just fit perfectly on this record.
So I sent Nikki and e-mail and asked him what it was, what is this song, cause it wasn’t a Motley Crue song. It was a 58 version, and I didn’t recognize the voice. So I asked him if it was something he did for his book, and he said, ‘Oh, it’s a 58 version. You can have it if you want it.’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I do, I wanna do a remake.’ So I said, ‘If you were gonna do a remake of it Nikki, what kind of vibe would you give it?’ and he suggested Nine Inch Nails and we went with his idea, and we played around with it, Gary played around with it in the studio and he came out with this ballsy track. It doesn’t sound anything like the original. They’re very, very different.
I know you’re doing dates this summer with Def Leppard and Poison and I’m guessing you’ve had to of crossed paths over the years. What are you thoughts on the two bands you’re getting a chance to play with this summer?
First of all, yeah we’ve toured with Poison and I’ve known them for years. The Def Leppard guys, I jammed with Rick Allen at Wembley with Bon Jovi when Bon Jovi and I were on tour. Elton John came up and jammed on keyboard and Brian May played guitar. I played guitar. So I met Bon Jovi’s band and I met Rick Allen. And Joe Elliott’s girlfriend took me on a shopping spree a long time ago, so I met Joe Elliott through Claire … and it’s all wrapped into that Rock of Ages thing, the movie, the timing of the hair metal bands, and I think it’s a perfect match.