Songwriter Interviews

Robin Trower

by Greg Prato

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Robin Trower on his songwriting process and what inspired the Bridge of Sighs title.

Just before the release of Robin Trower's 2019 studio effort, Coming Closer to the Day, the British guitarist turned 74 years old. And listening to the album, his bluesy and soulful guitar playing remains as fluid and expressive as ever.

First coming up as a member of Procol Harum, it was not until Trower launched his solo career in 1973 that the rock world began taking note of his talents - which resulted in what is undoubtedly one of the great rock guitar albums of all-time, 1974's Bridge of Sighs.

When Trower phoned in to chat about the album and supporting tour, he discussed his latest album, stories and memories about the Bridge of Sighs album, and the late singer/bassist James Dewar.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): What is the meaning behind the song and album title, Coming Closer to the Day?

Robin Trower: It's my feeling about the fact that I'm closer to the end than the beginning. I'm starting to realize that if I want to get to where I need to be, then I'm going to have to work harder at everything.

Songfacts: What was the lyrical inspiration behind the track "Lonesome Road," which was issued as a preview of the album?

Trower: That's more about me thinking about how much longer I can go on touring. And it's also about my career and my life, as well - what's gone on before.

Songfacts: Since you just mentioned it, how much longer do you think you will be able to tour for?

Trower: Well, I'm going to keep going until I drop, basically! While I'm having fun. While I can do it, I'll keep doing it.

Songfacts: How would you compare your guitar playing today to say, back in the '70s?

Trower: I'm definitely a better player. That doesn't mean to say that I'm making better music - it's only a technical thing.

Songfacts: How does the songwriting process usually work for you? Do you come up first with a title, lyrics, or music?

Trower: It always starts off with a guitar idea. All my songwriting starts with a guitar idea, and then I come up with the guitar parts and changes, then I think about the topline - what the vocals will do. And then I get stuck into the lyric. It's really the lyric that takes the most time.

Songfacts: I read a recent quote from you, "My passion for guitar now is stronger than ever." Why do you think that is?

Trower: I think I've been enjoying it a lot more. And it's probably because I'm putting in a lot more work in it, really. I'm working harder at it, and enjoying it more.

Songfacts: How did "Bridge of Sighs" get its title?

Trower: I was in the middle of writing that piece of music, and I was reading the paper one day, and there was a horse at a horse race that was recommended as a favorite, and it was called Bridge of Sighs. I just thought, "Wow, what a great title for a song."

So, when I started to work on the lyric, I incorporated that. I already had the piece of music written - the idea of what I wanted it to be like.

Although Robin explained that he got the title from a horse, the Bridge of Sighs is also the name of countless actual bridges throughout the world, the best known being located in Venice, Northern Italy (built in 1600). Other bridges that share this appellation are located in Cambridge, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Szegad, Hungary; Santa Barbara, California; and New York City.
Songfacts: What was the story behind the album cover image for Bridge of Sighs?

The Bridge of Sighs album cover depicts a Möbius strip painted by Paul Olsen
Trower: The artist that painted it, he came up with that idea when I gave him the title. That was his interpretation of the title.

Songfacts: What was the lyrical inspiration behind "Day of the Eagle"?

Trower: The lyrical idea is more or less saying, "We're living in a day of people who are working on making war, rather than love."

Songfacts: "In this Place"?

Trower: That was a love song of longing, really.

Songfacts: What did Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick bring to the Bridge of Sighs sessions?

Trower: An enormous amount. I think he did some groundbreaking recording techniques that captured that sound. He really did. He was an amazing guy.

Songfacts: Did Geoff share any interesting Beatles stories at the time?

Trower: Not that I remember. I think he was quite shy about that. At least, we never asked him.

Although it was Robin's dazzling guitar work that spearheaded such early '70s classics as Twice Removed from Yesterday, Bridge of Sighs, and For Earth Below, James Dewar's soulful vocals undoubtedly played an enormous part in what made those albums so special. Although he had been a member of several other groups during the late '60s/early '70s (the best-known being Stone the Crows), it was not until he joined forces with Trower that his talents were recognized. Doubling as a bassist, Dewar would record and tour with Trower for the remainder of the '70s, while his lone solo album would be issued in 1998, Stumbledown Romancer. Sadly, the singer/bassist died in 2002 at the age of 59, from a stroke.
Songfacts: I've always been a fan of the late James Dewar's vocals.

Trower: Jimmy was a wonderful, wonderful musician and singer. He had a beautiful voice. And on top of it, he was a really great guy. A lovely guy to work with. And very gifted. A very underrated vocalist, I think.

Songfacts: Which album of your career are you most proud of from a guitar perspective?

Trower: I must say the new one - from a guitar playing point of view. I just think there is a lovely fluidity to it, especially the lead work. And I think it's probably the most soulful thing I've done so far.

Songfacts: What can fans expect on the tour in support of Coming Closer to the Day?

Trower: In the set, I always play the old favorites - the stuff from the first three albums, which are the biggest-selling albums. And some from a little bit later than that, and a few off the new album.

March 19, 2019
For more Robin, visit trowerpower.com.

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Jonny Lang
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Ace Frehley
Scott Gorham
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Comments: 2

  • Bill from UsIn the 70's if you didn't have any Robin Trower in your collection of vinyl your collection was incomplete. And those songs are timeless. I am still waiting on a CD box set from Amazon of all those!

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