Mick Jones - Orchestrating Foreigner's Latest Tour

Written by Randy Patterson

January 2020

MickJoneTDscopy croppedIn these days and times, it’s considered remarkable to be still be working when one is in their seventies. It’s even more remarkable to be working successfully in your field for fifty-three years. So, to say that Mick Jones is remarkable would be a tremendous understatement.

Starting his musical career with the 60’s band, Jones has worked with a whole slew of artists. However, he is most noted for founding and leading the legendary band, Foreigner.  With reportedly over 80 million record sales world-wide, the band is one of the best-selling bands of all time.

When he wasn’t leading the band in cranking out classics like “I Want To Know What Love Is”, “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Cold As Ice” – as well as touring the world, he was producing records for bands such as Van Halen, Bad Company, The Cult, Ben E. King, and Billy Joel. ‘

But Foreigner IS touring and doing so as energetically and creatively as they ever have. In fact, when they make their stop in Nashville, they will be performing their successful catalog of monster hits with the Nashville Symphony – much like they did with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus a couple of years ago in Lucerne, Switzerland. 

Having seen the band twice in the past ten years, I can only imagine they will sound with the Nashville Symphony in the city’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center. While I’m not sure I will be attending, I encourage you to catch them at whatever city closest to you on this tour because I guarantee you that you’ll be in for a real treat.

But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

Because of their upcoming tour, their three Nashville shows and their Greeneville, Tennessee show shortly afterward, I caught up with the band’s founder and sole remaining original member, Mick Jones, while he was taking a break in New York City. 

After the usual small talk, I started off by asking Mick if Foreigner had ever played the Schermerhorn before.

“We've actually done a couple of shows there. It's got to be a couple of years back. And it was pretty much new at the time. I remember the sound being excellent in there. We got a lot of compliments on the sound. So, we were very happy. And I can only imagine having the orchestra. There's a pretty big choir going to be involved, too.” Then he added, “You know, we're pumped and ready to go. We'll be Tennesseans for a few days.”

As for what fans can expect from the shows like the Nashville show as well as the non-orchestral shows during this tour, Jones shared:

“Well, we've been touring. We took it easy last year or the year that currently - not going to be a new year. We did that last year and where we're sort of fairly - it was kind of a sparse sort of itinerary. We didn't do the major markets so much and this year we are doing nothing but. So, we've got a big tour of Europe coming up. Big, Actually, we're going to several countries. We're playing the O2 in London. 

“As far as more regular type shows, we've got a pretty loaded schedule for the rest of the year. We're really looking forward to it. I think that we needed to take the time off just to refresh and really, I think from the view the audience, we've done two or three major summer tours, amphitheater tours the last few years, so we kind of withdrew a little bit. This is the comeback. 

“So as far as the shows are concerned themselves, it's been kind of quite a learning experience working with the orchestra. I've worked very closely with the arranger. Actually, he's a master cellist. His name is Dave Eggar. We've worked together on the arrangements. From time to time, we'll get together and just refresh them. But it's worked remarkably well, going to these cities and plucking from the local string section of the local (orchestras) - colleges, schools, and it's works really well. We did a whole tour of Australia 18 months ago and we employed . . . college orchestras. They were great. They were really good. They were very talented. And it helps, also, to bring a communal kind of thing back into it. It was all really good. So, we've been lucky and we've had great orchestras wherever we played, pretty much.”


To put a finer point and to clarify just a bit, Mick added: 

“It's a new deal. Foreigner. Not that we're going to go that way completely. We're still going to be the rock band. But, from Mick Kelly Photo credit is Laurence HarveyKelly Hansen (L) & Mick Jones - Photo by Laurence Harveytime to time, we like to throw these shows. We have fun doing them.”

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, it's been said that Foreigner has sold over 80 million records. I asked Mick why he felt that songs like Foreigner’s stands the test of time. 

“I think, obviously, the songs have a fair amount to do with it. I think the artistry perhaps. The band has an identity musically. We were never a band to go out and be individual personalities so much as being a band. I think we've managed to keep up a standard, the quality in the songwriting and also in the performance. And now with the lineup as it is and with Kelly Hanson, we've expanded to a very exciting kind of staged live show. It's just remarkable with the recognition we still have. And, you know, you see younger folk in the crowd and they're singing the words to the songs, you know, even younger. Ten-year-old’s! And, it's, like, 'Jesus, what's going on here?'

“But it's great. It's very gratifying. I never thought I'd be doing this at this time in my life. But, you know, I'm very grateful that I've been allowed to follow this dream and still doing it. Still having a ball. I think you'll probably see, if you haven't seen this for a while, the band is really in tip-top shape. It's a great show. It's very exciting. We've sort of completed what I've envisaged as, originally, the band of my dreams, in other words. As opposed to feeling tired or exhausted, I'm feeling like refreshed and full of confidence. The band is just super and everybody is really dedicated to it. The chemistry is great. It's just very refreshing in so many different ways. Now, as a stage show, is so powerful. It's also opened up a bigger audience again for us. So that's a good thing. It's nice to play in the big places again. 

Our time was running out so I threw my final two questions to Mick Jones at once.  First of all, I wanted to know if he thought the music business was broken and, if he did, what he would do to fix it. 

Secondly, I asked him a question that I’ve asked in approximately two hundred interviews and I’m sure Mick has been asked millions of times: When you step off the tour bus life up at the great gig in the sky, how do you hope to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? Surprisingly, Jones answered the latter first.

“Ok. Let's do to the last one first. 

“Well, whenever that day comes and I hope it's a long way off, I'm having too much fun. You know, it inevitably will. And MickJoneTDscopyobviously, I'd like to be remembered as a decent guy and somebody who had a bit of a clue about writing songs and. And, really, having brought a few classic songs and put them in the wherever-they're-stored-up-there and songs that have actually reached people and have had an emotional effect on them or have been of some help during dark times - and happy times, too, you know. So, I just feel that I'm I've just been very fortunate to be able to do that - to be able to express myself and be successful at it, too.”

Shifting to my music business question, the Starrider said:

“The music business. It's almost like it's gone back to the beginning, you know, with singles, pretty much. People concentrate on singles more than they do on albums these days. And I think the general quality suffers a bit because, you know, career building is very much different these days, very much more difficult. It's a jungle out there, really. It's sort of out of control, in a way. Like, everybody's got some way of recording something and putting it down and there's just so many people and so much product out there - a lot. Which is good, you know. There's some cool bands around.

“As much as that goes, I think the thing is, is if you don't have qualified people in the record companies - the old meaning of A&R was arranging and recording and there are not many people who really have the experience or the know-how to make great records. I don't think it's a shortage of musicians. I think it's just a shortage of teachers or up-and-coming musicians who can work or be influenced by a certain extent. 

As far as a solution, I don't know, it's become a very - it's become a very greedy business, like a lot of things out in this day and age. And it's all money motivated. Not that it was not before. It's so stifling for kids to want to get a record contract and then discovered that they have to give their life away to do that. It's a little obscene, I think. As I say, there aren't enough people with the wisdom and the savvy to be able to nurture the artists and really advise them in a useful way.”

That said, Mick Jones is certainly one of those in the world of rock and roll who most certainly has the wisdom and the savvy to rock our musical world. You may have a chance to allow him and the rest of the guys in Foreigner to do just that. Check out their tour schedule at ForeignerOnline.com.