Interview with Jamie Rowe, the voice of Guardian, Adriangale and The Lost Days Of Summer.
Jamie Rowe is likely no stranger to anyone reading this. As the frontman for the Christian rock band Guardian, the voice behind the melodic rock band AdrianGale and most recently one of the guys behind the project The Lost Days Of Summer, Jamie has made for himself a well known name within the genre of melodic hard rock.
As a longtime fan of his, going all the way back to 1991 and his phenomenal first record with Guardian, ‘Fire And Love‘, it was indeed a privilege and an honor to have this chance to ask him some questions going through his lengthy career all the way from his first band in the late 80’s to his most recent projects.
A tremendous vocalist, fantastic writer and just genuinely nice fellow, check out the interview that Jamie kindly granted me below.
MMR: Jamie, thank you so much for taking this time out of your day, I really appreciate it. So, I have my questions kind of set up going through your career, so let’s start at the very beginning. I am guessing somewhere around 1985/86 you started a band called Tempest. The debut record, ‘A Coming Storm’, released in 1987, featuring a young, almost, vocally, unrecognizable Jamie Rowe. You released a sophomore album with the band, 1988’s ‘The Eye Of The Storm’, before the band reached it’s ultimate demise. Both albums are rather tough to find and often quite expensive when you are able to find them, unfortunately. So was Tempest your first band and how did it start?
JR: Tempest was the first band I was a part of, yes. I was originally only the bass player. At 17, I wasn’t a very good player at that point so after I tracked my parts they had a session player come in and re-do them after I left! Haha! The producer of the record heard me sing and said “We should put him on a few tracks” so I sang on half of the album. By the time it was released I was the full-time vocalist for the band. Those albums are available on iTunes legally, anything else you find out there (other than original pressings) are bootlegs and someone trying to make a buck. Unless the label who owns the masters decides to do a proper release of physical media they will likely be digital only.
MMR: I never knew that, very interesting.
Well I am very glad you did end up as vocalist! You have a tremendous voice.
Now up until this point you were relatively little known as a vocalist but fame was just around the corner for you. I guess it was what, 1990? when you joined Guardian. How did you come about joining Guardian? If I am not mistaken the Elefante‘s were a big part of that.
JR: I actually joined because I had become friends with Guardian guitarist Tony Palacios. I was a fan of the band and would call him occasionally to chat. I was a huge Stryper fan and was enamored with the fact that Oz (Fox) produced their music. When I heard the original vocalist quit I called Tony to see if I could audition. It was funny because he discouraged me from sending in an audition tape because even though he was a friend he thought Tempest was terrible and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I persisted and overnighted him a tape. He let it sit for a week before he went to pick it up because he “knew it was going to be terrible”! His wife finally convinced him to pick it up as I had called and left a few messages. He popped it in while driving and pulled off the side of the road…he couldn’t believe it was me singing. It was exactly what they were wanting stylistically. Shortly thereafter I was on a plane to LA and spend a week with them. We wrote ‘Power Of Love‘ and ‘The Rain‘ that first week. While the Elefante’s were a BIG part of my early Guardian records, they didn’t actually have any involvement in getting me the gig.
MMR: Oh wow, what a great story. I had no idea. Very cool. And obviously it all worked out great. Don’t get me wrong, (Paul) Cawley had a good voice (founding member and vocalist on the first Guardian album ‘First Watch‘), but your voice just fits the music, as you said, stylistically, far better. It was really a great match there.
I will never forget the first time I heard ‘Fire And Love’. I was at a friend’s house and he said to me “you have got to hear this record I just got”. He put it on and from those opening moments of ‘Power Of Love’ I was hooked. I was big into Bon Jovi, still am honestly, and the record has a strong Jovi vibe to it. Actually at that point in time you were channeling quite a bit of Jon yourself vocally. It is the first Christian hard rock album I can remember that had that Bon Jovi-esque vibe to it. Actually probably the only one ever. This album caught the attention of folks, started opening doors for you and saw Guardian touring with some good friends of yours, Stryper. What was that like, joining up with a band, putting out such a classic album as your first record with them and finding yourself touring with a band like Stryper?
JR: Interesting side note: We were supposed to open the ‘Keep The Faith‘ tour dates in Singapore. Our manager had worked it our with William Morris Agency, but part of the deal was we had to do a beer commercial. At the time we were collectively really conservative and didn’t want to promote alcohol. In hindsight maybe we should have done it. I have always been a Bon Jovi fan but I can’t say Jon was a vocal influence specifically. I do hear the similarity but it’s unintentional.
As far as Stryper, they were my absolute favorite band at the time. It was mind-blowing for me to go from fan to friend with those guys. I recall the first time I met Oz, I was with Tony and he went to pick up something from Stryper’s storage unit and the van on the cover of ‘Soldiers Under Command‘ was there!!! Those were great times for me. To this day I still turn into a teenage fan when I see them. So much respect and love for those guys.
MMR: Obviously taking that opening slot for Bon Jovi would have meant big things for you guys back then but there is certainly something to be said and respect to be had for standing up for your beliefs in that way.
Guardian’s career has been kind of varied, musically speaking. ‘First Watch’ and ‘Fire And Love’ have a very strong hair band sound to them while ‘Miracle Mile’ saw the band starting to slowly distance yourselves from that sound. Was it the changing musical landscape here in the US that was behind that change in sound?
JR: Not really. It was more derived from spending 2 years touring heavily and finding our groove as a band. I recall as we were releasing ‘Miracle Mile‘ I wondered if we had traded melodic hooks for hard rock riffs too much. But it instantly hit and to date is still our best selling album. Historically I see definitive Guardian as ‘Fire & Love‘ and ‘Miracle Mile‘. We made good music after that but I still view those two as our “time”. As far as being varied, I agree. But it was always based on us doing what we liked during any given time. We tried to stretch and not be locked into one thing stylistically as we all enjoyed different types of music as well.
MMR: I would have to agree with you there, ‘Fire & Love‘ and ‘Miracle Mile‘ are certainly the seminal releases for the band. And if you aren’t writing what you like and only trying to write what is expected then it will get stale, so there is certainly nothing wrong with branching out a bit.
As I said, ‘Fire And Love‘ is a classic. Just an excellent record all around. You guys did an amazing job with it. But it has been out of print for a long time now and it is rather pricey when you find it. Thankfully I have a copy from years ago but others are not so fortunate. Is there any chance of it getting re-released at some point?
JR: Not any formal plans from Word or Warner Bros. that I’m aware of, however I spoke with someone this past week about getting a vinyl release of ‘Fire & Love‘. I could see a short run of re-issues of the CD, but this would be a first to have vinyl. I hate when I see our stuff that’s hard to find fetching prices that are 5-10 times the original value.
MMR: Yeah, it is a shame how expensive out of print titles can get, I would love to see it get a re-issue. Such a great record.
Now in the late 80’s and early 90’s Christian hard rock was not nearly as big of a genre, or as widely accepted as it is today. You had your bands like Stryper, Whitecross and Petra that were putting out some strong music but for the most part it was more of pop rock, soft rock type artists like Steve Green, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith that were big in Christian music. Was it difficult finding your audience at first? I am sure touring with Stryper helped you in that aspect though.
JR: We always seemed to have a good audience from day 1. Our affiliation with Stryper certainly helped that. We inherited a lot of their fans when they went off the grid in the early 90’s. But what’s interesting, probably the biggest thing that helped us, was when Tony played with Michael W. Smith on his ‘Change Your World‘ tour. After that tour ended ‘Miracle Mile‘ was released and because Tony made such an impact on that tour we had a whole bunch of new fans who scooped up that album!
MMR: Guardian released their last album, ‘Almost Home‘, in 2014. I had the privilege of seeing you live for the first and only time at Melodic Rock Fest 3 in Illinois a few years back. Awesome shows by the way! I know you are currently working on something else, which we will get to in a minute, but are there any plans to do more music with Guardian at this point?
JR: Thanks! I always love playing dates for melodic rock crowds! Right now there are no plans to record new Guardian music. But there is something in the works that I believe will make Guardian fans happy. Stay tuned. 🙂
MMR: Excellent! Now my interest is really piqued! I can’t wait to find out more.
As a kid I grew up in a church going family so I was familiar with a lot of the Christian rock artists at that time but I’ll be honest, it is not a genre I have followed in my adult years save a few bands like Stryper, Skillet or artists like you and John Schlitt, so this may be a bit of a naïve question but is Guardian still a force in the Christian music world or has that genre gone the same way as the rest of the world with leaning towards that radio friendly pop rock crap?
JR: I’m with you, man. I don’t pay attention to “Christian music” much these days. I don’t think we would be considered a ‘force’ in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) except for Latin America. Sad to admit, but the overall generic quality (and in my opinion, lyrical insincerity) in Christian music makes me happy to not be a part of it at all.
MMR: You know, not to speak ill of the artists as I am sure there are many that are truly sincere in what they are doing, but I have felt that way for a very long time myself. That generic, never very deep lyrical content seems to pervade a lot of “Christian” music. At least in my limited familiarity of the genre.
I own all of Guardian‘s albums and own both of the Tempest albums but I am a bit embarrassed to say that I have only one of your solo records, ‘Songs For Heaven And Earth‘. But on that album the songs seem to be a bit more personal. Obviously we all know the purpose of doing solo records is to put out music that won’t fit with an artist’s band, so what is that writing process like for you? Do you purposefully save your more intimate, personal songs for a solo record or do you just write and go with whatever comes out?
JR: I just write what I’m digging at the current moment. I definitely wanted to do something different with that solo album. I was in London Calling when I recorded that and in hindsight saved my “better songs” for the London Calling release. Other than the single ‘I Do‘ that I released last Summer on iTunes I’m not really pleased with any solo recordings. Hopefully one day I will record a solo album that will be better.
MMR: So you have albums with Tempest. Have released several albums with Guardian. You have a few solo records. You did some work in London Calling, did some songs for Justin Murr with his Liberty ‘N Justice project and worked with a few bands like Newsboys and Petra on some of their albums. You are certainly well known in the music industry, especially in the Christian genre, but I think the majority of my readers are going to know you for your work with AdrianGale and the great Vic Rivera. So tell us, how did that whole project come about?
JR: I met John Kivel at the Stryper Expo in New Jersey in 2000. We connected and he told me about the label he had started. He called me shortly there after and said he has a proposition for me. He wanted to hire me as a singer for one of his projects that was without a vocalist. So I did it and it was AdrianGale’s ‘Feel The Fire‘ album. I instantly connected with Vic (Rivera) and though I was trying at the time to not be limited to hard rock, it was undeniable that it was a good fit. I did the first 3 albums as a paid vocalist though I did contribute lyrically and melodically on songs that Vic had left open. ‘SuckerPunch‘ and ‘Defiance‘ – I was not a paid vocalist. I did those for the love of the band, my friendships, and the fact that I love the musical output that comes from Vic Rivera and I together. We are no longer affiliated with Kivel but there is definite plans to record a new record in 2017! I treat AdrianGale as a personal project and not a hired gun situation. I think the ‘Crunch‘ album is one of the best things I’ve recorded in my career. I love ‘Defiance‘ too!
MMR: Awesome! Well it was a match made in musical Heaven I think. Vic is an amazing talent obviously and the music fits so well with your voice I just couldn’t imagine someone else singing it on the records. And I agree, ‘Crunch‘ is indeed a fantastic record and one of your best, though I will still argue that, personally, I feel that ‘Fire And Love‘ is your best.
This is not a Christian band like Guardian is. The songs are still very positive in nature and uplifting but gone are the religious lyrics that Guardian is known for. Anyone that follows you on Facebook knows that you are very up front and honest about your faith so did you have an understanding with the other band members when the band started about lyrical content and what could or could not be included?
JR: Yes, they know there are certain topics that I likely wouldn’t sing about. But it’s never been an issue honestly. I hope it’s okay with him to say, but Vic doesn’t profess to be a person of faith, but to me he has more Christian characteristics in him than most Christians I know. Same with Ed Campbell. I love those guys, they are quality people!
I have figured out that I don’t have to sing “Jesus loves you” to make that apparent through song. I love AdrianGale’s records and I love the fans that gravitate towards those records. Honored to be a part. Christians are called to be “salt and light” in the world…salt adds flavor…to much salt ruins the flavor. 🙂
MMR: Well it is great that you can all have that understanding and respect for each other that, while perhaps not sharing the same beliefs, you are still able to come together and make this fantastic music that can be so uplifting and hopeful in nature and lyrically fit into your beliefs as a Christian and likewise into others who may not identify with those beliefs and make this music that anyone can relate to regardless. It really reminds me a lot of Giant and how Dann and David Huff came from Whiteheart to form this rock band that was not Christian rock as Whiteheart was but just focused, for the most part, on writing positive, uplifting lyrics.
I touched briefly on the changing musical style of Guardian over the years a minute ago. Going back to that, AdrianGale’s debut was really your first classic sounding melodic rock style record you had put out since ‘Fire And Love’. You never left the melodic stylings of course, but AdrianGale brought you back to those classic rock sounding songs of the 80’s. Is that a genre that is close to your heart? (Remember this is a site just for melodic rock, haha! just kidding).
JR: Let me put it this way: I publicly admit that I’m a decent singer, but the area where I thrive and deliver is melodic rock. I went through a season of trying to distance myself because I wanted to go in a different musical direction for a few years, but I ALWAYS come back to melodic hard rock. Meat & potatoes rock is where I shine.
MMR: I have heard every album you have ever released, and own them all save the previously mentioned solo records (which I have still heard start to finish) and I can honestly say that you have never once sounded even close to bad vocally, but I do have to agree that melodic rock is really your forte as a vocalist.
Who are your biggest influences as an artist, a writer and a singer?
JR: Hands down, Cheap Trick as far as vocally and songwriting. I came out of the 80’s so Jani Lane (Warrant) was a big influence too. Believe it or not Third Eye Blind has been a big influence on me since the mid 90’s.
MMR: Cheap Trick certainly has some great songs in their catalogue and Robin (Zander) is of course a fantastic singer! And I don’t think you can be much of any kind of hair metal fan without liking at the least a few of Lane’s songs.
Third Eye Blind is a bit outside of my musical taste but I will admit that their eponymous album has some pretty great songs on it and Stephan (Jenkins) isn’t too shabby of a vocalist for that genre.
Well up to modern day here and something that I know you are excited about. You have a new project dropping soon, The Lost Days Of Summer. How did the project start?
JR: Lost Days was born out of spending so much time with Jamey Perrenot recording the last Guardian album. While I enjoy making music with Lost Days I’m aware that my fans are still wanting me to sing hard rock. We will be releasing singles and EP’s.
MMR: Musically what can we expect from the record? I have heard one song that has been released thus far and, while it is certainly a bit different and not melodic rock as you said, it is still a good song.
JR: It’s more eclectic pop in nature than what I’m known for. Jamey produces and plays/programs all the music. His forte is acoustic guitar and he likes to play rather complicated parts. I sing melodic melodies over them. It’s good stuff but admittedly it doesn’t seem to connect as well as when I belt out with heavy guitars. Haha!
MMR: When is the release date for the record?
JR: No set release, digital singles and EP’s along the way. Our hope is film/TV placements.
MMR: You recently released a beautiful song that you wrote for your lovely wife, congratulations on your marriage by the way! Are there any plans for a new solo album or was that just a special song for your special lady?
JR: I mentioned earlier that I would love to release a better quality solo release someday. ‘I Do‘ is one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever written. Jamey Perrenot recorded that for me and did a fabulous job!
MMR: Well I agree, he did a fabulous job, as did you. It’s a beautiful song and I do hope that we get to hear more solo material from you.
So some my favorite songs from you come off of the ‘Fire And Love’ record, that is not to say there are not other incredible songs throughout your career of course. ‘Power Of Love’, just an awesome rock ‘n’ roller! ‘Forever And A Day‘, a beautiful ballad, terrific vocal delivery from you. ‘Time And Time Again’, another great rocker. And ‘Never Say Goodbye’, another outstanding ballad. What are some of your favorites from your career?
JR: ‘The Rain‘ is my favorite Guardian song. ‘Never Say Goodbye‘ is really special to me as it was the song I sent to audition for the band. Simple song that globally has always been a favorite. I like the ‘Buzz‘ album quite a bit too. I think songs like ‘State Of Mine‘ are pretty stellar. The song ‘Almost Home‘ on the last Guardian album is incredible too!
MMR: Oh, ‘The Rain‘, great track!
And to kind of follow that question up, if you had to name one of your songs that best describes you, your music and your mission, what song would that be?
JR: ‘Faith‘ by AdrianGale.
MMR: Great song! And funny you should mention that, I have always loved that song and those opening lyrics are actually what popped to mind earlier when you mentioned the lyrics of AdrianGale never having been an issue. I think those opening lines say it well, “I’m not the kind of man who tells you what to do. I know that everyone has different points of view“. We all have different views and beliefs on things in life but there is no reason that should stop us from loving and respecting one another and being able to work together.
What would you say is the biggest difference in the music industry these days as opposed to when you first started with putting out music?
JR: Ha…no one buys the music. That’s the first thing. It’s turned a lot of bands into travelling t-shirt salesmen that also record music.
It’s easier to get music out there today, but it’s created so much clutter that it’s hard to get people to pay attention.
MMR: Yes, very true.
I was chatting with another artist a while back and he mentioned to me how unbelievable it was what you could do in the studio these days with fixing vocals and such, and as such it basically opens the door for anyone with no talent and a spot of money in their pocket to go in and make a record. So all of that just adds to the clutter of music that is already out there.
It is easier now than ever for someone to record music and get it out there thanks to the internet and social media, but due to that, as you said, clutter, it is hard to get your particular voice heard above that multitude. And, call me biased, but I believe melodic rock is the worst hit genre of music to be affected by this. We truly have the greatest musicians and singers in the world and yet we are one of the smallest genres out there. Unfair does not even began to describe it.
I will get off of that subject. I am quite passionate about that and could go on and on! lol. So moving on.
People these days do not consider the impact that a “simple” free download or such has on such a large group of people. You artists are hurt by it, everyone involved in the recording and production are hurt by it and the music industry is hurt by it. I don’t think it is that people just don’t give a crap, I think it is that folks just don’t understand how truly devastating it is to every aspect of music to not go out and purchase an album and instead try and save a few bucks by pirating it. I don’t think people realize that unless your name is Jon Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift or some other multi-million dollar selling artist that you actually make very little off of record sales and most of you artists still have to hold day jobs to make ends meet.
Okay, so I am done now! lol. Again, moving on.
What do you want folks to take away from your music?
JR: My favorite part of being a recording artist is having people respond to the music. If I created something that I truly loved and no one wanted to hear it, that wouldn’t be rewarding to me. So that gives my listeners a lot of power in my musical life.
MMR: That is awesome, man. I love it when artists like yourself are so in tune with their fans. You are very active on social media with keeping us fans updated and staying in touch with us. I love that.
I believe that the moment an artist forgets their fans, forgets why their music and their name is even relevant to began with or even known outside of their immediate circle, is the moment that they forget who they really are and why they started in the first place. Personally I would much rather sit down and share a drink or talk with someone who sells 100 records and still appreciates every fan and every album they sell then I would spend a day with one of the biggest artists in the world who has forgotten all of that.
I have been to hundreds of shows in my life, both sold out stadium shows and small nightclub shows that barely have a soul present, and without a doubt those small venues always take the cake on being the best shows I have ever seen as those artists are the ones that still appreciate and love every minute of it and don’t do it because of the big paycheck at the end of the day.
Well Jamie, again I thank you for your time. It has been a true privilege. I am a huge fan and I can’t wait to hear the new albums and whatever else you deliver for us. We don’t hear enough from you, man!
So final question, and I saved the hardest question for last of course. If you could own only one album what would that be?
JR: Ah…that’s a tough one. Probably the first Cheap Trick album. But that is always subject to change.
Visit Jamie online!
Click here to visit the Guardian website.
Click here to visit Jamie’s Facebook page.
Hear the songs mentioned in this interview here.