The Guess Who say they're ambassadors of their own catalogue, that they have a responsibility to deliver it with integrity. But they're also blown away by their own new music

The Guess Who - studio portrait
(Image credit: Deko Entertainment)

It’s 53 years since The Guess Who topped the US singles chart with American Woman. Since then the Canadian group have lived up to their name, maintaining a succession of line-ups mostly built around drummer Garry Peterson, who has been the mainstay since 1965. 

The band’s new album Plein D’Amour, written and produced by singer and guitarist Derek Sharp, is an impressive statement of fresh intent from a band that continue to tour relentlessly


Are The Guess Who still a Canadian band? 

Derek Sharp: Somewhat. Our keyboard player Leo [Shaw] lives in Winnipeg and I live north of Toronto. Everybody else isin the US. We recorded the album just north of where I live, in this tiny town called Singhampton – which is basically an intersection – in an old Victorian home that they turned into a recording studio. I’d worked with the engineer Adam Fair quite a bit, and he understands the old-school thing. 

In what way did you tap into the history of The Guess Who when you were writing this album? 

Derek Sharp: I didn’t, really. We did an album in 2018 [The Future IS What It Used To Be], and our goal then was to kind of bridge the gap between when The Guess Who left off, in let’s say 1975, to the present. But this time we really wanted to do something that was more indicative of the membership we have now. We have five singers in the band. That wasn’t the case back in the day. 

And I wanted to write music that I’d want to do. I wasn’t really thinking of trying to be like anything else, because what’s the point in that? There’s so many great Guess Who songs, it would be kind of foolish to try and imitate it.

Michael Staertow (guitar/vocals): The Guess Who has a legacy that means so much to Canada and the world. And when Derek played me the demos for this record I was just blown away. I really believe in the direction of the songs, and I think this album exemplifies where the band is headed in the future. This is the sound of what the band is in 2023 and moving forward.

Are you still happy to go out and play all the old songs, or would you prefer to play just these new songs that the current band recorded? 

Sharp: It has to be both, because people are coming out because they want to hear some of these songs. Luckily I’ve been in the band long enough [since 2008] where they expect to hear my songs as well. But most people are coming to hear American Woman. You can’t deny people that experience. Part of the joy of playing is watching the joy coming from the people. It’s a different experience every night. 

What’s your take on the lyrics of American Woman? 

Sharp: There’s so many stories out there…Who knows? We’re the wrong people to ask. 

What’s it like to end up in a band that you revered in your youth? 

Sharp: Well I didn’t think of it until you mentioned it. Now I’m freaked out! 

Staertow: We’re ambassadors of the catalogue. And we have a responsibility to deliver it with integrity. And I think we do. Derek does an amazing job at taking that on and beyond.

Plein D’Amour is available now via Deko Entertainment.

David Sinclair

Musician since the 1970s and music writer since the 1980s. Pop and rock correspondent of The Times of London (1985-2015) and columnist in Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. Contributor to Q magazine, Kerrang!, Mojo, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, et al. Formerly drummer in TV Smith’s Explorers, London Zoo, Laughing Sam’s Dice and others. Currently singer, songwriter and guitarist with the David Sinclair Four (DS4). His sixth album as bandleader, Apropos Blues, is released 2 September 2022 on Critical Discs/Proper.