When Robin Trower hit his commercial peak with 1974’s Bridge Of Sighs, it was hard to square the heady guitar pyrotechnics with the bashful man who brushed off Hendrix comparisons. Forty years later, Trower is still more about art than about ego. “It’s a matter of doing stuff for fun now,” he notes of latest release Something’s About To Change, which fuses the long-standing influence of blues titans such as Albert King with the funk of James Brown. “And hopefully selling enough to cover the cost of making the next one.”
So what has changed, exactly?
With the material for this album, I definitely felt like I was entering a new chapter, musically. The writing, and especially the guitar playing, goes deeper than before. It sounds high-flown, but I think it’s got a more consistent emotional strength. I’m always trying to push my abilities up. The benchmarks that have been set are still really high. You’re chasing them all the time, y’know?
Do you think you’ll ever be satisfied?
No. It’s always the next thing that’s going to be your finest moment.
**What lyrical themes did you find yourself writing about? **
I’d never say they’re completely factual, but there are songs that are perhaps seventy per cent about my life. Dreams That Shone Like Diamonds is about my career, the ups and downs. Other lyrics are more personal. There’s a song called Good Morning Midnight, which got too heavy for the first two verses, so for the third, I steered it away from me into fiction.
What’s the appeal of releasing on your own label (V12 Records)?
I can record whatever songs I come up with and not have to think about what an A&R guy thinks. I think I’d struggle with that now. I had a go at it in the 80s, tried to do more radio-friendly stuff – and I don’t really like any of that stuff I did then. There was pressure to deliver something that had a single. I don’t remember ever having a chairman come in to bother us, but you sensed the pressure.
**You’re releasing it on your 70th birthday: how do you feel about reaching your eighth decade? **
[Laughs] I try not to think about it. I mean, I’m still going strong. Obviously, I don’t have the energy I had when I was twenty-five, or even thirty-five. But I’m still able to deliver. I’ve been very fortunate, physically.
How do you think your sixties peers are ageing?
It always amazes me the condition Mick Jagger is in. It’s amazing that he can still move like he does – and he’s older than me. He’s looked after himself, hasn’t he? The same can’t be said about Keith.
How hard did the death of your collaborator Jack Bruce hit you?
Very hard indeed. He was such a joy to work with, such a gifted guy. He was just amazing all round: singer, player, writer of music. He was what I call a radiant dazzler.
You’ve never been a traditional guitar hero. Did the leather trousers and Jack Daniel’s never appeal?
Well, I have worn leather trousers, I’ll admit to that, but it was a while ago now.
Something’s About To Change is out on March 9 on V12/Manhaton. Trower tours the UK, with special guest Joanne Shaw Taylor, from March 26.