By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Even though Kelly Hansen has been fronting the band Foreigner since 2005, he still gets called the band's "new" singer.
Then there are the inevitable comparisons to longtime Foreigner singer Lou Gramm. But the 50-year-old Hansen, best known for fronting '80s band Hurricane, more than proves his vocal chops on Foreigner's 2009 studio album, "Can't Slow Down," his first with the band.
Foreigner will perform with Journey and Night Ranger at 7 p.m. July 30 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park.
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.
I had the chance to talk to Hansen about a variety of topics.
Q - Of course, you joined Foreigner in 2005, but you probably still get called the "new" singer of Foreigner.
I was very happy when I started being called the "newish" singer of Foreigner.
Q - Does that bother you? You've been in the band for six years now.
You can't take things personally. If people don't know things, then they don't know things. You can't blame them for it.
If they haven't heard what the band has doing for a while, then they're going to think I'm the new guy. I just don't take it personally.
Q - You also get some comparisons to Lou Gramm. Can that be both a good thing and a bad thing?
Well, I think it's inevitable. Lou is known as the iconic voice that sang on all these hits. There's no reason to deny it. That's just what it is.
I think that I'm fortunate that for the sake of the songs and the sake of Foreigner, that my sound is kind of a similar sound. But we're not trying to be a previous version of this band, and I'm not trying to be Lou, it just happens to be what it is.
I respect all that Lou has done with this band. If people are going to compare, then that's what they are going to do.
I guess it's good and bad in a way. People are familiar with these songs, and they're familiar with Lou's voice on them.
I'm just singing great melodies. They've proven themselves to be great. So the only thing I can do to mess it up is by trying to prove how different I am.
Q - Did you listen to many Foreigner songs growing up?
I was very aware of the band. I remember the band got a lot of flack from critics when they came out because they were saying it was a manufactured band, a corporate rock band.
Back in the day, that's what they called a band like Foreigner. They accused them of being a sellout.
There was big harsh criticism from magazines like "Rolling Stone" and some of the big music critics. My thought was that I really loved commercial bands because if they were commercial, that meant they were successful, which meant they were reaching people and communicating with them, and having an affect on a lot of people.
And that's what music is supposed to be about. It's about communicating. If a band is out there communicating and reaching a lot of people, how is that not a good thing?
So I felt this kind of understanding of what they were doing, and didn't agree with all the critics and what they said about bands like Foreigner.
Q - Speaking of commercial success, the first album that you made with Foreigner, "Can't Slow Down," reached number 29 on the Billboard 200 chart, with two of the songs reaching the Top 20 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Did that surprise you at all, that the album was received like that?
Well, I'm certainly happy that the album was received like that. I didn't go in with any expectation, because I think that will lead to disappointment.
What you should do is just let be what it is, work hard, and then if it achieves something great, you look at that as a bonus.
I was very happy to see that people were responding well to the record, because this was the last kind of hurdle we had to jump as a new band.
It took a hell of a lot of work, though, in this day and age, to try and get any kind of notice.
Nowadays, even on some of the largest labels, it's difficult to get your head and shoulders above the sea of releases that are out there by people who are making them in their bedrooms. That all just clogs up the works, and makes it hard for people to know your new music is out.
So we had to really work hard at that. And it's an ongoing progress. There's still millions of people out there who were Foreigner fans, who don't know this current lineup and what we are doing.
There's also a new generation of people who haven't discovered the band.
Q - Compared to your other projects, how does being in Foreigner rate?
I think this is kind of what I was really born to do. It feels really comfortable for me.