Pearl Jam Guitarist Mike McCready Talks The Rockfords

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready has known Seattle-based musician Danny Newcomb since they were five years old. McCready has been playing music with Newcombe since they were eleven years old. In fact, he says, Newcomb is one of the main reasons he initially picked up the guitar. Newcomb was the first to have six strings when the two were children, and as a result, McCready says, he wanted one, too.

One wonders if the history of rock would have been so different had Newcomb not been around from the start. And it’s those memories that make McCready smile today because the band he and Newcomb started in 1999, The Rockfords, finally got their fill and release date. Nearly 22 years after McCready, Newcomb, and the band first recorded their self-titled debut, it’s now being released with a single, “Silver Lining,” which comes out today (January 14).

“Silver Lining is just one of those wonderfully well-made stories,” McCready told the American songwriter. “I really like the way Danny wrote that song and I love it [lead singer] Carrie Acre’s voice, the emotional quality to it. There is despair and sadness, but there is beauty as well. I really love this song.”

The Rockfords are made up of a handful of notable Seattle musicians – McCready, Newcombe, Aker and brothers Chris and Rick Friel. McCready grew up with Newcomb and the Friel brothers, and they played together for thousands of hours, “too louder than they should be,” said the Pearl Jam main player.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys, if not for those countless hours of scoring and playing all over the Northwest, doing our shows and all that. There’s a kind of continuity and symmetry now,” McCready says.

When McCready hangs out with his buddies, they get caught up in old jokes, talking about KISS and other rock bands of the ’70s. They have a strong bond. Of course, McCready had to take some time away from his Seattle connections as Pearl Jam quickly became one of the biggest groups on earth, but when he was able to make his way back to town, he was obsessed with playing again with his best friends. When The Rockfords started in the late ’90s, it made little sense to bring Akre, who was an important turn-of-the-millennium vocalist in bands like Goodness, a group where Newcomb also played.

“Her voice,” McCready says. “It’s such a powerful and emotional voice. She and Danny have worked together for a long time. There’s a good mix there.”

The first band that McCready ever played was a group called The Warrior. That group also consisted of Newcombe and the Friel brothers. Later, he played with the guys in a band called Shadow. In other words, there is history. And this comes through the music. This is why the debut of The Rockfords is so important. And while it was put on YouTube in a pirated fashion years ago, it is now getting a proper version on all digital platforms. From the start of the membership now comes its final public offer.

“It just happened so naturally,” McCready says, recalling the early days. “During a conversation.”

Track 12 Track 50 minutes Rockford Everything is a rock. Licks and Imagination presents the solos of McCready. It showcases Aqrah’s heat as vocalist, impeccable guitar riffs and songs from Newcomb and steady rhythms from the Friel brothers (Chris on drums, Rick on bass). Featured tracks include the mind-blowing “Adelaide,” the vocal “Distress,” and the hearty “Silver Lining.” McCready says he hopes the album will be released on vinyl soon (although there are backups thanks to artists like Adele). Maybe a Seattle launch show or a little tour, too. But, of course, with the pandemic, that’s all up in the air, too. But whatever happens, the band is happy to turn things around again.

“We’re always texting each other up,” McCready says. “I’m really glad we’re actually talking about it. I think it was a great record and didn’t get much attention. It was a fun recording and I love the songs.”

Originally, the band’s LP debuted on CD via Epic Records. There was some thrust, though not by the ton, but now, says McCready, it’s time. And while he’s definitely a big name to him, he’s not the only Hall of Famer. Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson is featured playing and writing parts of the track “Riverwide”, and adding some background singing on the LP. McCready says that when the band was recording an LP, Wilson happened to be in Seattle and he invited her to play.

“For Nancy being such a wonderful, killer woman, she said she would,” McCready says. “I love her. She is one of the best rhythm guitarists and she does not get the recognition she should.”

While the record is 22 years old, the process of bringing it back into the world is entirely new – two days old. As such, what might happen next is still being researched. Either way, for McCready, all that’s going on now is the meat sauce. Since what he has always loved most about The Rockfords and the albums they have presented, (in fact, there is a self-titled debut and also a live album and EP released for Pearl Jam members “Ten Club” – the status of those potential new releases is still being revealed as well) is The camaraderie and friendships that make up the five-piece rock band.

“Friendship comes out in music,” McCready says. “The joy of loving music for all of us is shown in this recording.”

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