Billy Sherwood is one of the busiest men in the music world at the moment. Fresh off Asia’s tour with Journey, he had a week off before before he heads back out on the road with Yes for their Yestival summer tour. On top of that he has a new album out on August 4th with World Trade, another project of his. He talks about Yes, Asia, many of his projects as well as the new World Trade album.
RSC: Do you ever take any time off? It seems like every time I turn around there you are out on the road or another record pops up.
Billy Sherwood: (Laughs) I try not to because I’m basically a workaholic. I love to keep working and I love music so those two factors keep me busy. Lately it’s been more busy than normal in terms of touring. With Yes being pretty active after Chris’ passing and also now with Asia so it’s been a bit busier this year than most. It’s what I love to do, it’s a blessing and I’m certainly not complaining about it that’s for sure.
RSC: The Asia tour just ended last night (July 28). Tell us how it was and what it meant to you singing those great songs.
BS: Yeah it was fantastic we did 45 shows over the period tour cycle with Journey who were phenomenal and really nice people and their crew was really amazing. It was just a great time and they made it very comfortable for us. Playing the music was very, very special, very emotional and kind of joyful moments in my mind and very sad in knowing John (Wetton) had gone. So, If I could put all that into perspective and be entertaining at the same time. That being said the band was sounding really good and really smoking. I’ve known Geoff obviously for years in Yes. Of course, Carl was one of my drumming heroes when I was growing up playing drums. I use to play Emerson Lake & Palmer all the time. To be able play with Carl was just on another level for me. He’s a great guy, a really funny sense of humor. It was just a blast playing with him. It was really good.
RSC: Is there any update on the future of Asia?
BS: There’s definitely chatter about lining up more touring and what not. Nothing I can really speak about right now. It’s definitely something the band would like to do. The business powers that be if you will, are looking into opportunities so I won’t be surprised if you see more.
RSC: Friday World Trade releases their third album Unify. Tell us about how you guys came up with the songs and was there any differences from the previous two albums in the way you went about the recording process.
BS: This new album is very much like the first one in terms of how we went about it as a band. Where the second album was a little more of a studio project put together by the band but we also had other individuals involved because everyone’s schedules were kind of all over the map. We couldn’t devote the time to try to be a band, we had other things going on. So, this new record Unify, that was one of the reasons I came up with that title and turn it into a song. We were going to be unified on this record and make this record together the way we had before. A big part of it for me are Bruce Gowdy’s compositions. Coming to the table with pieces of music that are just really interesting. Then I’ll jump in melodically and lyrically and take it from there. I attribute a lot of the World Trade sound to Bruce if you will. Everyone jumps in as a band and fills in their spaces but for me it really starts with what Brice brings to the table.
RSC: An interesting history with your first album goes back to 1989 then your second album was released in 1995. So that’s 22 years between albums, Why now? What prompted the decision.
BS: I made a few albums for Frontiers records. One of them was John Wetton’s solo album Raised In Captivity. Years later I made a solo album of my own called Citizen where I invited a bunch of different characters on there. They asked me at that point would you like to make a Circa album for Frontiers? We said that’s a great idea. Tony (Kaye) and I set out creating what ended up being Valley Of The Wind Mill. Shortly thereafter they suggested what if you got the original cast of World Trade together. I called Bruce he said “I’m good let’s call the other guys.” so we all got together and agreed we would set our calendars down for a minute and really focus in on this thing and do it like we did before, all together. That’s how it kind of came about. The catalyst for it was really Frontiers records wanting it to happen so I have to give them credit where credit is due.
RSC: Any chance you will be taking World Trade to the road?
BS: It would be great to go out on the road. That being said my schedule is pretty crazy between Asia and Yes. Chris asked me to do this and step in and I gave him my word I would. This is priority one. Now with John Wetton doing the same that’s become priority one as well. So, I have several priority ones right now. Bands like Asia and Yes with that history and that brand and the touring track record they tour a lot. That’s a factor where World Trade was under the ground sort of under the radar. It would be a bit of a task to get it up and running. If the calendar permits and the opportunities are there to do it we would certainly would love to do it. It’s just a matter of seeing how the timing works out.
RSC: You have done so many things and played with so many people as well as producing many artists, can you even keep track of all that you have done?
BS: It does get a bit foggy. I’d have to look on a timeline would be the best way for me to do it. I’d have to be reminded what I was doing at that time. It’s been a lot of things. The cool thing is by virtue of doing all that I’ve made connections and have associations with a bunch of fantastic musicians. It’s a blessing to be able to do what I am doing and have been doing for a long time. It’s a blessing and I don’t take it lightly.
RSC: What stands out to you, not counting your more recent bands with Yes or Asia, as some of the things you are most proud of?
BS: Well I’m proud of all the records I make. It’s sort of a selfish thing because I wrote it, I played it so I’m proud of it. That said in terms of important records along the way I done, Logic was an important one because it was the first one I’ve been involved with. It was a huge learning curve stepping into the music business on that level, having the guys in Toto produce it. Out of that and into World Trade which was a really important record. Producing the Paul Rodgers Muddy Waters blues record was important because that opened the door for me to start producing. Along the way creating all these other things Circa, The Key, Yoso all these different bands that start with crazy ideas that come from nowhere. These things come about in strange ways. Each one of them has its own stepping stone that leads to the next thing for me.
RSC: The day Unify is released you will be playing the first date of the Yestival. What can fans expect to see and hear from Yes this time around?
BS: We’re going to touch on the history of Yes in terms of its music over the years from various records, which is interesting. I can’t really speak what that is or the band will kill me. It will be clear enough soon because once you play one show it’s out there. I don’t want to be the guy that’s leaking it. I’m a huge Todd fan. I actually made a record called Todd Rundgren & Friends that I produced along with Bob Kulick and we had a bunch of great artists on there. So, I’m a huge Todd fan and it will be very cool to see Carl Palmer opening up for it. I miss him already and It’s only been 12 hours. So, it’s going to be a fun package and I think the fans will have a night of some extremely cool music to listen to. It’s going to be a great time.
RSC: Final question. What are your plans after the Yes tour ends through the end of 2017, beginning of 2018?
BS: I’m working on a Chris Squire tribute record that I’m making for Cleopatra. I’ve got all the basics cut and once I get home I’m going to focus on who’s going to be the guest artists along the way. There’s a few other projects in the making that I can’t really talk about because they’re not confirmed. That will probably take me till we go back out with Yes again. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I tend to stay busy and work on music every day that’s my plan.