Metal icon Lita Ford is on a roll. She’s back with her eighth studio album, Living Like a Runaway, an album that’s unmistakably Lita. It’s brash, guitar-driven hard rock, lots of F-you attitude, and unabashedly personal. Its release coincides with her massive “Rock of Ages” tour with Def Leppard and Poison, which will take Lita across the US this summer. When we chatted with Lita, we got the low-down on the new record, life on the road, who her guitar heroes are, and even the status of a possible Runaways reunion.
As a little girl in the ‘80s, I wanted to grow up to be a mix of Sally Ride and Lita Ford. They seemed completely compatible to me, each one trailblazing in her own way. Lita Ford got her start as the 16-year-old lead guitarist for the Runaways, but by the time I wanted to be a rock star astronaut, Lita was the undisputed queen of metal, writing songs with Nikki Sixx, singing with Ozzy Osbourne, and playing guitar better than damn near everyone else.
Today she’s got a brand-new record, Living Like a Runaway, which is a raw, start-to-finish catharsis inspired by her recent divorce. If this isn’t an official “comeback” album, it’s definitely Lita at her most Lita — smart, witty, and totally kick-ass.
We made it! [Laughs]
Who’ve you been talking to today?
God, I did a marathon! I talked to Russia, Belgium, Switzerland, London, and Nashville!
Well, let’s just jump right in.
It seems like a lot of great guitarists and bands from the ‘80s kind of got left in the dust once grunge hit, but now it seems like there’s a resurgence of arena rock. Do you feel like that’s what’s going on? Is there still a grunge hangover?
No! There’s no grunge hangover. They’re ready for the ‘80s, but it’s not the ‘80s; it’s a different version of the ‘80s. But I think that a lot of people missed certain things about the ‘80s, and it’s not necessarily the hair, you know? There again is another thing that’s irrelevant to the music – the hair. It’s like, what the fuck does that have to do with anything? I think people miss the music. They miss the riffs, they miss the large arena-rock choruses.
We’ve managed to bring back some of the old school and we mixed it with the new [for Living Like a Runaway]. It has a current feel and a current vibe, so it doesn’t sound dated although… it is dated. I’m still getting away with it! [Laughs] I think that’s what people miss, and somebody’s got to bring it back. I think they just haven’t brought it back yet because nobody’s made the right record.
Is that why you wanted to do a cohesive start-to-finish album?
It really is. I didn’t want any filler on this record. I think the music’s missed and I think it needs to come back, but in a different style you know?
When I listened to it, it doesn’t sound dated – it sounds like Lita Ford, today.
Yes! Like with “Out for Blood”… the riffs… you can hear Lita. It’s not buried and covered in effects and all kinds of crap.
You’ve had a lot going on in your life in the past few years, and you can hear that in the album. Was it therapeutic for you?
It was very therapeutic, actually. They tell you when you’re in pain or when you’re going through a divorce, they’ll tell you to write it down – it’s therapeutic. Even if you write a letter… sometimes I would write letters and just send them to myself. I think it’s therapeutic for anybody who’s going through any kind of ANYthing! Even if you’re going to get married and you don’t really know what you’re going to wear or do, just write it down. It helps you to see things from an outside point of view rather than being stuck in the middle of something.
Is there any song in particular that was like a letter to yourself? “Mother,” in particular, was very emotional and touching. If you’re a child of divorce, and so many of us are, it can’t not get to you.
That’s what that song is supposed to do. Unfortunately, ugly things happen in the world. They’re not always pretty. Sometimes people don’t want to bring it to anyone’s attention. For someone to sing something like that, it really had to come across as real and not cheesy. I went to Gary [Hoey], the producer, and said, “Gary, we’re gonna write a song called ‘Mother,’” and he looked at me like, “What are you, fuckin’ nuts?” I said, “No, actually, if it turns out to sound like shit, we’ll throw it away. Let’s just try it.”
And we ended up recording it and we ended up deleting the bass and drums and it turned out to just be me and the acoustic guitar. And it had such a vibe to it, we were bringing in different people to listen to it. Gary’s wife, Nicole, listened to it once and left in tears. And we would say, “That’s it – it’s working.” And we’d try it on a guy, and the guys would leave in tears and we thought, “Right on – it’s working. It’s not cheesy!” [Laughs]
What is your favorite track on the album?
I don’t really have a favorite track, honestly. I like them all. They all have a certain something to them that I just love.
They really work together, start to finish. It feels like a complete thought.
Exactly. It’s a theme. I wanted it to be that way, I didn’t want one song to be about the guy down the street and the next song to be about the grocery store or something. [Laughs] I just wanted it to all go together. It’s an album – it’s a story, it’s a journey, it’s emotions. It’s supposed to go together.
Even the title, Living like a Runaway… there’s different meanings to that. It’s not necessarily about The Runaways.
It sounds like the story of someone who’s constantly moving, running, dealing with life.
That’s true. I think a lot of people really are on the run, whether they’re on the run from the law or from their own lives. Like that one line that says, “You can’t slow down and you can never stay, when you’re livin’ like a runaway.” My friend who co-wrote that song with me was on the run from the law. And he really knows what it’s like.
And then again, it’s also like being on tour. You’re constantly running and going and you don’t know where you’re going exactly. You kind of forget. So, it’s a journey. That song’s a journey, too. “Run, baby, run.”
My mother used to say, [off-the-boat Italian accent] “Lita, you just go kick ASS those people!” [Laughs] She had a real thick Italian accent. And the words she used to say were, “Run, baby, run! Go fast! Go kick ASS those people!” Okay, Mom! [Laughs] Sometimes you get on a stage and you don’t know what town you’re in. You just got to do it and not think about it. I don’t think about it. Like, I gotta go on Thursday to Orlando, but I can’t think that far ahead. Even though it’s right around the corner, I still can’t think that far ahead. I’ll worry about it Wednesday night right before I have to leave, and I’ll throw a few things in a suitcase and go!
In part 2 of our interview, Lita talks about being a serious rock star at a young age, and what might be next for The Runaways.
Catch Lita Ford on tour with Poison and Def Leppard this summer. For tour dates, tickets, and info on her new album, Living Like a Runaway, visit Lita’s official site, Lita Ford Online.