Kelly asked for Lou’s job to escape years of hard labour – even though he knew it was tough assignment

Kelly Hansen

Up to the job: Kelly Hansen

Foreigner singer Kelly Hansen asked Mick Jones for the job of replacing Lou Gramm in Foreigner – even though he knew it would be a difficult role to play.

The ex Slash’s Snakepit and Don Dokken vocalist felt a leap of faith was the only thing which could rescue his career from the doldrums after his first big band, Hurricane, were wiped out by the grunge explosion of the early 1990s.

Hansen tells Mercury News: “Grunge music came along and obliterated the metal scene, which was where we were coming from. I had to take a back seat and not do very much singing for the next several years.

“I was working a lot harder for a lot less return in the mid 90s, as I think a lot of people were. You start to say to yourself, ‘Wait a minute, earlier in my career, everything used to just come to me. I never had to actually pursue things.’

“So I felt like I needed to start being more proactive about how I was going about things. I happened to read an article online about a charity event that Mick Jones had done with some of the guys from Foreigner. That sounded really interesting to me.

“So I got in touch with their management. Deciding to be proactive led to that connection – and eventually to me being in the band.”

Gramm was the voice of all Foreigner’s biggest hits in their heyday but he and mainman Jones had fallen out. Hansen took over in 2005, but he knew he couldn’t set about changing the band’s history.

“Lou had a great, emotive delivery,” he says. “I knew I was taking the place of someone who had made a huge contribution to rock music. But I had the confidence of Mick Jones and the support of the rest of the guys.

“At some point, you’ve just got to pull up your patns and go, ‘Okay, I’m going to try this.’ If you fail, you fail. But at least you can say you tried.

“Fortunately, I was up to the task.”

While he applies his own approach to Foreigner’s new material, he tries to remain faithful to Gramm’s classics.

“These songs are so popular because they were great songs with great melodies,” he says. “If I try to do much more than that, then it’s just me messing up something that was really good. I sing them on stage as they were recorded.”

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