(CBS NEWS) – Bay Area rocker, Sammy Hagar was vacationing with his family in Tahiti last December when the inspiration came for “Sammy Hagar and Friends,” his new album due Sept. 24. That’s when the singer-guitarist wrote “Father Sun,” probably his favorite track on the upcoming star-studded collection.
“It’s the newest song [representing] who I am today,” Hagar told CBSNews.com.
The next thing Hagar knew, he was writing new tracks fast and furiously — and many of them were good enough to stay. “It’s kind of like everything else I do — I step in and it kind of sticks on my shoe and I drag it around with me for a while,” Hagar said.
Soon Hagar, 65, decided to call up some of his musician friends to see if they would guest on the set. His first call? Country singer Toby Keith. The two are good pals and often get together in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where Hagar heads up his Cabo Wabo enterprise.
“Toby Keith is probably my No. 1 Cabo buddy. We’re pretty much in a ‘Margaritaville’ frame of mind,” said the “Red Rocker.”
But timing was tricky because of Keith’s hefty touring schedule, and actually getting around to recording the song came “down to the wire.” But in the end, they got it done. “He was the last guy to come in,” recalled Hagar. Naturally, the Cabo buddies recorded a version of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.”
“I’ve been accused of being the heavy metal Jimmy Buffett since I left Van Halen — since I started my party trip,” said Hagar. “To me, this is a nod to Jimmy, saying ‘Yes, he’s the Godfather. He invented what I do now.’ I wasn’t a Parrothead or anything like that my whole life. I had no idea what he had going. Until I saw it. And I just went, ‘Wow, this dude has got it going on.'”
“Margaritaville” isn’t the only cover on the album. Hagar also recorded Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” a suggestion made by his wife. She loves the song, and Hagar being a big Seger-fan made it a perfect fit. “I think he’s one of the great American rock soul voices,” Hagar said of Seger.
Several other guests perform on “Sammy Hagar and Friends” including Kid Rock, Taj Mahal, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame, Neal Schon from Journey, Hagar’s Chickenfoot bandmates Joe Satriani, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony, as well as the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. Even Hagar’s former Montrose bandmates Bill Church and Denny Carmassi make appearances.
Nancy Wilson of Heart, meanwhile, duets on “All We Need is An Island.” “This is a love song,” Hagar said. So, with that, he had to find just the right fit for his duet partner. “To do a duet with a girl, I can’t do it with Taylor Swift, she’s too young,” Hagar said. “‘What’s that old man doing with that young girl? He looks stupid!’ So, I thought, ‘Who’s kind of like in my age group, who’s cool, who has a great voice?’ Nancy Wilson. Done. And she’s a dear friend.”
When it came time for guest stars, Hagar tried to choose people who would fit best with the music: “It’s a matter of who would be right for each song. Mickey Hart for ‘All We Need is An Island’ — he’s the only guy I know who has Tahitian drums and every kind of drum on the planet.”
But there were bound to be people who were left out.
“Choosing people to be on your ‘Sammy Hagar and Friends’ record, you’re going, ‘I’ve got so many friends.’ And so many friends have called me up and said, ‘Come on dude, why didn’t you ask me to be on the record?’ I’m going, ‘Damn, I forgot.’ I really did,” he said.
In the end, Hagar says he’s really proud of the album.
“I really feel like I made it a great record…I really feel good about it. In this day and age to make a record that you say, ‘This is different,’ that’s a tough nut. I did it by accident but it got done. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know how to do it.”
Sammy Hagar performs at the America’s Cup Pavilion on Saturday, September 7.
Find out more about Sammy Hagar and his thoughts on Van Halen at CBSNews.com
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