Jeff Pilson talks about Foreigner’s Pursuits
By Sue Gruman Kraft
The band Foreigner will be performing at the Shooting Star Casino Event Center on Friday, September 6. Tickets for the performance are sold out.
Foreigner first became well known in 1976. Bass guitar player Jeff Pilson has performed with Foreigner since 2004. Although not an original member of the band, Pilson says he has enjoyed listening to and then performing the band’s music and he wants to continuing performing with the group into the future.
Jeff Pilson stated that he first became interested in playing music while “watching the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.” That was February 9, 1964. Over the years, Pilson has built his career in music.
“I first got approached in the school yard,” he said. “I was singing a jingle for a local root beer ad in the sixth grade,” and a group of boys approached him. They needed a bass player. “I bought a $35 bass and a $35 amplifier, and that’s how I got my start,” he said.
Pilson received support from his family. His mother had previously sung for a big band group. Pilson attended the University of Washington as a music major.
Jeff Pilson has been performing professionally for over 47 years, and 15 of those have been with Foreigner. What does he like most about the Foreigner music? “The quality of it,” he stated. “Foreigner has great songs and great records. Great records that resonate with people and great songs are what a band needs to be built on. These are very important things,” he stated.
Foreigner is also working with new material. They put out a record ten years ago with new material on it. They will be doing so again in the near future, Pilson stated “As we do compilations, we’ll throw in a couple of new songs,” he stated.
But the group already has a wealth of music, with 16 Top 30 songs, and 9 of those as Top 10 hits. It’s hard to know what to include and what to leave out, he said.
Pilson states that he doesn’t have a favorite song. There are so many great songs from Foreigner, he said. However, a song that speaks to him is “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Another amazing rock song, he said, is “Feels Like the First Time,” which has energy and is a great melody, he added.
Pilson plays bass guitar or acoustic guitar, and also plays some keyboard. He doesn’t find the music he plays for Foreigner to be difficult, he said. The challenge, Pilson stated, is how to fit into the band and make the musicians lock together.
During the upcoming concert at the Shooting Star Casino, choir members from Mahnomen High School will be on stage with Foreigner to sing “I Want To Know What Love Is.” Foreigner will donate $500 to the choir for appearing with the band, and the choir will sell Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise funds for Foreigner’s charity partner, the Grammy Foundation. Both Foreigner and the Grammy Foundation work to keep music education available to students as part of the core curriculum in high schools throughout North America. The entire proceeds of the choir’s CD sales from this show will be contributed to this initiative.
Pilson said there is a nationwide problem of cuts being made to school music programs. “This issue is very near and dear to our hearts,” he said. Pilson said he had a public school education. He said that Foreigner loves giving back to the communities by giving funds to the music programs.
Another form of their philanthropy is the work that Foreigner is doing with Shriners Hospitals. “Their work with children is top of the line,” Pilson stated. Foreigner did a version of “I Want To Know What Love Is,” with proceeds going to the Shriners Hospitals. “This is another thing that is very, very important,” Pilson said.
Other top songs for Foreigner include “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Urgent,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Say You Will” “Dirty White Boy,” “Head Games,” “Juke Box Hero,” and more.
Foreigner is planning to do a residency at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas in 2020, January 24 to February 1 and April 17-25. Doing a Las Vegas residency seems to be an activity that many well-known groups are doing. It gives fans a chance to come to them, Pilson said.
“It will be kind of nice to spend a couple of weeks in one place,” Pilson commented. “We travel so much.” Another difficulty with performing as much as they do is the time spent away from their families. “I have a very understanding family,” he said.
“Playing is what we do. This is how we get our name out there,” Pilson stated. It helps that the members of Foreigner all get along with each other, he said. And the fans still want to hear them play. “We keep climbing in popularity,” Pilson stated. “We keep at it, and it’s working.”
Mick Jones performs on lead guitar and vocals. Tom Gimbel is a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in the saxophone solos, Jeff Pilson plays bass and sings backing vocals. Kelly Hansen performs on vocals and percussion. Mike Bluestein performs on keyboard and vocals. Bruce Watson performs rhythm and lead guitar, and Chris Frazier is on drums and percussion.
“Foreigner is a strong band, with an amazing market,” Pilson said. In fact, Foreigner is in the Top 10 at Classic Rock Radio. Their 2018 orchestral album spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard classical chart. It generated sold out concerts both in the United States and internationally, including a spectacular night at the Sydney Opera House.
Mick Jones, Foreigner’s leader and founder, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013. He has produced or co-produced every Foreigner album, as well as work for other artists. The Foreigner catalog has sold more than 80 million albums.