By Joshua Miller Special to Published Oct 04, 2010 at 3:07 PM

When you're in Bad Company, as the band's infamous self-titled song suggests, you're in it for life. For Paul Rodgers, it's legendary singer/songwriter, and the rest of the band, that's a good thing.

Through the '70s Bad Company fired away, releasing chart topping albums full of rock and roll anthems like "Can't Get Enough" and "Feel Like Makin' Love," as Rodgers -- along with guitarist Mick Raphs, bassist Boz Burrell and drummer Simon Kirke -- skyrocketed to the heights of fame.

Though Rodgers parted ways with Bad Company and found solo succes, there was always a bit of passion and interest in his famed band which catapulted into reunion tours between 1998-2002 and most recently into short tours featuring most of the original members (Burrell died in 2006 of a heart attack).

Bad Company rumbles their short U.S. reunion tour into town next week for a two-night stay at the Northern Lights Theater Monday with a playlist full of hits, rock and roll fantasies and sheer passion.

For Rodgers, with his soulful, bluesy and straight-ahead rock and roll vocals, it's this passion that's helped driven him to success. When Rodgers began his journey into the far reaches of the music world from his hometown of Middlesbrough, England, over 40 years ago, it was the start of long and fervent rock and roll fantasy - one that helped spawn a number of critically successful bands (several which helped term the word super group) besides Bad Company including Free, The Firm and Queen + Paul Rodgers, and earned him the nickname of "The Voice" from his peers. caught up with Rodgers to talk about his band's reunion, 40-plus year career in music, and staying humble enjoying the small moments of success. With all that you've accomplished it would seem rather tempting to take it easy but you've managed to keep going and stay in the spotlight more or less. How would you describe that passion you get from music and how does it compare when you first started out?

Paul Rodgers: Passion is the one thing the drives me, it always has. When a kid, I listened to the Beatles and to a lot of soul. One of the things that struck me most about the most successful bands at the time probably right up to now is that they're very passionate about what they do. It's the reason I do a lot of the different things I do. All of it's about passion.

OMC: What's the biggest thing that you've learned over all these years?

PR: I honestly don't think of things of how big they are. It's how beautiful the experience is. I've so many amazing experiences just in Bad Company.

One of the things I remember when I was playing solo in Spain and there were three girls down at the front of the audience. They were really, really into the music and just singing away. And I could not make eye contact with them, I tried to make eye contact and say hello. As I came outside at the end of the show there, they were right in the center of the crowd that wanted autographs. As I was making my way I realized that they were actually blind. I took one of their hands and shook her hand and it was such a beautiful moment. Everything seemed to stop for a moment.

OMC: That must keep you humble.

PR: I do think it keeps me humble because music is a blessing for the world. It's the one thing that crosses all borders. I've played all over the world and it's amazing really when you meet people how similar we all are. All these different places you go to and there's a common denominator that people love music because it brings people together. It lifts people in a beautiful way. I'm very blessed to be part of that.

OMC: With the help of the unique dynamic of your vocals you've been able to mold your voice to fit the styles of the bands you fronted. Could you talk about that?

PR: The fact that I can sing really is a blessing, it's sort of a God-given thing. I've spent a lot of time working on that, listening to what I think are the great singers out there, like Otis Redding, Sam Moore from Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles. I absorbed these people and when you add them all up you hopefully create your own voice. That's what I bring to any band I do. I bring my own style to it.

OMC: Could you talk a little bit about how that all started?

PR: I found myself in Free actually. I was singing when I was 13 in my hometown in Middlesbrough. I would try different musical styles whatever was in the jukebox. When I was in London with a band I started to write my own songs and the first songs I wrote were blues songs, using the twelve-bar blues structure and I just added my lyrics to that. And I went "Hey, that's a song." "Walk in My Shadow" was the first song that I wrote. From there I progressed into writing different chord structures. My writing style was based on all the things that were happening and it all came together for me in Free. I became a songwriter at around the same time. "All Right Now," a very commercial song, was really written out of the blues.

OMC: How did that transition to Bad Company?

PR: Songwriting is astute and progresses naturally. With Free, we started out being a blues band that wrote its own songs. With Bad Company it was much more American oriented feel. We were almost an American band even though we were English. We were very much aimed at that market because the song ("Bad Company") synched into the idea of the American West, for me anyway.

I wrote that song thinking of the original American West, when it was a lawless and wild and very dangerous place. It always fascinated me that all these people could have come out of Europe and they're all living in all these squashed cities -- on top of each other in Europe -- and move to the vast empty plains. That set the tone for Bad Company, really. It was a naturally thing that happened; I don't think it was conscious. But looking back that's how it seems to me now.

OMC: The band made a lot of big records with songs that seem to really capture the spirit of what rock and roll's about and also that decade.

PR: When I put the set list together I'm very interested to see how the songs come together. I played in London what people refer to as the Led Zeppelin reunion and if the Zeps hadn't played their big hits I would have been disappointed. So when I put together a set I try to include ones that the fans wanted. There was a song called "Electricland" that I wrote about this life on the road in the 70s when we went through Vegas and how almost unreal it was, this lifestyle that we were living. A lot of the songs reflected what we were going through at the time.

OMC: You had previously reunited with Bad Company about a decade ago but the Hard Rock show one-off show a few years back seems to have reignited interest in the band. What was it like getting back with old friends?

PR: We played the Hard Rock show a year or two ago and it was only going to be that show and we enjoyed it so much and the audience reaction was so warm that we decided to do more. We're not doing millions of shows all over the place. I want to keep it fresh and exciting. We toured UK in spring and a lot of our peers came to see us including Robert Plant, Sting, and Jimmy Page. It was an acknowledgement of what we're doing I guess in a way.

It's very nice to be back with Mick. He's such a good guitar player; a very simple guitar player but very effective and leaves lots of space. He's not what I'd call a whiz-y guitar player where all of the spaces are filled with lots of clever notes. He's very simple and very thought out which is what I like in a guitar player. And Simon and I go back a long, long way.

OMC: How have Lynn Sorensen and Howard Leese fit into the long proven dynamic of the three of you?

They actually fit in perfectly well. We don't have Boz anymore so we needed a bass player. So I brought in my bass player from the solo band and Howard Leese from the band so it was kind of double on guitar which was really cool because it means these guys can orchestrate things and duets on solos. And of course they have played a lot of that material with me as I include a lot of Free, Bad Company, The Firm and that sort of thing. Dynamically it works really well. It frees me up so I don't have to play guitar as much, but I do play piano, harmonica and tambourine.

OMC: With working with so many talented musicians especially guitarists, how's it been adjusting to different ways of writing?

When I met Paul Kossoff and formed Free we used to love listening to B.B. King. One of the things B.B. King would do is that he would sing a line and answer himself on the guitar. (sings) Baby, dah dah dah. He would do a lot of that. Paul and I would do a similar sort of thing and thought that was very cool. I would sing something and he would echo it. We'd kind of have a musical conversation. That's where I first developed the idea of doing that and I kind of look for that. I formed Free with Paul Kossoff and Bad Company with Mick Ralphs and had this similar sort of thing going and we still do actually.

With Jimmy (Page) and the Firm it was a similar sort of thing. There's a rapport that you feel; there's kind of a chemistry there that you can have this musical conversation. I also did a blues album and had a lot of my favorite guitarists play on that. I found with each of them that we could have this musical conversation from lyrics and music. "Time to Shine" is a song I wrote for Queen for the Queen and Paul Rodgers album and it's a song I couldn't see Bad Company playing. I particular wrote that with those players in mind and focused on who they are and where they are musically.

OMC: I'm sure you get this question a lot, but is there anything possibly in the works for Bad Company? What about yourself?

We had the Wembley Stadium show taped so that'll come out. I'm really pleased with it. We were thinking it over and decided to not touch it with overdubs or anything and just leave it as it is. It was a very magical night that we managed to capture. We're going to Japan next. After that, there are no plans for next year as yet but I try to keep an open mind. I'm writing and working with my solo band and doing some other projects which I can't mention now.

I'm writing all the time. I'm going to record some of them because I need to put some ideas down as they've been in my head for a long time. I have an idea of what the drums will do, what the vocals will do and what the guitars will do. It's nice to put it together and record a demo to get a full sound picture of the song.

OMC: What are your favorite Milwaukee or Wisconsin memories whether with a band like Bad Company or solo?

PR: When I played at (the Northern Lights Theater) solo a couple years ago I had more encores than I had before – seven encores. They have such a good crowd. I know they love their rock and roll in Wisconsin and look forward to playing there.

OMC: You were the one of only eight people to receive a Proclamation from Congress two years ago for musical achievement and philanthropist work for the Fender Center's "Kids Rock Free" Music Education Program. Could you talk a little bit about that project?

That's something that's very dear to my heart. And my wife Cynthia loves doing that too. That was a great honor from Congress. There's a school in Corona, California, and they have a program where kids can go to school and learn music. I love the principle of that, that kids can rock free because I know being in a band kept me from running around on the streets and definitely gave me a focus. And it still does, still keeps me off the streets. And it's no longer available in school curriculum.

OMC: What do you think of the direction that music's gone since you started? Any advice?

PR: The amount of technology's really exploded over the years. I think no matter how technical or how much it changes it'll all come down to what's in a person's heart and what they really have to say. It's the feeling deep inside that you want to express that gives it meaning to me.

I think one thing that runs through all my songs as my song "Wishing Well's" lyrics "Love in a peaceful world." Ultimately that's my message, if I had one.