The Red Rocker called in favours to make Sammy Hagar and Friends, out Tuesday.
Among them? The new songs and covers - ranging from Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville - were recorded with the likes of Kid Rock, Toby Keith, and Heart's Nancy Wilson.
It's the first solo album in five years for the 65-year-old who's more recently fronted the supergroup Chickenfoot with guitarist Joe Satriani, drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, all of whom appear on his new disc. Another Chickenfoot album is to be recorded in January 2014.
"I wasn't planning on doing a duets record, at all, it wasn't even in the cards," Hagar says. "It was actually going to be a greatest hits record with a few new songs."
We caught up with the one-time Van Halen frontman during a recent tour stop.
Q. Where did the inspiration for Sammy Hagar and Friends come from?
A. I go to this little island called Taha'a and there's about 60 people on it ... I said, 'Okay, I'm taking my family the day after Christmas. No guitar. No tape recorders. No music.' ... I was there about four days and every night at dinner they'd bring in these people from these islands. A lady beating on a drum - boom, boom, boom - and these Tahitian ukeleles and these weird string instruments and they would sing the most beautiful music, French Polynesian music.... Anyways, I got so damn inspired that I bought one of those instruments off a guy, 'cause you couldn't go anywhere to buy one, so I said, 'Just sell me your thing.' And I started writing on it and wrote the song called Father Sun.
Q. And then the rest of the album came from there?
A. I thought it was the most adventurous song I'd heard in a long time ... so I got inspired to make this really weird record and then I was just writing and then I just kept calling friends.
Q. How did your son Aaron end up singing on Father Sun?
A. At 40 he decides now he's going to be a singer ... He just kills me 'cause he's such a great artist. He can sing. He can play instruments. He can paint ... He's really creative, paints, draws, sculpts, builds cars from scratch. So he can do anything but if he wants to pursue a musical career, he's got good talent. I asked him to do it.
Q. The left field choice seems to be the Depeche Mode cover?
A. For me too. I'm not a Depeche Mode fan. I'm not an anti-Depeche Mode guy. I actually think they are a really cool band. That song I heard on the radio going to the studio that day. That's how spontaneous the record was and I'm going, 'Oh man, I forgot about this song.' That riff is so powerful. It's a rock riff, it's a blues riff. And they did it so synth and so electronic drums. And I thought, 'Man, we could rock this up.' ... So, yeah, really oddball.
Q. Basically yours is the gospel version of the song?
A. I took it to church. I said, 'You know what? I'm going to put that twist on it.' I never knew this but I heard Marilyn Manson did it ... I said, 'That's it! I'm getting the gospe l singers! I'm going the other way!
Q. Do Depeche Mode know you covered it?
A. They'll get a royalty check someday and they'll probably go, 'What? Sammy Hagar did our song? Anybody know who Sammy Hagar is?' We come from two different worlds.
Sammy Hagar's new disc, Sammy Hagar and Friends is as notable for who didn't make it on the album as those who did.
Among the "almost" collaborators were everyone from country artist Kenny Chesney -- who was on tour -- to Canadian Chad Kroeger who was busy working with his now-wife Avril Lavigne on her album.
There was also the suggestion the 65-year-old Hagar record the new song, All We Need is An Island, with 23-year-old country crossover star Taylor Swift but he was concerned about the age difference. Instead he did it with Heart's Nancy Wilson.
"She did the best duet on the record," says Hagar of Wilson. "She brought more to that song than everyone else did ... It's beautiful. She took my idea and just made it from a girl's perspective. I wanted to do it with someone real young and hip and popular and my manager and everyone around me was like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah! Let's get Taylor Swift! Yeah, her guitar player is a big Sammy fan! All he does is play your music on the bus.' ... And then I thought, 'Well, gee, what if someone wants us to do a video, then people are going to be going, 'Is that her grandpa?' I'm okay with being a grandpa but not Taylor Swift's grandpa."
Meanwhile, Hagar's future collaboration wishlist reads like a who's who of guitarists - Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
"Those are four guys that I really want to work with," Hagar says.
"I've worked with all the great guitar players but those guys. If I ever do another record again, I'll do the same thing again. I'll do Sammy and friends part two 'cause there are so many friends I left out."
Hagar, who played with Beck in his dressing room when they were both on a European TV show, says one collaboration he doesn't understand is the fall Brian Wilson-Jeff Beck tour.
"That's so crazy - I don't get it!" he says. "They did fantasy camp together ... I said, 'Wow, Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck, they must have gotten along real good that day.' 'Cause it's a one day deal for them. My first impression is worst combination that I could ever imagine. I wouldn't even go.
"Sorry. I'd rather go see Brian by himself or I'd rather go see Jeff Beck by himself. But because (Beck) plays really melodic songs instrumentally, well, Brian has written some of the greatest melodic simple tunes of all time so I can hear Jeff Beck playing some of them songs maybe. And Jeff Beck is a bebop guy and Beach Boys were pop bebop but they do have those kinds of rhythms, beats of '50s music ... So I can see where he's attracted to it.
"But Jeff Beck's a weird guy. Everybody that I know that knows him really well says he don't last too long with any relationships. He's not a real social guy. But Brian's not social - woo, let's talk about a wall there. But anyway, I'm all for it ... but boy that one blew my mind ... I'd rather see Jeff Beck out with Jimmy Page or me."