Rock Legend Ian Hunter Discusses His New Album, Defiance Part 2: Fiction, That Features Many Acclaimed Musicians

Ian Hunter
Ian Hunter

Since he first emerged in 1969 as the lead singer & songwriter of the British rock band Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter has been a critically acclaimed and popular singer/songwriter. From 1969 to 1974, he wrote and recorded seven studio albums with Mott the Hoople, including the classic albums All The Young Dudes, Mott and The Hoople. Then in 1975, he launched his solo career, and he’s released about 15 studio albums over the past 49 years, including his latest release, Ian Hunter’s new album, Defiance Part 2: Fiction.

Now at age 84, Hunter remains a highly creative and prolific artist who continues to write unique, original songs and release impressive albums. This week (on April 19), his latest album is being released. This album is the follow-up to his album, Defiance Part 1, which he released a year ago.

Defiance Part 2: Fiction contains 10 new songs that Hunter created during a very productive period he had from 2020-22. It was during the first two years of Covid that he wrote and recorded over 20 songs, that were mostly recorded at his home studio. In addition, he got many musical contributions from an all-star cast of musicians, who recorded their parts remotely and sent the tracks back to him.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Ian Hunter, who tells how Brian May, Joe Elliott and Taylor Hawkins played on his new single, “Precious.”


During the early Covid years, many musicians were unable to perform live or go on tour, so they had time to contribute music tracks at home and help out their fellow artists. Hunter became a great recipient of this, when dozens of top musicians wanted to play or sing on Hunter’s new songs.

Here’s a rundown of the famous musicians and artists who played on Hunter’s new album. It includes some of the final performances by two top musicians who have since passed away: Jeff Beck and Taylor Hawkins (of the Foo Fighters). The album also contains contributions by Brian May (of Queen), Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen & Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), Lucinda Williams (who sings a duet with Hunter), Joe Elliott & Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Waddy Wachtel (Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne), Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo & Eric Kretz (Stone Temple Pilots), Morgan Fisher (from Mott the Hoople), Johnny Depp, Billy Bob Thornton, David Mansfield, Tony Shanahan and Steve Holley.

Here’s the EPK interview with Ian Hunter about his new album,
Defiance Part 2: Fiction.

Additionally, Hunter is releasing a Record Store Day Vinyl edition of this album, with three bonus tracks. This edition includes contributions by Mike McCready & Matt Cameron (of Pearl Jam), and Chris Robinson & Rich Robinson (Black Crowes).

On this Defiance Part 2: Fiction album, the highlights include the first single, “Precious” (featuring Brian May on guitars, Taylor Hawkins on drums, and Joe Elliott on background vocals), “Fiction” (the title track), and “The 3rd Rail” (featuring Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp on guitars). This album also includes “Hope,” a positive, optimistic song that ends the album.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Hunter. But before we get started, here’s a brief rundown of his career history and credits.

Hunter was the lead singer & main songwriter for U.K. band Mott the Hoople, which released seven studio albums between 1969 and 1974, including the classic albums All the Young Dudes (1972), Mott (1973) and The Hoople (1974). Their best-known hits are “All the Young Dudes” (written for them by David Bowie), “All the Way from Memphis,” “Roll Away the Stone” and “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

After leaving Mott the Hoople, Hunter launched his solo career with the self-titled album, Ian Hunter, that contained “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” that was later covered by the band Great White in 1989 and became a Top 5 pop hit. Another key solo album was You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic (1979), that included the ballad “Ships,” which was covered by Barry Manilow and became a Top 10 pop hit. This album also contained the anthem “Cleveland Rocks,” that became the theme song of The Drew Carey Show for nine seasons.

Here’s our interview with Ian Hunter:

DK: A couple years ago, you had a tremendous burst of creativity. You not only wrote the songs for your album Defiance Part 1, but the songs for Defiance Part 2. Can you talk about that prolific period you had?

Here’s the lyric video of Ian Hunter’s new single, “Precious.”

Ian Hunter: It happened as it went along. (Producer) Andy York was up here, and I had written half a dozen songs. Then my manager Mike Kobayashi, and photographer Ross Halfin, started ringing me and saying, “These people will play on your record, because everyone was home due to Covid.” And I think it started off with Slash and Billy Gibbons.

I remember being downstairs with Andy, and we were doing this particular song, and I said, “This sounds like Ringo,” because I’ve worked with Ringo before. So we sent that to Ringo, and he played on it and sent it back to us. And it started mushrooming from there. As this developed, it was great inspiration to have these amazing people volunteer [to play on my album]. And I guess inspiration brings forth music, so I kept on writing songs.

DK: For your new Defiance Part 2 album, did you write and record some of the songs in the past year, after you released Part 1?

Hunter: I think most of the songs were written around 2021 and 2022, but “Fiction” is a recent song. And I recently wrote a song called “Normal Services Will Resume As Soon As Possible.” People had been asking me, “Are you going out on the road?” So I wrote that song as an answer to them.

DK: With all these songs you’d written, how did you decide which songs would be on Defiance Part 1 and which songs would be on your new album, Defiance Part 2?

Hunter: Well, I was trying to keep it cheerful on Part 1 (laughs), because of the Covid situation. The more politically-based stuff is on Part 2, which is kind of denser.

DK: The first single from your new album is “Precious,” which features Taylor Hawkins, Brian May and Joe Elliott. How did this song come together?

Hunter: I’ve known Brian (May) since Queen opened for us in the ‘70s, and I’ve always been in touch with Brian. I said, “Do you fancy doing something?” So we sent it to him, and he put all the guitars on it, and the bass on it. Then he sent it to us. And Taylor (Hawkins) was a very enthusiastic guy—he wanted to do everything. He was like an encyclopedia…there was nothing that he didn’t know or hadn’t heard. So we just came together that way. With Joe Elliott, I’ve been mates with him for years. He said, “Do you want me to do something?” So I sent him about eight tracks to work on. There was a song called “Guernica” that he worked on, and these tracks were going out and they were coming back.

Here’s the audio of Ian Hunter’s new song, “People.”

DK: Your new album contains songs with Taylor Hawkins and Jeff Beck…two great musicians who have passed away. What are your thoughts about Taylor and Jeff, and how they contributed to your album?

Hunter: I met Jeff (Beck) through Johnny Depp. I went out with Johnny and Jeff one night for a meal. I had only met Jeff a couple times. I think John was working with Jeff, and he said, “Send us a couple songs and we’ll do something on them.” And that’s what we did, and Jeff and John played on “The 3rd Rail.” Jeff’s manager told my manager that it was the last thing he ever did in the studio.

DK: Johnny Depp did the cover art for your new album, and he plays guitar on your album. Can you talk about your friendship and collaboration with Johnny Depp?

Hunter: I think it was Ross Halfin who told me that John liked what I did, and then I went to John’s place in London for a night, and he played a couple gigs with my band. He also liked the book I wrote (Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star), so we became friends. It just came up that he would do the cover for my new album. So Ross took the picture and John painted it from the picture. He’s a great painter. That guy does a lot of stuff—he’s a great all-around guy in a band…he can sing and play. And then you’ve got his movies, and he paints too. It’s pretty amazing.

DK: I like your new ballad, “What Would I Do Without You,” which is a duet with Lucinda Williams. How did you connect with Lucinda for this song?

Hunter: I wrote the song for my wife, Trudi. I usually get one in for her. I’ve did a show in Nashville with the Rant Band, and Lucinda came with her husband, who’s a very nice chap. After the show, she came backstage. So I asked her if she fancied doing something (for the album). It took a while, but we got it in the end.

And I have to say, all these people, they’re not just doing the bits you hear. They did quite a few tracks. Their attitude was, “Take what you want, leave what you don’t want,” which is extremely generous. They would send back about a half dozen tracks, and they said, “Pick what you want.” They gave me that freedom to pick what I wanted.

Here’s a video of Mott the Hoople performing their hit, “All The
Way From Memphis,” on the Midnight Special TV show in 1973.

DK: You mentioned that you wrote “What Would I Do Without You” for your wife Trudi, and 50 years ago you wrote a song called “Trudi’s Song” for your Mott the Hoople album, The Hoople. So I guess you’ve been writing songs for Trudi for a very long time.

Hunter: I know, you’ve gotta write songs for your wife or you get in trouble (laughs).

DK; Your album ends nicely with your song, ‘Hope,” which is more positive and optimistic. Did you want the album to end on a positive note?

Hunter: Well yeah. Hopefully, people will feel good when then hear the song. I’m no different than anyone else…I like a bit of hope.

DK: I read that you’ve already written more new songs, and you might release a Defiance Part 3 album. Is that true?

Hunter: There might be…you never know. You can’t guarantee anything. As fast as I say I’m on a streak, it stops immediately (laughs). I remember writing “Roll Away the Stone” (for Mott the Hoople), and going into our publicist’s office in London. I had three hits in a row and I told him, “I think I know what it is [to write a hit].” And that was the last hit I wrote for 10-15 years (laughs). The minute you say something’s gonna happen, it’s usually not a clever idea. I’m just grateful for what happens.

DK: When we spoke a year ago, you said you might be playing some acoustic shows. Do you have plans to play any shows this year?

Hunter: Not at the moment, because a couple things have come up of a personal nature. But I dream of that; that’s what I do. We’ll see…the verdict is still out on that one.

DK: Early in your career in 1971, you wrote a song that I like called “The Journey” for Mott the Hoople’s album, Brain Capers.  So back in those early days, could you envision that 53 years later, your journey would be to keep writing and recording music for another five decades and you’re still doing well at age 84?

Hunter: No, I never looked at it that way. I always took things day-to-day…I’ve been a working lad. So I was just grateful for every opportunity to get out of working at a factory (laughs). If somebody had told me then that this is what would happen, with the ups and downs and all the rest of it, I would have taken it, definitely.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima