An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner is one of the most successful rock bands in the history of the universe. Recently I got to chat with Tom Gimbel, who shared with us about some of the philanthropic things Foreigner is doing for school music programs as well as the very generous donation the band made to Shriners Hospital for Children. Did you know that Tom Gimbel is a certified golf instructor and he’s also a formally trained musician? Read on to learn all kinds of cool stuff in our interview with Tom Gimbel. Oh, and see where he pranked me!

Tom Gimbel: We are headed your way and it sounds so delightful after the frozen, Cold As Ice tour of Canada.

EPR: It’s actually been cold here [North Carolina] a lot, too, but it’s starting to warm up finally.

Tom Gimbel: I’m sure it’s warmer. Anything above 0 is going to be really warm.

EPR: Well, you named your tour appropriately, so…

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! I like both. No, we are changing it. It’s going to be the Colder Than Ice tour. I’m not a physicist, but I think ice is 32 degrees. Right? We’ve been cruising around at around 0. 32 would be balmy.

EPR: Foreigner is headed overseas in the summer, though, right?

Tom Gimbel: We do that almost every year, yes.

EPR: Is there anywhere that you have wanted to tour before that you haven’t made it to yet? After years of touring, I would think that you have been to most places but is there somewhere that you have missed along the way?

Tom Gimbel: I do feel like I have been around the world a few times over the years with all of the different configurations in the bands that I have worked with. I haven’t been everywhere. I haven’t been to Antarctica. That might be kind of fun since I’m used to the cold now.

EPR: That might be a little rough after Canada. Maybe you need to thaw out first?

Tom Gimbel: I didn’t get totally acclimated. Yeah, it’s no problem, as long as you’re inside [laughs]. There are probably some other places if I thought about it, but we’ve been to Russia, we’ve been to China. We were just in Hong Kong. We did a marvelous benefit there for a children’s orphanage. Gosh, South America, so many times. Peru, Columbia, and everywhere in between. Of course, around the States so many times. I really feel like most of the places I would have wanted to go, I’ve done. We recently did the Royal Albert Hall in London, England and the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. We played there with a symphony orchestra and we did our orchestral versions. It’s been a wild ride. I feel like we have made most of the stops, not to mention Carnegie Hall. Our acoustic set was at Carnegie Hall. It’s really been fantastic.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

That Moment I Got Pranked By Tom Gimbel

EPR: You are also a certified golf instructor, too, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, absolutely.

EPR: Do you get to do a lot of that in the summer?

Tom Gimbel: I used to but we’ve been so busy that I am lucky if I get a chance to sneak out and play in the summer. We do like to get out there and work at it. I like teaching because you can fix your own flaws. We make a video and we look at it and know what to look for.

EPR: Am I correct in that you got your love of golf initially from playing in celebrity gold tournaments? And, if so, who was someone that you liked pairing up with most of all?

Tom Gimbel: I remember the time I was paired up with Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson. [Tom does a decent impersonation of Jack Nicholson] And Jack Nicholson was like “I’m so terrible with golf…firecracker, firecracker, sis boom bah. Have a really good game and then we’ll all go to the spa!”

EPR: Were you paired with both of them on the same day? That had to be crazy.

Tom Gimbel: No, I made that up.

EPR: You got me! [I totally believed him!]

Tom Gimbel: [Tom does a spot on impersonation of Sean Connery] “Oh yes! They all laughed at me when I first attempted to play 007.”

EPR: Stop it! [laughs] No, I’m just picking.

Tom Gimbel: You never know who you are talking to. Some people might not even know who those are. [Tom impersonates Sean Connery again] “The movie stars from your era are different from mine.”

EPR: Oh no, I definitely know who they are. But did you really get paired up with someone on the golf course that you really enjoyed working with?

Tom Gimbel: Sure, Blaine McCallister, he’s a golf pro. He plays on the senior tour so I got to play in a Pro-Am, where the amateurs play with the professionals and he was our professional. I couldn’t believe it, I was amazed. If I am talking about actual golf people, but you are talking about celebrities, right?

EPR: Well, I’m assuming that YOU would be the celebrity part of the pairing…

Tom Gimbel: I’ve met some interesting people. Do you know the singer called Sia?

EPR: The one that does the “Chandelier” song, right?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, she’s got like a lampshade on her head.

EPR: Right.

Tom Gimbel: I played with her husband.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

EPR: Cool. Was he good?

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, he was definitely good. That’s his full time job. He’s Sia’s husband. He is working on his golf a lot, I think. It’s just great to see all those people. It’s always for a fundraiser so it’s always charity based. And George Lopez does a marvelous fundraiser. And Vince Neil, the singer from Motley Crue, also does one. Golf is a really wonderful world and I encourage people, if they are interested, to check it out.

EPR: I don’t know that I can name too many artists like this but you were actually formally trained in music school, right? And what did you focus on in college?

Tom Gimbel: Yes, that’s true. I loved this Maynard Ferguson Big Band Jazz. He was Canadian and he would play these trumpet notes that were super high, a very powerful big band sound. So I was studying to be a big band composer and arranger. That was my major, but I was focused with the saxophone, really. I was lucky enough to work with one of the best teachers of all time Joe Viola, at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he really got me started down the road of playing the saxophone like you’re singing. “Like it’s an instrument, like it’s a voice.” That’s what he said, “You have to develop a voice.”

So I was focused on that and I realized that my heart was in rock and roll. I’d been in rock bands ever since I was a kid, always playing electric guitar with drummers and other people. I always wanted to be in rock bands. So, even though I went to school for jazz, I realized that rock was my true calling and started being in bands again and, of course, earning money and trying to scratch out a living after I got out of college, playing in bands. It’s just been an automatic. It’s not like I chose music. Music chose me. And my blend of music is playing in rock bands. That’s what I’ve always been driven to do and I hope it’s what I’ll always do.

EPR: Speaking of bands, you are currently with Foreigner, but you also played and toured with Aerosmith. Tell us about that.

Tom Gimbel: I sure did. I did a couple of world tours with them and it was phenomenal. I have been so fortunate to work with such incredible talent like Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, the whole band. And then later Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Foreigner, for probably 25 years now. The first 10 with Lou Gramm and then the second 15 with Kelly Hansen. So, it’s been an incredible journey for me. And I feel very blessed.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Tom Gimbel On The Band’s Enduring Success And Touring

EPR: You guys consistently make the top of lots of lists for like the “Most Downloads” and “Biggest Selling Artists of All Time” and such. I saw that you made the “Top 40 Best Selling Music Artists Of All Time.” I found it very cool, how many huge bands that you are ahead of. I saw you in concert with Def Leppard a few years ago and they were one of the bands that you surpassed. How does it feel to have outsold so many really great, talented bands, in their own right?

Tom Gimbel: Definitely. All bands at that level are great. That’s the correct word. I can’t even say “Def Leppard” without thinking of how monumental they are. I think when we talk about numbers, it’s just a numerical reflection of the staying power of the songs. People still like these songs. And there is something magical there that Mick Jones has created and, a lot of times, with Lou Gramm together, in the songwriting that…I’m not tired of these songs. We’ve done these songs over a thousand times, just since the band reformed in 2005. So there is another 12 years of playing before that.

For me, I’m not tired of these songs so I totally get it that people still like hearing them. People play them and their kids hear them and their kids say, “Oh, I am going to grab that song, too, and throw it on my playlist. I kind of like it. It gives me energy and it makes me want to dance around.” I can relate to the sentiment and the feeling. That’s a big part of the magic that’s in these songs, you can say, “I know what that feels like.”

EPR: That’s great that you haven’t tired of these songs because, for me, you just kind of put it into perspective. I’ve never really thought of the fact that you have played that song 1,000 times.

Tom Gimbel: And that’s just the performing. With rehearsals and sound checks it’s well over 2,000. I’d probably say at least 10,000 times. But I love them. I look forward to playing them every night.

EPR: Well maybe I can develop a little empathy for a band who doesn’t play my favorite song one night. [laughs]

Tom Gimbel: That’s the beauty of a Foreigner show because every song is a thing. I look forward to each one of them for different reasons. They are all equally good.

EPR: And my favorite song by Foreigner is “Urgent” and you definitely played that, so we’re good!

Tom Gimbel: Yeah! We start rocking and thumping and I grab the saxophone and start spinning around. I don’t even know who I am. It’s fun.

EPR: You guys have a really cool light show, too. I mean, I’ve been to hundreds of concerts but your light show stands out as one of my favorites. You used green lights and yellow lights and, for me, it just looked really cool as compared to other shows I have seen.

Tom Gimbel: Yeah, Mick Jones gets very involved with the light show and we like to give it an extra flavor. That’s part of the fun of coming to a concert. It’s not just the sound. But the sound is enough. You know, there’s no stereo, I tried at home with a big screen TV and a great stereo…you can’t come close to a great concert experience because of the enhanced sound and the lights also. You’re so right about that.

An Interview With Tom Gimbel Of Foreigner

Foreigner’s Gift To Shriners Hospital For Children

EPR: Tell me about your gift to Shriners Hospital for Children. It’s really just amazingly generous.

Editor’s Note: Foreigner created a new music video, for their #1 hit song, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” featuring Mick, Kelly, and some Shriners children with all proceeds from the music download going to Shriners Hospitals. Foreigner also put together a new live version of their greatest hits, and are donating all proceeds to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Tom Gimbel: That’s just the least we could do, really. I wish we could do more. Our history goes back a long way. We’ve been working with the Shriners and selling CDs and they help us put the song on the CDs at the shows and the profits go to Shriners. And we make donations to the local choirs. But the hospital itself is so incredible. There’s, I think, at least 20 now. They are such deserving people, they are totally innocent. They are so brave and so incredible. So we try to do whatever we can to work with the Shriners and we’ve done a nice bunch of work over the last 10 years. It just seems automatic. There’s always that situation where I wish we could do more.

How Foreigner’s Doing Their Part To Save School Music Programs

EPR: Tell me about the choirs you are featuring on your tour.

Tom Gimbel: We started a program a while back to try and raise awareness about music programs being taken out of schools, With these budget cuts, they just come in and say, “Oh, that’s it for music.” The children didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not like they were partying with a tuba or anything. They just come it one day and it’s, “All right, hand in your instruments. There’s no more school band.” The instruments go back and the music program is done. And I just think that’s a travesty. We all think that. Music and the arts are so important. So we just try to say, “Hey folks, if there is anything we can do, contact your Board of Education, PTA, is there such a thing as a PTA anymore?”

EPR: Yeah, I think so.

Tom Gimbel: I hope so. Yeah. Or the Superintendent of schools and the budget and we try to see if there is anything that we can do. So, for our part, we will have a local choir come and we make a donation to the music program. It sometimes helps them buy instruments, books or whatever they need. And they get some experience, being on stage with us. It’s really good, if they want to continue performing, to get a little bit of that experience. It’s under your belt and there is no substitute for it. You have to get up in front of a big crowd to get comfortable in front of a big crowd. There’s no way around it really. So we are happy to do that and it’s kind of a high point in the show to see the young people step up to the plate and really belt it out.

In the old days kids were shy about singing. My generation, especially at church, we kind of stared at our shoes and [mumbled] and it was the same at school. But nowadays young people are not shy. They will take the stage by storm. They will come out like gangbusters. “Yay! We’re here!” And we tell them to sing as loud as they can. And they belt it out and for me, sometimes it’s hard to hold back the tears.

See Foreigner TONIGHT at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and check out the rest of their tour schedule here.

Get Social With Foreigner

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge