Steve Hackett’s tour, “From Acolyte to Wolflight, plus Genesis classics (1970-1977),” which comes to the Warfield this week, is a marquee mouthful. But that’s no surprise. The guitarist has had a grand career. He backed Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins in two incarnations of British prog-rockers Genesis, recorded his first mostly-instrumental solo album “Voyage of the Acolyte” in 1975 and worked in GTR with Yes mainstay Steve Howe. His latest solo album is 2015’s “Wolflight,” co-written with his wife Jo Hackett, a lyricist, and longtime collaborator, keyboardist Roger King. He handles almost all of vocal duties.
You played behind two of the most charismatic singers, Gabriel and Collins. How did you get comfortable singing yourself?
Well, I started singing harmony around 1979. Although actually, in 1975 I’d already recorded some backup vocals with Genesis. So I guess I became a lead singer in 1981; that was the first time I did all the vocals myself on an album. Before that, I’d worked with other singers, like Steve Walsh, Richie Havens, and all the Genesis guys, so I’d always worked with a team, and I was very comfortable with harmony vocals. But it was Steve Walsh who really encouraged me to sing back in the day, He said, “You’ve got a good voice, but it’s untrained.”
So what did you do?
Funnily enough, I took some singing lessons from my brother’s girlfriend, who was an operatic singer. And that was good for my confidence, because she said I had a really good range, because I could sing really high notes. But the trouble was, she would give me these vocal exercises, and I’d do them before I’d record my voice. But I found that I was really worn out by when it was time to record, so I started slacking off on that. If you spend half an hour just going up and down the scales, you’re going to be exhausted.
You’re certainly no longer in Peter Gabriel’s shadow on “Wolflight.”
True. But Pete always said, “I believe that singing is possible. If I can do it, anyone can.” And he meant all of us. So I think it was just a case of confidence and practice and just trying things. And it helps to have a house where you can scream your head off with no one bothering you. On “Wolflight,” I’ve found out that 30 voices, singing throughout the range, can sound very strong, even in falsetto. So I’ve learned all sorts of tricks, like how to make your one voice sound like children’s voices. It’s a process called formant shifting, so now I can do a pretty good children’s choir!
IF YOU GO
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 31
Tickets: $59 to $89.50
Contact: (415) 345-0900, www.axs.com
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