(CBS) -- Sammy Hagar was vacationing with his family in Tahiti last December when the inspiration came for “Sammy Hagar and Friends,” his new album due Sept. 24. That’s when the singer-guitarist wrote “Father Sun,” probably his favorite track on the upcoming star-studded collection.
“It’s the newest song [representing] who I am today,” Hagar told CBSNews.com.
The next thing Hagar knew, he was writing new tracks fast and furiously—and many of them were good enough to stay. “It’s kind of like everything else I do—I step in and it kind of sticks on my shoe and I drag it around with me for a while,” Hagar said.
Soon Hagar, 65, decided to call up some of his musician friends to see if they would guest on the set. His first call? Country singer Toby Keith. The two are good pals and often get together in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where Hagar heads up his Cabo Wabo enterprise.
“Toby Keith is probably my No. 1 Cabo buddy. We’re pretty much in a ‘Margaritaville’ frame of mind,” said the “Red Rocker.”
But timing was tricky because of Keith’s hefty touring schedule, and actually getting around to recording the song came “down to the wire.” But in the end, they got it done. “He was the last guy to come in,” recalled Hagar. Naturally, the Cabo buddies recorded a version of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.”
“I’ve been accused of being the heavy metal Jimmy Buffett since I left Van Halen—since I started my party trip,” said Hagar. “To me, this is a nod to Jimmy, saying ‘Yes, he’s the Godfather. He invented what I do now.’ I wasn’t a Parrothead or anything like that my whole life. I had no idea what he had going. Until I saw it. And I just went, ‘Wow, this dude has got it going on.’”
“Margaritaville” isn’t the only cover on the album. Hagar also recorded Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” a suggestion made by his wife. She loves the song, and Hagar being a big Seger-fan made it a perfect fit. “I think he’s one of the great American rock soul voices,” Hagar said of Seger.
Several other guests perform on “Sammy Hagar and Friends” including Kid Rock, Taj Mahal, Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame, Neal Schon from Journey, Hagar’s Chickenfoot bandmates Joe Satriani, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony, as well as the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. Even Hagar’s former Montrose bandmates Bill Church and Denny Carmassi make appearances.
Nancy Wilson of Heart, meanwhile, duets on “All We Need is An Island.” “This is a love song,” Hagar said. So, with that, he had to find just the right fit for his duet partner. “To do a duet with a girl, I can’t do it with Taylor Swift, she’s too young,” Hagar said. “’What’s that old man doing with that young girl? He looks stupid!’ So, I thought, ‘Who’s kind of like in my age group, who’s cool, who has a great voice?’ Nancy Wilson. Done. And she’s a dear friend.”
When it came time for guest stars, Hagar tried to choose people who would fit best with the music: “It’s a matter of who would be right for each song. Mickey Hart for ‘All We Need is An Island’—he’s the only guy I know who has Tahitian drums and every kind of drum on the planet.”
But there were bound to be people who were left out.
“Choosing people to be on your ‘Sammy Hagar and Friends’ record, you’re going, ‘I’ve got so many friends.’ And so many friends have called me up and said, ‘Come on dude, why didn’t you ask me to be on the record?’ I’m going, ‘Damn, I forgot.’ I really did,” he said.
In the end, Hagar says he’s really proud of the album.
“I really feel like I made it a great record...I really feel good about it. In this day and age to make a record that you say, ‘This is different,’ that’s a tough nut. I did it by accident but it got done. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know how to do it.”
Apparently, that strategy has worked over the years. From the hard rock band Montrose and Van Halen all the way to his solo career and Chickenfoot, Hagar has been quite busy in the music department.
“The whole Chickenfoot thing really took up my musical space...I don’t like to water myself down,” said Hagar.
And before that, there was of course, Van Halen, which Hagar fronted from 1985-1996.
“It seems like so long ago, but at the same time it’s such a big part of me. If I had never done that this record that I just did, ‘Sammy Hagar and Friends,’ would sound different if I had never been in Van Halen. Everything I’ve ever done has made me what I am today,” said Hagar, citing his band Montrose and his solo work. “But fronting a band like Van Halen I don’t know it seem like it was so right at the time but today it doesn’t quite fit in my lifestyle and my world. I don’t know why. But you know, I think about that. I like the way I fit in Chickenfoot. We have a different kind of thing. I like being new. I really do. I just gotta say it. I love being new. I’d rather do a record like this.”
Although it “seems like so long ago,” Hagar said his time in Van Halen was “wonderful.”
“I will play ‘Right Now’ and ‘Finish What You Started,’ ‘Why Can’t This Be Love,’ ‘Dreams’ for the rest of my life. There’s no question about it. I will play those songs for the rest of my life. There are a lot of songs that I won’t,” he said. “But those songs will be played for the rest of my life because they were great, great, great. I like keeping those in my back pocket.”
Looking ahead, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will likely be found doing what he was doing when the seeds were planted for “Sammy Hagar and Friends”—working hard and playing hard.
“It’s not like I’ve been sitting around on vacation, but I’m always on vacation. I learned a good trick years ago when I left Van Halen, and that was—anything that I love to do, I kind of roll it all together,” he said. “So I have a place in Cabo where I go on vacation and play music and invite friends down and make money and make a living...It becomes a lifestyle.”