Brian May Recalls Freddie Mercury’s Advice On Starting His Own Solo Career
Queen legend Brian May gave an interview to Goldmine Magazine in which he talked about his debut solo album, ‘Back to the Light,’ and recalled how Freddie Mercury encouraged him to release it at the time.
The early ’90s were rather tough times for Brian May as he lost Mercury and his father. During this period, he channeled his sorrow towards music, and these challenging experiences boosted his creativity. The future of Queen was ambiguous after Mercury’s death, so May decided to pursue his solo career.
On September 28, 1992, Brian May released his debut solo album ‘Back to the Light,’ featuring Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, and John Deacon. Almost 30 years later, May decided to reissue ‘Back to the Light,’ which was released on August 6, 2021. However, the musician surprised his fans by including some unreleased materials in the reissue.
In a previous interview, Brian May had revealed how supportive Mercury was when he first asked for his opinion on a song he had written, ‘Driven By You.’ During his recent interview, May recalled the same conversation in a more detailed way and shared that he received a response that he did not expect at all.
The guitarist initially thought that ‘Driven By You’ could be a Queen song, but the band’s future was unclear. Then, May approached Freddie, who was ‘in trouble,’ and asked him whether he would like to sing it or not. To his surprise, Mercury said that Brian didn’t need him to sing it but instead encouraged him to start his solo career.
The interviewer said:
“Also, you said that Freddie Mercury gave his blessing for the solo track.”
To which Brian May responded:
“It was very unexpected, because I was feeling a little uncomfortable and worried. Because we know that Fred is in trouble; we don’t know how long he has left. And it’s obviously threatening our future. And in every way the ‘Driven By You’ thing didn’t come out of anything to do with that. It just came from left field. Nevertheless, I’m sitting on a record, which I’m thinking of putting out as a solo artist, and Queen is perhaps on the verge of crumbling, and Freddie’s perhaps on the verge of not being able to carry on at all.
With this in mind, I played it to Freddie. I also thought, you know, maybe it’s a Queen song. That’s the way I thought, anyway. A lot of songs I wrote, which were very personal at the time, became Queen songs, like ‘Headlong.’ A lot of songs which could easily have been my solo tracks became Queen material. So I played it to him and said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘I think it’s great. It’s full of energy. It is amazing.'”
He continued by saying:
“And I said, ‘Do you think it should be a Queen song? Do you want to sing it?’ He went, ‘Darling, you sing it just beautifully. You don’t need me to sing it. You should go for it.’ And then he took the conversation to a different place, which I wasn’t going to do. And he said, ‘Look, I know you’re feeling uncomfortable. I know you’re worried about this because you know the situation I’m in. You shouldn’t. Don’t feel this at all. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We know that we don’t know how long I have, or the group has. What you should be doing is thinking about a solo career.
So don’t feel in any way inhibited. Put it out, enjoy it and start off your solo journey in this way. That’s what you should be doing.’ So it was kind of like a blessing and as soon as I walked out the room, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s not what I expected.’ But it was very typical of Freddie, who was very generous and very unselfconscious. I never heard that man complain about being sick and his life being taken away from him by this awful disease. So, yeah, that kind of gave me the power to get out there.”
You can have a listen to ‘Driven By You’ below.