In the middle of one of the most successful concert tours in history, McKagan had his work cut out for him just staying in good enough shape to perform the band's three-hour set every night. But the bassist tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke that his return to Guns N' Roses has been so inspiring that his new album, Tenderness, just poured out of him.
"There was really no reason for me to put out a record right now in the middle of all this Guns N' Roses stuff that's going on," McKagan says. "But I was at this really cool place where our band was back together, and we had really had some honest and great talks that kind of settled the things in the past that weren't settled. That put us on this really cool ground with each other. We'd go out on the road and we're playing these shows with all of these people coming — this unified thing in America and South America and Europe, Asia, everywhere."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer explains that before going out on tour, he had gotten wrapped up in cable news, following politics and getting hooked into the paranoia that comes with all of that.
The outpouring of love he encountered in every city across the world blew his mind. The more he traveled, and the more of the world he saw, the more he realized that the reality being presented on the news wasn't the one he was experiencing.
McKagan shut off the news, he muted everyone on Twitter and he started talking to the people he was meeting along the way. At some point, he remembered that we're not all so different.
"What I realized on the tour talking to people is we've always had each others' back and any change in a positive way, it's been from us, from the people," he adds.
So he started channeling his feelings into lyrics, which turned into songs, which were brought to life together with producer Shooter Jennings.
While it's not a feel good album, exactly, it's a genuine album and an optimistic one.
"I think there's real stories in here," McKagan says. "I read some great books while I was on the road. I talk about Parkland and Columbine and I'm trying to do some things with this record, with the fans, with mental health awareness and homelessness."
Watch the full interview in the video player above!
Check out McKagan's new song "Chip Away":