Gary Cherone, the well-known lead vocalist of the rock group Extreme, recently spoke with Songfacts and gave some amazing tales about his time with Van Halen and how he persuaded Eddie Van Halen to perform on one of their songs. The vocalist’s insights into the band’s creative process, the dynamics of their collaboration, and the guitarist’s personality were all fascinating to hear.
The song “How Many Say I” from Van Halen’s 1998 album “Van Halen III” stands out among the many collaborations that have taken place over their career. The song was noteworthy not just for its distinctive sound but also for Eddie Van Halen‘s lead vocals, which were completely out of character for the group. Eddie’s inclusion in the song at the time, which showed a new side of the famed guitarist, was apparently made possible in large part by Cherone.
In the interview, Gary discussed how writing “How Many Say I” was a unique experience for him and clarified that he did not collaborate on the song for hours on end with the guitarist. He said that Eddie was really intrigued by the lyrics the singer had written and asked if he might attempt writing music for them, which led to the creation of a lovely composition.
Cherone gave the following account of his interaction with the late musician:
“In the past with me and Nuno [Bettencourrt], we’ve always traded off – I would show Nuno a lyric, he might write to it. With my experience in Van Halen, that’s not how Eddie wrote. So, that was one of the new things we did together. I just had a lyric – I might have written it over three days – and he looked over my shoulder one day and said, ‘What’s that?’ And I said, ‘I’m finishing up this lyric called ‘How Many Say I.’ And he said, ‘Do you mind if I take it?’
He took it, I went to bed in the guest house, and he stayed up all hours of the night. Woke up the next morning, and he showed me on the piano. He sang it – he’d made a rough demo of it. I thought it was brilliant. His voice reminded me of Tom Waits or Roger Waters.”
Gary went on to say that he was the one who persuaded Eddie to record the song. The vocalist believed the demo was so incredible that it was worth sharing with everyone, but the guitarist was first a little cautious. By comparing the guitarist to Roger Waters and encouraging him to embrace the challenge, he praised the guitarist’s singing abilities.
The performer recalled:
“I was the one who encouraged him to do it on the record. He was a little reluctant. It’s gotten criticism over the years because Eddie sang it, but I thought the initial demo was so inspiring. For me, it was just like, ‘You should sing it.’ I twisted his arm a little bit, but then he embraced it because I was comparing him to Floyd. His demo was so emotional – I thought it was great.”
We get a wonderful glimpse into Gary Cherone and Eddie Van Halen’s unique relationship through their conversation. Gary’s support of Eddie’s decision to venture beyond his comfort zone and perform lead vocals on “How Many Say I” demonstrates the incredible power of teamwork and mutual respect among musicians. The song, despite some criticism, nonetheless demonstrates the guitarist’s wide range and provides us with an intriguing window into one of rock’s most recognizable bands’ creative process.