As he cruised down Los Angeles' Mulholland Drive, Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden battled spotty cell-phone reception to talk about band life, family life (he and girlfriend Nicole Richie are parents of a baby girl, Harlow) and the state of the music industry. His group, Good Charlotte, which got its start in Waldorf in 1996, is headlining the AST Dew Tour's Panasonic Open tomorrow night at Camden Yards before it embarks on a summer tour with Boys Like Girls. The band's latest album, Good Morning Revival, was released last year.
This show is being hyped as a homecoming show for you guys. Is it really?
It's a homecoming show for me because I'm going to have all my friends there. But I'm there like four or five times a year anyways. Most of the time, I don't announce it. I'm just hanging out with my friends, and I'm not playing shows.
Is the crowd different at a Baltimore show compared to others?
They're all kind of the same. There are some people in Maryland who are proud of us, so that feels good. It's special to play in Maryland, but some people care and some people don't.
Growing up with your brother [band mate Benji Madden] and making it in the music industry together, how have you guys grown? Do you still connect musically?
We're just as close as we've always been. We're different guys; we're almost 30, so we have different tastes in some regards. I have a kid, so I'm living my life a little differently than he is now. But we're best friends. We've always been best friends, and that will never change. Musically, we do everything together. We're starting to write another record right now together, so it's just kind of second nature working together.
Your latest album sold fewer copies than your previous ones. How does the band respond to that creatively?
I don't think you can respond to it. It's just the state of the industry. We're not exactly a new band. Everything kind of comes in cycles. The key to a career is to make records and continue to make records, and continue to tour and work as hard as you can. You just have to roll with it. I stopped thinking about sales years ago. I've pretty much made all the money I can make; I've seen every place in the world I can see. At this point, I'm only interested in making good records, touring and delivering something special for our fans.
How have you seen the pop-punk genre change over the years?
It's gotten a lot younger. It's definitely growing. The young bands I meet today, they're all really cool. They're all really hungry; they're all really excited about music. It kind of keeps me excited and keeps me wanting to make records to even impress them. I'm really impressed with these younger bands. I really like what's going on in music right now. Even with the current state of the music industry?
That's good for everything. It makes everyone work harder. It takes a lot of the power away from the people who have had it for so long. And now bands don't need record labels. They don't need anything but to be able to record music, which you can do on your computer now. It's forcing everyone to be original, everyone to be creative. It's like the Wild West: Anything goes. We should just enjoy it. I really like the idea right now that music is free and it's always new stuff coming out.
So will Good Charlotte be releasing [free] music online like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails?
There's definitely a good chance we're going to be releasing music to our fans for free. In the future, I can definitely see us doing that.
With the band's video for "Hold On" and the Richie-Madden Children's Foundation, you've dedicated yourself to a couple of causes. With that, do you see the role of a musician changing?
I think we have a responsibility to encourage people to give back in some way. It's never about money. It's about your energy and your time and your thoughts and really being a positive force. I know that's what we try to do with our foundation and I try to do with everything I do.
Your personal life has been the center of attention a lot lately. Has being under such scrutiny been a distraction to the band?
It was at first. It's definitely something that's weird because I don't understand the sensationalism of tabloid journalism. I think most people don't understand it. Everyone just kind of accepts it. I think for the most part, everyone knows that it's not real. For me, it's just not a part of my life. Other than being followed around all day, we don't have any of those magazines, we don't go to the Web sites. It makes our life so simple. We have no clue what they're saying at all.
Will we be seeing Nicole and the baby in Baltimore and on the road?
Our band's a big family, so everyone is part of the family. My family is going to try to come on tour. The baby is only 5 months old, and I don't think it's the best place for the baby to be for a long time. It's just kind of a matter of Nicole's schedule. She's back at work, so it's just what works for her. They're not coming this time because it's such a short trip. I have brought them home, and they love Maryland. Nicole is always asking when she can go back. It's great there. No one bothers us. Everyone says hi. No one seems to care.