It’s actually been in the works for a while now; Cronin admits he “accidentally” began writing the book in December 2016 as REO kicked off a series of U.K. dates with Status Quo.
REO Speedwagon had already gone through “a long year of touring” before the Status Quo shows, spending a “great” summer on the road with Def Leppard. “I’d been away from home a lot and I was just sitting in my hotel room looking at a month of touring,” Cronin tells UCR. “I had a little moment – a little anxiety attack.”
Writing is Cronin’s usual response when he’s in that frame of mind. “I write down what I’m feeling, and it helps to get the emotion out of my body onto the paper or the iPad, as the case may be,” he says. “It also gives me a chance to wake up the next day and see what I was feeling. That’s my job, to share my feelings with people, and it also helps me.”
A long break from touring followed because of the pandemic, and suddenly Cronin had the makings of the nearly completed memoir, which is tentatively titled Roll With the Changes: My Life Within and Without REO Speedwagon. “I will say that it is my story, but it’s almost as much [late REO guitarist] Gary Richrath’s story as well – and the story of REO Speedwagon,” Cronin says. “It kind of follows our songs through my life and the history of the band.”
Richrath died at age 65 in 2015, after suffering complications from abdominal surgery. “Because Gary’s not here anymore, I really felt it was incumbent upon me to tell his side of the story,” Cronin adds.
The guitarist split from REO Speedwagon at the end of the ‘80s, but Cronin and Richrath reconnected before his death. They even briefly reunited onstage in 2013.
“It still chokes me up,” Cronin told UCR just a couple of months after Richrath died. “I just can’t fucking believe that Gary is not alive; it just doesn’t make sense to me. Fortunately, over the [past] couple of years, Gary and I had some soulful time together. We saw one another a number of times and were able to get a lot out on the table that may have gone unsaid otherwise.”
Cronin now says he will address their complicated friendship in the upcoming autobiography. “You know, all of the REO Speedwagon fans, the two questions I get asked the most are: ‘Where do the songs come from?’ and I try to explain that in the book,” Cronin tells UCR. “The second one is: ‘What happened between you and Gary?’ And it’s too deep of a story to just recount in an interview. It really does take a book to put the whole thing in context.”
In the meantime, Cronin says he discovered something about working on such a long-form project. “I’ve written the whole thing myself; there’s no ghostwriter. It’s my story and my words. As it turns out, books are much longer than songs,” Cronin says with a laugh. “They take a little longer to finish. But I’m enjoying every step of the way.”
With “luck,” the memoir’s arrival will coincide with a multi-act “major tour” that’s in the works for 2022. “The two other bands will remain nameless for the moment,” Cronin says, “but suffice to say, they’re really both great friends of ours. So that’s going to be a lot of fun.”