He's performed to packed arenas with the band Bush and walked the red carpet with his wife, Gwen Stefani, but despite his notoriety, singer Gavin Rossdale now finds himself relegated to the less glamorous slot of an opening act.
Rossdale is back on the road with his new band, Institute, a foursome that released its first album "Distort Yourself" in September to modest reviews.
The music will remind listeners of Rossdale's work with Bush, but with a harder edge, thanks to his bandmate, former Helmet guitarist Chad Traynor. Despite their combined successes, Rossdale admits they're finding a slightly chilly reception as a band.
"You just get the sense that people are waiting to jump or to bail, they don't know what to do with it," said Rossdale. "It's a weird one, and just finding the right track for people to connect with. I see people come to see me and they know me … but how to get people to get the record? It's a little bit frustrating."
He's pouring that frustration into an explosive live show as Institute tours heavily this fall, mixing small club dates with opening slots for U2 through December. "I keep thinking if I just do good shows we can make it work," said Rossdale.
The U2 tour is bringing Rossdale back to some familiar locations, which has the British singer feeling both grateful and a bit humbled.
"All the venues they're playing I've played with Bush so it's a bit more fun when you're the reason," said Rossdale. "I don't really like borrowing people's stages. It seems a little bit strange, but if you're going to borrow someone's stage, God bless U2!"
More than a decade ago, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana pushed alternative rock to the top of the charts. Bush was in the middle of that success, as Rossdale's powerful voice helped propel the British act to a huge audience with the hits "Everything Zen," "Glycerine" and "Machinehead."
But as hip-hop eclipsed rock in music sales, Bush faltered, finally dissolving four years ago. Rossdale decided to start fresh and formed Institute in New York.
"I thought it was interesting at a time when rock music is so injured to try to really do a big rock record," said Rossdale. He then jokingly admitted, "I haven't yet been proved right … I've been proved a little wrong thus far, but you never know how it's going to go."
His voice is unmistakable on Institute's tracks, which mix soft melodies with heavy guitars. "I just want to make sexy music and make it physical and instinctive and guttural," said Rossdale.
With this band, he's again taking the lead as songwriter, despite a history of critical bashes for his writing style.
"I try to be as direct as I can. I sometimes get accused of … sort of swapping subjects and not being that decipherable, but I'm not sure anyone is that decipherable who I know and think is good," said Rossdale.
If he was looking for any help producing the new album, he certainly had one successful songwriter at his disposal. Rossdale's wife, Gwen Stefani, has penned a long list of hits for the band No Doubt and is now enjoying the success of her first solo album, "Love Angel Music Baby."
Rossdale became a bit bashful when asked about his famous wife, just hinting at how involved they are in each other's music careers and songwriting processes. "Nothing excessive. Just like, if you're living with someone, you kind of show them something," said Rossdale.
So are there any references to Stefani in his new lyrics?