Paul Rodgers, best known as the singer for Free and Bad Company, has a routine when it comes to performing at the top of his game. And both Mick Jagger and David Bowie wanted in on it.

"The one secret I learned that I told both Mick and David about Paul was that before and after the show he gargled with just distilled water and tea tree oil ... like 10 little drops of tea tree oil in an eight-ounce glass," guitarist Reeves Gabrels told UCR in an exclusive interview.

The well-traveled Gabrels, now a member of the Cure, toured with Rodgers in the early '90s. He also worked with Bowie in Tin Machine from 1988-92, and with the Rolling Stones' frontman in the early 2000s.

Gabrels was initially approached about becoming part of a larger touring lineup in support of Muddy Water Blues, Rodgers' 1993 Grammy-nominated tribute album. In the end, however, they decided to pare everything down. "Bad Company and Free were both trios with a singer," Gabrels tried to remind Rodgers. "So what's the big deal? Why do you need two guitar players?"

Gabrels was brought in with no rehearsal time, but felt right at home playing music he had grown up on. "They had changed some of the material, but they had added more stuff from Free at Last, which was my first Free record when I was learning to play guitar – so I knew all those songs."

Rodgers has often connected his love of acts like Muddy Waters back to the Stones, and held a special regard for Bowie, too.

"Mick Jagger is just amazing, isn't he? Come on, you just have to hand it to him," Rodgers told the Huffington Post in 2014. "He also wrote some great great lyrics. Look, the Rolling Stones introduced me to the blues."

When Bowie died in 2016, Rodgers described him as "such a unique and special musician and person" in a Facebook tribute post. "I met David Bowie a number of times over the years and he was always a kind, considerate gentleman. I liked him a lot."

As for Rodgers' tee tree oil, Reeves told UCR that "it's an aboriginal thing for healing ... and that's what he would use on his throat before and after – and he sang better on stage than I've ever heard him recorded anywhere."

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