When Steve Winwood came off the road in support of his 2003 album "About Time," the legendary artist had a pretty good idea about the follow-up release. However, the end result of his new album "Nine

When Steve Winwood came off the road in support of his 2003 album "About Time," the legendary artist had a pretty good idea about the follow-up release. However, the end result of his new album "Nine Lives," which is due April 29, turned out to be something altogether unique.

"Originally I wanted to make it a continuation of 'About Time,'" Winwood tells Billboard.com. "At one point I was going to call it 'About Time Too,' but in fact, what happened was I become inspired by actually what my band had been playing in jams and informal get-togethers. So ('Nine Lives') was quite different from 'About Time.' It was largely cut live and probably a little bit more organic and natural the way it all came about."

Specifically, Winwood points to new tracks "Fly," "Hungry Man," "Secrets," "At Times We Forget" and "Other Shore" as being born out of jam sessions. Something else different is the fact "About Time" was initially released on his own Wincraft Music label, while "Nine Lives" is included in a deal with Columbia Records.

"Obviously in the changing world of the record industry, no one knows any better than anyone else," Winwood says. "There is suddenly a desire to try to reach more people, which on face [value] one assumes a major record company allows you to do that better. But it's not a long-term thing. It's a one-off with Columbia to see how it compares."

Currently at radio, the lead single off "Nine Lives" is "Dirty City," which features Eric Clapton on guitar. Winwood hinted his recent Madison Square Garden shows with his former Blind Faith bandmate Clapton will more than likely end up as a DVD release.

For now, Winwood is gearing up for his opening slot on Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' summer tour, which kicks off May 30 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Tom requested the band to do a tour with him and I played with him briefly a couple of years ago at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he did a segment for George Harrison," Winwood says. "I think he actually tried to get us to go out with him before and the schedules didn't work out."

Winwood, who says he's open to the idea of collaborating onstage with Petty, is excited about performing "Nine Lives" material live, as well as digging into his catalog. This includes material from 1980's "Arc of a Diver" and 1982's "Talking Back to the Night."

Says Winwood, "It'll be a powerful bill, and we'll give you an hour of music that will go across the board from old to new stuff and in between."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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