Icon Talks New Album, New Songs & Being the Ultimate 'Music Freak'
You've really had a renaissance as a touring artist over the last decade, with incredibly well-received shows. How do you plan to tour on this record?
We haven't really talked about it yet. The first time we're going to do anything will be… when we do a couple of little shows in Los Angeles. We're going to record something from Capitol Studios, where we'll put on a little show in front of an invited audience. The next night there's a MusiCares Person of the Year benefit, we'll play a little bit there. Then we'll play a little bit of this album on the Grammys. We'll try it out then, and I think that will give us some clues. People have plenty of ideas and suggestions, I'd like to see how it goes live, just how much we enjoy it. If we all enjoy it, then we've got to think about taking it out.
Seeing these songs and others performed by this band live would be an awesome experience, and you've put together a pretty serious live band you've been touring with for the last 10 years, as well.
Aren't they cool? We're having a really great time. Last year we played quite a few dates. They're such a pleasure to play with, we all enjoy each others' company and the musicianship, and, as you say, next month we will have been playing together 10 years, and that's long enough to make us a proper band.
I would agree. That's longer than your other bands.
That's right, and we certainly realized that last year, so I think that took us up a notch. We've just been playing great, enjoying our audiences, we've just got a good feeling going, that's special, you can't beat that.
How is touring with that band different than touring with Wings or the Beatles?
All three bands are completely different. The Beatles, in the early days, it was learning, in places like Hamburg and Liverpool, and it developed into a complete phenomenon. And that was a very special time and thing, which was mostly enjoyable but got a little difficult when you couldn't hear the things you were doing. And then later Wings went through the same kind of thing, a learning curve, and then we got it together, and that was really very enjoyable because I was playing with my wife and we got really good. Now with this band, again the same thing, over the years we've sort of got ourselves to a good point. So they're all completely different, but all bands I've been privileged to have been in.
Do you think you'll continue to work live with this touring band?
Yeah, I hope so. We all love it, and I don't see any reason not to. I've got a meeting coming up with my promoter who I hear has some nice, interesting ideas for me, so we'll start to put that together, map out our live dates this year.
Great, well, give me a ring after that meeting and we'll talk about it.
(Laughs) Yeah, man.
How do you stay cool to generation after generation? Is it your sense of humor?
You could say it's humor mixed with a complete love of what I do. I'm a music freak, man.
In terms of legacy and achievement, what are you most proud of professionally and personally?
I think personally, first, it would be my kids. I'm very proud of them, they're great kids and, now, my grandkids, which is a source of great amazement to me. They're always new. And then professionally, I think it might have to be my songwriting. I've been really lucky that when we go out and do a show, we've got some tunes that we can play. You know, you think about it, it's not always something you train to do. John [Lennon] and I weren't trained at all, we just kind of figured it out and made it up ourselves. I think we did some pretty good stuff, considering.
Has the iTunes relationship met your expectations, and any comment on the passing of Steve Jobs?
He was a beautiful guy, Steve, I was so lucky to count him as one of my friends. We were all so happy to get on iTunes, we'd wanted it for a long time, but all this business stuff -- it was a big deal so everyone wanted to get it right. When we finally did, it was really cool, and after that Steve came along to a couple of our concerts and stuff, and he was a dear man. A very clever man, a nice man, a great music fan, and he will be sorely missed.
Nashville-based Ray Waddell (@billboardtour) is executive director of content and programming for touring and live entertainment at Billboard. He writes the weekly On the Road column.