Billy Bragg has no plans to hang up his guitar. Ever.
The troubadour’s great career has just been recognized by Britain’s Assn. of Independent Music, which bestowed the singer and activist with its “outstanding contribution to music” award.
An “outstanding contribution” accolade from the music industry means you’ve been doing fine work. And that you’ve been doing it for a long time. Bragg isn’t reaching for his slippers anytime soon. Right now, he’s in terrific form. And a follow-up to 2013’s “Tooth & Nail” won’t be too far into the future.
“I’m writing ideas for songs all the time,” he told Billboard during a phone conversation ahead of his win at the Independent Music Awards in London. Bragg is set to make a quick dash to Australia, where he’ll play two shows and participate in a keynote interview at the Bigsound conference in Brisbane. U.S. tour dates begin Sept. 22 at the Old Rock House in St Louis.
“Coming to Australia is halfway in this whole process. At the end of this process, I’ll have to stand back and take a long deep breath and put my head in a different space for a little while before I come back to make a new record. The last record, there was five years between them. I don’t think it will be five years again.”
The latest AIM honor follows the release of “Tooth & Nail, a reflective set which steered away from political themes and took a more personal route. The 12-track album, issued on Cooking Vinyl, is the Grammy-nominated artist's follow-up to 2008's "Mr. Love And Justice."
The British musician recorded the album over just five days with producer Joe Henry. It’s a partnership he intends to return to. “Hopefully I found a way with Joe Henry to make records that are both viable financially but also for me, really intriguing, really engaging and really interesting. So, a couple or three years hopefully I’ll be out with a new one.”
For Bragg, retirement is inconceivable. “Over these years I’ve had an amazing time, I’ve travelled around the world, made a decent living. I can’t complain about that. If I carry on doing this until I’m not able to do it anymore, I’d be very happy.”
A moment at a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary reinforced what he has always known – he’s a music-making “lifer”. “My son’s band played and the (host) wanted to hear an Elvis song, and no-one knew any Elvis songs. So everyone was looking around for someone to sing an Elvis song. I went, ‘oh, alright, give me a guitar.’ And I got up and started singing ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’ We had a great time,” he laughs. “I will still be doing this even if nobody else gives a shit.”