Miguel, Hunter Hayes and John Grant are among the nine artists who have finished tracks for a "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" tribute album that is expected to be released next year, marking the 40th anniversary of the Elton John classic.
"Hunter Hayes has done 'Yellow Brick Road,' played all the instruments and he blew my mind," John told a crowd of USC students and invited guests during a performance-and-interview event Monday night to promote his Sept. 24 Capitol release "The Diving Board."
John's mentioning the project, which producer Peter Asher has been working on for months, was one of several comments about how many young artists impress him today. John professed admiration for Disclosure, Hanni El Khatib -- even spelling his name for the audience -- Queens of the Stone Age, and Lorde.
In referring to Lorde and the track "Tennis Court," he said, "it gives me more pleasure than an old Muddy Waters track. And I love Muddy Waters. For (songwriting partner) Bernie (Taupin), it's the opposite."
Youth and aging were recurring subjects for John in his interview with the Grammy Foundation's Scott Goldman, "The energy of youth is a wonderful thing to observe. I have great faith in the young. ... If you are 66 and want to make a difference I have to push barriers. I'm not coasting; coasting is dangerous."
During his performance, John revisited the old and the new, performing early 1970s songs with his band, the Two Cellists and the USC Thornton School of Music Orchestra conducted by James Newton Howard, five songs from "The Diving Board" with a student choir and brass ensemble, and another half-dozen classics with his band before closing with a solo take on "Rocket Man."
"Diving Board" producer T Bone Burnett, working with John for only the second time, said "a master came in, a grown man, and made an essential record."
Elton John's Set
(with band and orchestra)
"Sixty Years On"
"The Greatest Discovery"
(with band, brass ensemble and choir)
"Oscar Wilde Gets Out")
"Can't Stay Along Tonight"
"The New Fever Waltz"
"Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)"
"The Bitch is Back"
"Bennie and the Jets"
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
"I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
"I'm Still Standing"