Rod Stewart's Atlantic debut, "Human," finds the veteran singer working with a number of guest artists and songwriters. "I was more or less a hired gun when I agreed to this," Stew

Rod Stewart's Atlantic debut, "Human," finds the veteran singer working with a number of guest artists and songwriters. "I was more or less a hired gun when I agreed to this," Stewart jokes in an exclusive interview with Billboard Editor-in-Chief Timothy White, "but it's worked out."

Due out Feb. 6, the decidedly R&B-flavored set features guest appearances by guitarists Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits, Notting Hillbillies) and Slash (Guns'N'Roses, Slash's Snakepit), and a duet between Stewart and acclaimed Scottish singer/songwriter Helicopter Girl. Songs by Curtis Mayfield ("It Was Love That We Needed"), the Mavericks Raul Malo and James House ("To Be With You), and one co-written by Macy Gray ("Smitten") help make up the album.

"It's just a great batch," says Stewart of the 11 cuts he chose from a session crop of 30. "A lot of them were written for me, and the Macy Gray song she already had [co-]written and decided to give it to me. If you love the songs, you sing them the best you can. The word for the album's intention was 'uplifting.' Without blowing my own trumpet, I tried to aim for that."

Stewart's last album for Warner Bros., 1998's "When We Were The New Boys," debuted at No. 44 on The Billboard 200. That set brought the artist back to the more raucous rock material he performed as a member of the Faces, after several years of recording more adult fare.

Instead, the new album showcases his strengths as a vocalist in a style with which he is most comfortable. "That was the clear intent when we undertook this," says Stewart. "We were gonna steer clear of folk music and out-and-out white rock'n'roll. We wanted more of a flavor for the stuff I think I sing properly and best: R&B."

Read more of White's exclusive interview with Rod Stewart in this week's "Music To My Ears" column.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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