And, he adds, they're taking liberties with the pieces they're working on. "Isn't She Lovely," for instance, "goes to a whole other place. I added another part, a melody I added that [Andrea] Bocelli sings on."
He's not promising a specific release date for the project, however. "It's got to feel right," Wonder says. "No different than I did with Songs in the Key of Life or any other projects I've worked on, it's got to feel right before I give it to the people. It's got to feel like, 'Yeah, that feels good to me.' I can not be a Stevie Wonder fan and listen to this and like it or be a fan and listen to it and say, 'Yeah, this is what I like.' I think I've been able to be objective about stuff that I've done to say that and to feel that way."
Meanwhile, Wonder is "maybe 75 percent" finished with Through the Eyes of Wonder, a more conventional studio album that will be his first since A Time to Love in 2005. "I've been kind of messing with that for a while, and I'm excited about that," Wonder notes. "There's so much that has gone on between, say, Songs in the Key of Life and now -- in my life, in lives, just in the world. There have been some incredibly great things that happened and there have been some incredibly horrible things that have happened. There are some things that'll make you feel pessimistic that have happened, and there are some things that will make you feel optimistic as well at the end of the day. In that I've been able to witness all that, [the album] is kind of from the perspective as I see it. That's where I write from."
Both projects, of course, are taking a backseat to the Songs in the Key of Life Performance trek, which begins Nov. 6 at New York's Madison Square Garden and will play 11 dates before wrapping up Dec. 5 in Oakland, Calif. The idea for the tour was hatched after Wonder played the album last December at the 18th annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater, and he's looking forward to letting others hear it in its entirety.
"Something like Songs in the Key of Life, it's a work," he explains. "It's an actual concept or project that you do, and the music, thank God, has stood the test of time and all that. And for me it speaks of a kind of place that I was in when I did it; it speaks of a place that I was growing up in Detroit and things that I experienced. The songs are culminations of different experience that I had or different things that happened that influenced those ideas. So I wanted to do Songs in the Key of Life and really make the musical statement, because we had never toured Songs in the Key of Life like this. We did shows but never the whole thing all the way through, so I felt it would be great to do that."
Wonder says he plans to alter the sequence of the album somewhat for the shows, weaving in the four songs from the A Something's Extra EP that accompanied the original album in 1976 and also include outtakes such as "Easier" and "Life Story."
"There were songs that didn't make Songs in the Key of Life that I probably might play at the concerts because the songs are good," Wonder says. "I did 'Easier' in December and it was fun doing that. There was talk about me re-releasing [the album' with those songs on it, but I don't ever want to do that, only because I might want to just cut them over again and do them now."
Wonder says there are also discussions being held about filming the shows for a possible DVD release and live album in the future.