Rod Stewart says his two latest releases — a holiday album and a memoir — are both projects that he’s been “putting off for some time” but is pleased to finally have them finished.
Stewart tells Billboard that he previously copped an attitude about doing “Merry Christmas, Baby,” which was released Tuesday (Oct. 30). “I think maybe I thought it was beneath me, years ago, to do a Christmas album,” he explains. “I thought, ‘I’m a dyed-in-the-wool rocker. I cannot do Christmas albums — or standards.’ But what with the success of the American Songbook [series), it seemed a natural progression. The American Songbook was a fork in the road, and so is the Christmas album. I’m so pleased I did it. It’s some beautiful songs, and the songs are a challenge — like the American Songbook.”
“Merry Christmas, Baby” was produced by “American Songbook” collaborator David Foster and recorded during the summer at Foster’s home studio in Malibu. “You’re looking out over the ocean and the sky and the beach and the sun’s shining, and then there’s Christmas trees in the living room,” Stewart recalls. “I knew it was going to be odd, but it was more odd than I thought it would be.” The set includes guest appearances by Cee-Lo Green and Trombone Shorty on the title track, Michael Buble on “Winter Wonderland,” Mary J. Blige on “We Three Kings” and saxophonist Dave Koz on “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow,” while Stewart says he was “thrilled beyond words” to perform a virtual duet with Ella Fitzgerald on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” which also features trumpeter Chris Botti.
The set includes one original tune, “Red-Suited Super Man,” co-written with Foster and his daughter Amy with Trombone Shorty also contributing. “That started out as a jam,” Stewart recalls. “I started out singing the melody and I loved it, and I was so busy making my own album at the time and writing the lyrics for that I said to David, ‘Can you get your daughter to write the lyrics,’ so she wrote the lyric and I did the melody. I can’t wait to play the album on Christmas to my two little kids; they’re gonna hear dad sing all the Christmas songs, and I’m really looking forward to that.”
A bit less family-friendly, perhaps, is the cheerfully frank “Rod: An Autobiography,” which Stewart also resisted for a number of years. “It finally dawned on me that maybe I’ve got a lot to write about after 67 years on this good Earth, so I did it,” Stewart explains. “It really isn’t a book about drugs and alcohol and whoring it up. It’s essentially a book of fun and sunshine, really. The overall feel I get from the book…is, ‘You lucky bastard. You’ve had some life,’ which I really have had.”
He does, however, use the book to debunk some popular myths about him — particularly about having his stomach pumped after supposedly having oral sex with any number of specified parties. In “Rod,” Stewart reveals the story was spread by a former publicist after the singer fired him. “The good thing about an autobiography is you can actually straighten out all these myths,” Stewart notes. “There’s that one, the one about me gravedigging, the one about playing professional (soccer). They’re all half-truths, but they’ve been blown totally out of proportion over the last 35 or 40 years.”
Stewart’s next run at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas begins Jan. 23. He’s planning to release his first album of original rock songs since 2001 next spring and follow that with tour dates in the U.S. and Europe.