At the age of 84 Petula Clark is most definitely living for today. In fact, that’s the title of her new album.
“It’s simple — I love it,” Clark tells Billboard about her enduring musical career and new album Living For Today (the title track and bonus track “The Rainbow” are premiering exclusively below).
“I grew up with music right from when I was a kid. I was singing from a very early age; In fact, the first time I sang in front of an audience it was in front of a congregation in Wales, and I guess I was hooked from there on. There are very few things that have that sort of kick, so I’m happy to still be doing it.”
Living For Today, which comes out Nov. 10, will include her first U.S. concert tour in more than five decades to support the album.
Clark — best known for her 1964 hit “Downtown” and for starring turns on stage in Sunset Boulevard and Blood Brothers — recorded Living For Today mostly in London with producer John Owen Williams at what she calls his “‘Wendy House’ studio.” “This is a well-traveled selection of songs,” she says with a laugh, and the 13 tracks mix Clark originals with choice covers of Steve Winwood’s “While You See A Chance,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” “The Rainbow,” meanwhile, reunites Clark with her “Downtown” collaborator Tony Hatch for their first teaming in decades.
“That is an optimistic song,” Clark says. “I was visiting (Hatch) in his house in one of the Spanish islands off of Barcelona. I was just hanging out with him and his wife, and it was very nice. He has a little studio in his house and a piano in the living room; I was fiddling around on the piano, like I do, and he came in and said, ‘That’s nice. You’ve got to finish that. If you like, I’ll help you with it’ and that’s how it happened. It reminded me of the first time I heard ‘Downtown’; He played it on the piano to me in Paris and I said, ‘That’s nice…'”
Clark wrote “Living For Today” with Grant Sturiale in New York, who co-produced it along with Joseph Baker, and it conveys a message of resilience in tough times, with a bit of political underpinning. “I’ve kind of had enough of what’s going on. I just want to break out and be happy,” Clark explains. “That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of what’s going on in the world — of course, I am, very much so. I’m not the most optimistic person in the world. I can see the dark side, and the thing that drives me is fighting the demons. People like to think of me as very optimistic and jolly, and in fact I’m fighting with the bogeyman in the corner. I know he’s there — and we all know who he is these days. I don’t want to get too deep with that, but that’s sort of what it’s about. I’m not that madly happy-go-lucky person. At this age, I’ve seen a lot.”
The Living For Today album does, however, sound contemporary, and certainly like the work of someone half Clark’s age — or younger. “Well, we weren’t trying to sound contemporary,” she says. “We weren’t trying to do anything, actually; It just came out sounding that way. I don’t think too much about it. I listen to things that are going on. I don’t listen to much pop music ’cause I don’t want to be too influenced. But I like what’s happening musically. I like what happened before. I’m very broad-minded musically, so when I get a hold of a song and start singing it, it just comes out with all the feelings that I have inside about it. That applies to covers or new songs.”
Clark, who resides in Geneva, kicks off her U.S. tour on Nov. 12 in Modesto, CA, with dates booked through Dec. 26 at B.B. King’s in New York City. A veteran of the Dick Clark pop package tours during the ’60s, Clark is looking forward to headlining as she has in other territories around the world, and she promises the shows will offer more than just a trip down memory lane.
“I’m anticipating having a great time,” Clark says. “This is different for me because I’ve never done the U.S. before with my own show. Obviously I’ll do the hits because they’re still great songs and I enjoy singing them. But I also like doing the new material. Usually when people ask me, ‘What’s your favorite song?’ I will almost always say the new one because it’s all fresh and there’s so much to learn about it and I really like that. I like having a little bit of excitement when I go on stage. I could just go on singing some great old songs night after night, but I don’t think I could do that, really.”
Sunday 12-Nov Modesto, CA Gallo Center for the Arts
Friday 17-Nov San Juan Capistrano, CA Coach House
Saturday 18-Nov Santa Clarita, CA The Canyon
Sunday 19-Nov Los Angeles, CA Saban Theater
Friday 1-Dec Sloan, IA Winnavegas Casino
Sunday 3-Dec Austin, TX One World Theatre
Tuesday 5-Dec San Antonio TX Tobin Center
Thursday 7-Dec Lake Worth, FL Duncan Theater
Friday 8-Dec Parkersburg WV Smoot Theater
Sunday 10-Dec Avon Park, FL Alan Jay Wildstein PAC
Monday 11-Dec The Villages, FL Sharon Morse PAC
Tuesday 12-Dec Largo, FL Central Park PAC
Thursday 14-Dec Annapolis, MD Rams Head Live
Friday 15-Dec Kent, OH The Kent Stage
Saturday 16-Dec Seneca Niagara Seneca Niagara Casino
Sunday 17-Dec St Charles, IL Arcada Theater
Monday 18-Dec Parkersburg, WV Smoot Theater
Wednesday 20-Dec Annapolis, MD Rams Head Live
Friday 22-Dec Northampton, MA Iron Horse
Saturday 23-Dec South Orange, NJ SOPAC
Sunday 24-Dec Sellersville, PA Sellersville Theatre
Tuesday 26-Dec New York, NY BB Kings