It’s been 40 years since Queen’s Roger Taylor released his first solo album, Fun In Space. That can’t help but mean his sixth and latest, Outsider — which comes out Oct. 1 — comes from a somewhat different vantage point.
“Y’know, it’s very hard to sit back and look at yourself in perspective — I find it very hard to judge me, I guess,” Taylor tells Billboard via Zoom from England. “Maybe I’m older, wiser. I actually think maybe I’m just growing up, that the whole atmosphere of the album is more adult than maybe what I’ve done before, maybe a little more sophisticated than before. And let’s face it — I am a lot older and maybe a little wiser, although I would hope some of it is nicely irresponsible and rock n’ roll.”
All of that is in evident on Outsider. The 12-song set is a direct result of the pandemic, born when Taylor and his wife were “locked away” by the seaside in Cornwall, a planned three-day visit turning into four months of quarantine. The situation spawned a song called, appropriately, “Isolation,” and before long Taylor was off and running, compiling material that he took back to his home studio in Surrey. He added a few older tracks such as “Absolutely Anything,” which he created for the 2015 romantic comedy of the same name, a new mix of his “Foreign Sand” collaboration with Yoshiki (a top 30 U.K. hit during 1994), and a cover of Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song,” which was also recorded by the Belle Stars in 1982.
“It came in a nice sort of burst, just sort of self-sustaining a little bit of inspiration,” recalls Taylor, who produced and recorded Outsider with only a bit of help from friends — including KT Tunstall on the single “We’re All Just Trying to Get By.” “It just felt like a nice project.”
Outsider has plenty of groove and mood as well, with an eclectic sweep from the ambient opener “Tides” to the stomping “More Kicks” and the funky rock of the social commentary “Gangsters Are Running This World — Purple Version,” a companion piece to the more melodic, New Wave flavor of its sibling track. “Journey’s End,” which Taylor released four years ago, ends Outsider on a long, reflective note with some tasty guitar touches.
“The last 20 years or so I’ve really just been writing for me because, you know, Queen hasn’t released anything new,” notes Taylor, who begins a 14-date U.K. tour on Oct. 2. “Before, I might write something and say, ‘Oh, that would work well with Queen,’ but of course I was always working with Freddie Mercury’s voice in mind, so it would be different. Now it’s just me.”
Taylor did confirm a desire to perhaps record some Queen music with Adam Lambert someday — the troupe even tried to record something in Nashville at one point, which remains unfinished. “I hope someday we do finish it, because I think it was very promising,” Taylor says. Additional recording, he adds, “is a whole big project. That does involve a lot of things. We have to write the right material. It has to be good. I think at some point it would make sense to do it, but it’s not in the diary now.”
As for the prospect of a sequel to the hit 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, which guitarist Brian May proffered earlier this year, Taylor is circumspect. “Right now there isn’t one,” he says. “I think when we did the movie, we felt like, ‘Well, that went really well. Let’s leave it there.’ There is a huge appetite for some kind of sequel, but I haven’t seen a screenplay yet that is workable. The movie only went up to the Live Aid concert in 1985, so there’s obviously a lot more to the story. I think it might be stupid to rule out a sequel…if something comes up, and it’s a proper thing, not just a cash-in, not Volume Two. But I wouldn’t rule it out at all.”
With touring in drydock — the 2021 European leg of its Rhapsody World Tour has been moved to 2022 — Queen has been spending the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of its foundation, primarily via weekly episodes of Queen The Greatest on YouTube, each one touching on a key moment in the group’s career. “Brian and I were trying desperately to keep it quiet, and this hasn’t been too successful,” Taylor quips. “You don’t really want people to know how long you’ve been going and how old you are, but as they obviously know… it’s great. Who would have thought that all these years later we’d still be playing together and we’d still have an audience. And we were very delighted on the last tours to see an enormous amount of very young people in the audience, which is great. It’s incredible. It’s been a wonderful trip. What a ride. I have nothing to complain about.”