At 79, Rod Stewart shows no signs of slowing down, with a new swing album with Jools Holland

Sir Rod Stewart will not be slowed

John Carucci
Friday 23 February 2024 15:18 GMT

Sir Rod Stewart will not be slowed.

At 79, he continues full-throttle with a busy year. Highlights in 2024 include his 200th show at his Las Vegas residency, an ongoing world tour and a new swing album.

“Swing Fever” is a collaboration with Jools Holland and the talk show host-musician's Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and tackles some timeless tunes from the Big Band era, like “Pennies From Heaven,” “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Sentimental Journey.”

No stranger to the American songbook, Stewart had one request for Holland: “I’m not going to do any slow songs,” Stewart said. “I want all upbeat happy song, which we need in these grim times that we live in.”

Stewart expressed gratitude singing songs crafted at a time when a songwriter was a specific job, before bands wrote their own.

Holland, who began his career with the 1980s band, Squeeze, joked on how the paradigm shifted.

“I think the Beatles were to blame. I think everybody thought they could write songs after that. So bands always kept doing it,” Holland said.

Stewart, who has written his share of hits, was happy to concentrate on crooning.

Stewart was recently in New York, and before heading off to a downtown pub to watch his beloved Celtic soccer team take on rivals Hibernian, he took some time to chat with The Associated Press about making music, maintaining his health and whether there’s retirement in his future.

AP: What was the appeal of going back to these tunes?

STEWART: They make you tap your feet. They make you smile. Both of us (Holland) were brought up on this music. I did “The Great American Songbook,” so for me this was a natural progression. And one thing I said to Jools was, I’m not going to do any slow songs, I want all upbeat, happy (claps his hands) which we need in these grim times that we live in.

AP: What was it like doing this record?

STEWART: I love the whole process of doing live shows. I love recording. I loved when we put this album together. It was such a joy. We didn’t have any arguments or fights or anything like that. It was pure pleasure and I think that comes across when you listen to it. The whole thing was recorded live in Jools’ studio, which is not a big studio. We had 18 people crammed in there, so all the solos were played live.

AP: Was it freeing to perform songs from an era where songwriters were a separate entity?

STEWART: I’ve always found songwriting a bit of an agony, really. It’s like going back to school. In fact, when I was in the Faces, they used to lock me in a hotel room with a bottle of wine and say, “You’re not coming out 'till it’s finished.” Because I was notorious. I wanted to go out and enjoy myself alone. I didn’t want to sit in a room and write lyrics and it’s always been a bit of like pulling teeth for me. The joy of this album, obviously, is I didn’t write any of the songs, I had a burning ambition to sing them and I picked the right guy.

AP: Over the years, you’ve garnered a large female audience, when did you realize that was happening?

STEWART: Probably right after “Maggie May,” I think. No, with the Faces, without a doubt because it was a good-looking-band, the Faces. I didn’t think any of us were good looking, quite honestly. I still don’t. But we did have some magical appeal to women. It was great fun. You should have been there. (Laughs)

AP: Did your health scare a few years back change anything?

STEWART: It’s all part of getting older. My thoughts at the moment are with our king who’s got some sort of cancer. But I’ve made a promise to myself since I was really young. I’ve always played soccer, and I still do. I play with my kids as well. I keep myself really fit. I work out a bit. I’m mad about nutrition, watching my weight and everything. So I do work at it, and I think that helps a lot. And do your due diligence. You know, men are notorious for not wanting to go to the doctors. You should.

AP: That sounds pragmatic. Do you have any worries about staying healthy?

STEWART: I’m not obsessed by it. I mean, none of us want to pass on. You do think about that as you get older, but not in a morbid way. I’m not frightened of dying, but I’m just enjoying myself so much. I feel absolutely privileged to be doing what I’m doing.

AP: There was talk a few years ago about a country record. Any truth to that?

STEWART: I plan on doing it. We actually started it. We started making a country album. And I went off and made another solo album, but yeah, it’s in the pipeline. The record company would like me to do it. They don’t push me to do it. You know, there will come a time.

AP: What is it about that music?

STEWART: Once again. it’s what I grew up with. You know, not so much country music, but folk music. You know, the likes of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan. Of course, I loved all that stuff. That’s all. That’s why I learned how to play guitar, because I wanted to sing the songs.

AP: Is there an end in sight, do you see a point where you would retire?

STEWART: Not really. I suppose, I mean it wouldn’t be for me to judge, but I imagine if people stop buying tickets for concerts and don’t buy records anymore maybe that’s a sign. I don’t know. The word retirement is not in my vocabulary at the moment because I’m enjoying myself.

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