Mick Jagger: 'I'm Not Thinking About Retirement'

The Rolling Stones singer on the band's upcoming North American tour, new 'Sticky Fingers' box set and the possibility of a new album

Mick Jagger discussed retirement, the Rolling Stones' upcoming tour and the 'Sticky Fingers' box set in a new interview. Credit: Joel Ryan/AP

Mick Jagger may be a great-grandfather just three months away from his 72nd birthday, but slowing down doesn't seem to have crossed his mind. He's spent the past two and a half years on the road with the Rolling Stones and he's gearing up for a 15-date North American stadium tour this summer. Hours after the tour was announced, Jagger called up Rolling Stone to discuss plans for the show, the new Sticky Fingers box set and the possibility of a new Stones album.

What made you guys decide to go with stadiums this summer?
I enjoy playing stadiums in a way, and I had a good time last summer playing them in Europe.

The stages are so much bigger than arenas, so that must make them more physically demanding for you.
Yeah, a little bit. [Laughs] Well, you could make it a smaller stage. It's my own fault, really, if it's big. It is quite large, maybe 150 feet wide and then the runway is quite large, too.

How do you prepare for a tour like this? Do you have a personal trainer?
I just up the whole fitness thing, and I do have a trainer that I've had for years. I'm always working out. I don't really stop between tours, but then I do have to take it up to another level about three months before one begins. You have to prepare for what you're going to do. You don't prepare for running a marathon. You do start and stop stuff. You train for the quick burst. It's really hard to do the singing at the same time. I'll be doing cross-training and my trainer is going, "Try and sing during this!" That's not really possible in a gym in front of other people. [Laughs]

Are you building a new stage for this tour?
Let me think…It's different, I think. Some of it is the same and some is different. It hasn't been seen in North America, but it's somewhat similar to some of the European gigs.

"You train for the quick burst. I'll be doing cross-training and my trainer is going, 'Try and sing during this!'"

How involved do you get in the stage design and other technical aspects of a tour?
I pretty much go through the design and run through different options. It's a video-based stage with lots of screens, so it's important what goes on them. We've got some new pieces for the video. I'm pretty involved in all that. The actual playing surface is more or less standard and we worked it out a while ago; how much room you need for this and that.

Then there's the other variable of the width of the stadium. A baseball stadium, for instance, is normally much wider than a football stadium. Each one is a bit different, so I have to look at all those as well and say which is which. Stadiums really aren't uniform like arenas, which tend to all be the same. With stadiums, you have to tailor the stage design each night.

Are you going to play more Sticky Fingers songs than usual because the album is being re-released?
Maybe, yeah, or at least playing the ones we don't normally play. But I haven't really gotten to that yet. We're floating the idea of doing the whole album. I played it - and it's a really great album - but it's got a lot of slow songs. I'm just worried that's a bit problematic for a stadium. So, I don't know. I'm sure we'll think about it. I'm just working on that now, but I'm sure we'll feature some of the more unusual ones. I think that'll be good.

I would love to hear "Moonlight Mile" or "Sister Morphine."
Yeah, exactly, and we haven't played those for a bit. I think that's a good idea, and we definitely will feature those.

Do you think you might play the whole album straight through at least once?
Maybe. [Laughs.]  Maybe in the same running order, but normally in a whole show, we might do one ballad. Maybe Keith might do a ballad, but maximum two. Sticky Fingers has, like, five slow songs.

But they're really good slow songs.
I know they're good. I think the album is all good. I just don't know how it would work. Maybe we'd play it and everyone would say, "Great." But maybe they'll get restless and start going to get drinks. [Laughs]

So you'll figure this out at rehearsals?
Yeah. We play a lot of the tunes in there and know them pretty well. But the ones you mentioned we don't play as much. I mean, we've played all of them I think once before. It's not like doing Their Satanic Majesties Request. So, I'm sure we'll have a go at playing the whole thing. I mean, [laughs], I'm not sure it's gonna work.

There used to be long gaps between tours. You'd go out for two years, and then disappear for the next four or so. But you've been on tour since 2012, though doing far fewer shows with long gaps between legs. What's changed?
As you say, we do less shows. It's still the same in that we go around the world and then start again. [Laughs] We ended in Australia in December and then we're back where we started. The 50th anniversary tour started in England. But now we did the whole shebang and we're starting again. I've really worked out the philosophy for it. People seem to be enjoying touring every year. 

Do you see this as the final leg or just another one?
It's the beginning of another one. As I said, when we finished Australia we'd done everything. We did England, North America…We haven't done South America for a bit. We were gonna do it, but it's kind of difficult to put together. We did Europe, Asia and then we're about to do North America again.

Are you bringing Mick Taylor on this tour?
I don't think so. We're not. Not on this tour.

Why did you pick Sticky Fingers as the next archival release?
I think it was planned years ago when we had a release schedule. The record company put together this sequence of release that we're doing, so that's fine.

I don't see any unreleased songs on the track listing.
No, there isn't. [Laughs] I looked very hard, but I didn't find any. The truth of the matter is…Now I'm not the greatest Rolling Stones historian, but Exile on Main Street is the one after Sticky Fingers, right?

So then, in the Exile period, we used quite a few tracks that were recorded in the Sticky Fingers sessions. When we re-released Exile on Main Street, we found others that were not released and we put them on the new package, which was a bit stupid, really. I should've really kept some back, but I didn't really think about it at the time. There was nothing that was unreleased left, unfortunately. I think that's really the truth of the story.

Do you think the Stones are going to record a new album at some point?
I knew you were going to ask me that! [Laughs] But I don't know. It would be very nice and I've got a lot of new songs and songs I've written over the last couple of years. I've done really good demos for all of them, which I would love to record. So, let's hope so.

Are you thinking about making another solo album?
I haven't, really. I'd love to record a Stones album. If that doesn't happen, then yes. That's a truthful answer. I've got songs that would be great for the Stones, and I've got songs that wouldn't be perfect for the Stones.

Do you envision an end date for this tour?
Well, after the U.S. tour, there's nothing booked. But there are plans for what we'll do in the autumn for gigs, maybe. I don't know about the early autumn, but in the late autumn there's a lot of talk. I haven't booked it yet, but…

Does retirement ever cross your mind?
Nah, not in the moment. I'm thinking about what the next tour is. I'm not thinking about retirement. I'm planning the next set of tours, so the answer is really, "No, not really."