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Leonard Cohen Talks About First New Album of the Decade

"One song was written on tour, the rest were written before"

June 18, 2010 2:37 PM ET

Leonard Cohen has spent the last two years globetrotting through a marathon tour, but when Rolling Stone caught up with the poet last night in New York — where he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame — he revealed he's working on a new album, his first disc of fresh material since 2004's Dear Heather. "God willing it will be finished next spring," he said.

"I'm producing it," he said, wearing his typical dapper black suit and fedora. The 75-year-old added that the disc will contain "10 or 11 songs," mostly composed before he hit the road in May 2008 for the first time in 15 years. "One song was written on tour, the rest were written before," he said, noting that he wrote some tracks with longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson and with his longtime companion Anjani. What will it sound like? "Something good, I hope."

Check out photos of the all-star Songwriters Hall of Fame gaga.

Cohen said not much has changed on his playlist in recent years and rattled off a list of his favorite artists with long breathy pauses between names: "The same people — Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins."

Last year, Cohen debuted one new song live, the slow, moonlit blues "Feels So Good." This summer, Cohen embarks another leg of his tour, and in November he'll play Cambodia's Olympic Stadium with proceeds going to chartiable groups like the Cambodian Red Cross. "That's a long story," he said. "But if we can help there I'm very happy to be able to do it." Cohen's tour grossed $21 million in 2009 and earned stellar reviews. "I don't examine these things too closely," he said about his success on the road. "Otherwise they may evaporate."

At the ceremony, Cohen made a brief-but-spellbinding speech, said he was "overwhelmed" and then recited a stanza from his staple "Hallelujah." After the ceremony, fellow icons Paul Simon and Billy Joel made an early exit, but Cohen hung around his table, posing for photos and accepting accolades. When a couple forced electric guitar pickguards in his face, Cohen calmly told them, "You know I don't like signing these," but then signed them anyway.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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