Elton John Talks Upbeat New LP, Fave Deep Cuts and Advising Ed Sheeran
Elton John has spent the past few years making mostly reflective and piano-based albums like 2010’s Leon Russell collaboration, The Union, and 2013’s sparse, somber The Diving Board. But when he got the urge to make a new album earlier this year, he decided to head in a radically different direction. “I was in Honolulu playing a show with my band, and I said to my guitarist Davey [Johnstone], ‘Go out and buy 12-string guitars,'” he says. “‘I want to hear lots of them on this record. We’re going to make an up record.'”
The end result is Wonderful Crazy Night, which hits shelves on February 5th. We spoke to John about crafting the album, raising his two young sons, his upcoming 70th birthday, managing Ed Sheeran, the possibility of playing a special concert packed with rarities and much more.
When you decided to write this kind of an album, what instructions did you give Bernie?
I just said that I even wanted the slow songs to be optimistic. I wanted to make a happy record. “Joyous” was the word I chose. Not happy, joyous. I said I want it to feel joyous from beginning to end, and even the slow songs should be joyous.
Bernie told me it’s harder for him to write happy songs than sad ones. Is it the same for you?
Oh, yeah. I mean, as a pianist, I feel its really hard to write uptempo songs anyway. It’s much harder than it is to write a slow ballad because the piano is a different chromatic instrument from the guitar, and so you don’t tend to write three-chord songs with the piano. But on this record, because I was in the mood and I knew what I wanted, it came really, really quickly.
I understand where Bernie is coming from. Normally, I could write ballads and sad songs all day. I do like miserable records and miserable songs, but I don’t feel like that now. I must say, my band helped me enormously. It’s the first record they’ve made with T Bone. He asked for them to play on it. We’d been playing so well live that it was really just a matter of time before this happened.
The idea and the actual result came together very, very well. I was surprised by how many uptempo songs I wrote. In fact, there’s probably two we left off the album, so it actually put the to rest the notion that I can’t write uptempo songs. When I look back on Rock of the Westies, which is probably the most uptempo record we did, I wrote them then, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually made a band record that sounds like a rock & roll record.
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