“I’m OK, man, as usual — freezing!” says Keith Richards, calling from his home in Connecticut on a recent January afternoon. The guitarist is checking in to talk about the 30th anniversary reissue of Talk is Cheap, his classic album with his solo project the X-Pensive Winos, which is out March 29th (a deeper story on that album will come closer to release). Richards has a lot more happening in the next few months. The Rolling Stones kick off their first U.S. stadium run in four years on April 20th in Miami — but before that, Richards reveals, the band will return to the studio for about a week to continue work on their first album of original songs since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. “I’m preparing more than anything else, putting material together,” he says.
This is good news for fans, who were alarmed late last year when guitarist Ronnie Wood hinted that work had stalled on the album, which was already in progress. “Mick and Keith wanted to make sure the songs were really good, so we’ve sort of taken a step back again,” said Wood. Around the same time, Richards said he wasn’t sure when the band would get back to work.
But Richards spent his holidays taking stock of the material. He describes the process: “Sometimes it’s not as much writing as listening to what’s been written and figuring it out, and honing and all kinds of stuff.” He trails off and laughs: “It’s very boring. It’s like a carpentry shop.”
Richards says it’s “perfect timing” to hit the studio before the tour. He’s extremely excited for the U.S. run, which includes New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and multiple nights in New Jersey and Chicago stadiums. “It’s what I do,” Richards says, adding that the country holds a sentimental place dating back to their breakthrough in 1964. “To play back in the States again, it’s fantastic. It’s been a while. I always think of it as our really early hunting grounds. Although we had already done it in England, to work over a whole continent was pretty astounding. So I’ve always had a soft spot for working in America.”
Stones tours often begin with a surprise club show, a dream scenario for fans. “I’m hoping,” Richards says when asked about the possibility of one. “We haven’t in the last couple of tours. We still wanted to. I think it was a matter of logistics. Finding the right venue or whatever didn’t happen. So it’s definitely on the menu, let’s put it that way. Hors d’oeuvres!”
“How can you stop?” Richards says of touring with the Stones. “I think it has to be written in a different way, whatever the ending is.”
Fans can expect some surprises on the tour, which last year included live rarities like “She’s a Rainbow” and “Fool to Cry.” Richards has some ideas for songs he hopes to break out: “I’ve been thinking about it, but you sort of caught me there, because there are, but I’m not going to tell you! You understand my hesitation there.”
At 75, Richards says stepping onstage at a stadium gives him a feeling he’s yet to get tired of. “Not at all,” he says. It helps that the rest of the band is in a good place: “I mean, hey, how bad can it be? You get up there and do what you love to do, and fortunately so do millions of others. It’s not something to turn your nose up at, you know. And it’s what I do. It’s the way the band feels. You can only do this if everybody is absolutely on. And the fact that they all are is an incredible tribute to the lads. They just want to do it.”
The guitarist knows the band is making history with their longevity, and their legacy is no doubt a factor in why they are still touring. “I think it’s also, how can you stop?” he adds. “Because I think it has to be written in a different way, whatever the ending is.”