DAVE Stewart ( pictured) is nothing if not prolific. The multiinstrumentalist, songwriter and producer found fame as half of the hugely successful duo Eurythmics. He has forged a successful solo career and become an in- demand producer, soundtrack artist
Life after the Eurythmics.
Q. You are an exceptionally busy man. How do you find enough hours in the day?
A. It all seems to flow together somehow. I don’t tend to look at things as work – I just look at them as jumbled up between what’s happening in my life personally and what’s happening in my music. Fortunately, I find it very easy to switch between projects.
Q. The idea for your new album, The
Blackbird Diaries, came when you bought a vintage guitar. What happened?
A. This guitar became some sort of Excalibur. I was stuck in that volcanic ash storm in Europe a few years ago and I didn’t have a guitar in my hotel room, so I went to Denmark St in London, that has been forever the place to buy secondhand guitars, and I bought one that looked really unusual on the wall and when I played it, it sounded different from anything else. When I got the case, inside were the documents of the guy whose guitar it was originally and his name was Red River Dave, who was an eccentric country and western singer.
Q. It’s very much a country and blues album. Were those early influences of yours?
A. My cousin started speaking with a Memphis twang when he was about 14 and none of us in the northeast of England could understand it. When he was 18 he was living in Nashville and has lived there ever since. He used to send me and my brother blues records and that’s when I started learning the guitar from people like Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf. So this album was great because I landed in the centre of Nashville and the greatest players and it was second nature to them to play along.
Q. How did someone who learnt to play blues guitar achieve fame as a synth-pop pioneer with Eurythmics?
A. We had come out of punk music and into post-punk and the idea of a guitar band became obsolete in my head because it had been wiped clean by the sheer force of punk music. So I started playing around with drum machines and synthesisers and created the Sweet Dreams album. But the next album already had me playing the Gretsch guitar and an orchestra on Here Comes the Rain. Then by the third album, there was R& B on Would I Lie To You. It was really the first album that was about 70 per cent electronic.
Q. There is a co-write with Bob Dylan on the album. What’s it like to write a song with someone who is such an icon?
A. It’s just being around him and watching him write songs and jamming with him and going on trips on canal boats and generally just hanging out. I introduced Bob to the idea of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers being his band and then George Harrison was staying in my house for a year and the Traveling Wilburys pretty much formed in my back garden. So I wasn’t terrified to write with Bob.
Q. Having worked with Joss Stone and Stevie Nicks, as well as with SuperHeavy, what do you look for in a collaborator?
A. I don’t actually go out looking for them. It’s more people I really get on with and either I have a mad idea or they have a mad idea. Stevie rang me recently . . . we already knew each other from the ’ 80s. I sent her the idea for a song and she wrote the verses on top of it. Joss Stone I met when she was 15 and I recorded her for the Alfie soundtrack and we have stayed friends since.
Q. How do those collaborations compare with the chemistry you had with Annie Lennox?
A. Even collaborating with Annie for 10 albums, every album was a different experience because we were in a different part of our lives. When we started off we were living together and when we ended up we were married to other people and had children. So we went through a whole curve that I think not many people have done. We are linked forever through all the stuff we have created together but I’m doing my thing and she is doing her thing and that’s good.
Q. Do you need to have a trust or a friendship with your co-writers?
A. Absolutely. Whether you are crying or laughing or falling about on the floor, it’s based on some kind of trust.
Q. How did the astonishing array of talent in SuperHeavy come together?
A. I had an idea for a fusion of strange music and cultures. It all came from me being in Jamaica and hearing these sound systems blasting from different villages. So I rang Mick [ Jagger] and he was very interested and we met and experimented a bit and he said ‘‘ this could be good – let’s ring some people’’. Q. What does each member bring to the table? A. A. R. Rahman brings so much – from massive orchestrations to his singing power. Damian Marley has a huge knowledge of all sorts of Jamaican rhythms. Joss brings everything from being a technically brilliant singer to a complete screaming wailer. Mick brings all his history and songwriting prowess. It’s amazing.
Q. With so many strong and successful musicians in one room, how do you manage the egos?
A. I think everyone walked in and thought ‘‘ OK, I’m not the boss here’’. Everybody just hung their egos up at the door and started to take a role as a band member.
Q. How has the reaction been to Ghost the Musical since it opened in London last month?
A. It has been a huge smash. People are crying their eyes out.
Q. What can we expect from your shows with Stevie Nicks?
A. I’m going to do a mixture of Blackbird Diaries and some of the other songs I have written since Eurythmics but done in the style of my new album. Then Stevie will come on and I will play four or five songs with her too. It’s a good balance.