Rod Stewart joins Ezra Koenig and Jake Longstreth on Time Crisis this week on Apple Music 1 to talk about his 31st album, The Tears of Hercules. He also discusses his early days touring with the Faces, 1970’s Los Angeles, competing with Adele, ABBA and Ed Sheeran, and taking his model train set on tour.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About His Earliest Attempt At Songwriting With Ronnie Wood…
I’d never put pen to paper while I was with all the bands I was with until I joined the Jeff Beck Group. And then Jeff said we should start writing our own songs for one of the two Jeff Beck albums. I think it was the second one. And Jeff said, “Guys, can you start writing songs?” I said, okay, Ronnie and I said, we’ll give it a go. And so I went over to Ronnie’s house, which was a little tiny council house… Do you know what a council house is? They are houses for the poor.
Ezra Koenig: Like government housing? Yeah.
Rod Stewart: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Yeah. I went over to his house and middle of winter and we turned on the electric fire, which had three bars. And then his mum came in and said, you can only use one because it’s expensive. That was very cold. We had a notepad and a piece of paper and a pencil. And we tried to write a Jeff Beck song and nothing came out. And then we said, well, let’s have a glass of wine. We had a bottle of wine between the two of us and still nothing came out. But that was the first failed attempt at writing songs with Ron. We eventually got a song called Around the Plints, I think it was for the Jeff Beck album, but it was a struggle. Now it’s so enjoyable. I really love it. I love the whole way we put albums together. I’m not saying everybody should do it this way, but I do mine over the laptop, make alterations that way. And having spent probably 20 years in studios with no light and no sunshine, it’s a relief to be able to do it that way. But I enjoy the songwriting process now more than I’ve done in my entire life. The Faces used to lock me in a Holiday Inn room. Used give me a bottle of wine, a tape recorder and bit of paper and they’d locked the door until I got the lyrics because I was lazy.
Ezra Koenig: Yeah. You didn’t particularly, back then, want to go spend a lot of time writing songs?
Rod Stewart: No, no. In the seventies, there was too much shagging and drinking to do. Party. Because the Faces were the party band.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About ‘Maggie May’….
Ezra Koenig: But even when you look at your early work, the first couple solo albums and the fact that ‘Maggie May’ a song that you wrote or co-wrote becomes this huge hit. That didn’t make you feel, wow, oh there’s like really… I’m the man, I got to keep writing my own songs.
Rod Stewart: Yeah. Yeah, I did. And of course you might know this story that, that wasn’t supposed to be on the album.
Ezra Koenig: But it was a B-side?
Rod Stewart: We only had eight tracks and the guys from Mercury Records out in Chicago said, we need another track. And I said, I’ll have a look and see what I’ve got. And I had this unfinished song. We didn’t even have a title. And I went and finished it with Ronnie and Mac and there came Maggie May. And if it wasn’t for a disc jockey in Cleveland who turned it over because Reason to Believe was the A side, B side was Maggie. I may not be talking to you today.
Ezra Koenig: It’s amazing that it used to work that way.
Jake Longstreth: It was Cleveland that turned the tide? Wow.
Rod Stewart: Cleveland. A disc jockey in Cleveland, turned it over. He said, “Oh, this is good. Let’s play this.”
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About His Longevity….
Ezra Koenig: There were a lot of English musicians of your generation, probably all moving to LA around the same time, hanging out?
Rod Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. For the same tax reasons. I think the Bee Gees, as well, were living in England at that time and they moved out to California. May be wrong on that one, but there was a mass exodus. All of us thought, “How long is this going to last?” Didn’t think I’d still be doing this in my 70s. We thought we’re going to earn the money while we can because what are we going to do the rest of our lives?
Ezra Koenig: Right. Yeah, of course.
Jake Longstreth: Did you have those conversations with your friends when you were, let’s say, in your mid-30s and it’s the early ’80s or something, or the ’70s, and you’re like, “In the year 2000, we’ll definitely not be doing this anymore. Did you have a vision of what you might be doing when you were in your 50s or 60s or 70s?
Rod Stewart: Not a clue. It was frightening. I was put on this earth to just sing and- Look at this place. Where else could I be? We’re all sitting here.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music The Wisdom He’d Share With His 35-Year-Old Self …
Jake Longstreth: What would you tell the 35-year-old Rod Stewart, if you could talk to him now?
Rod Stewart: My life’s been pretty wonderful. I’ve got no complaints. I had a couple of dodgy business people working for me. Be careful of who you trust. Be careful. Always keep your eye on the pennies. The pounds look after themselves. Keep your eye on the pennies.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About Competing With Adele, ABBA And Ed Sheeran….
Ezra Koenig: Very good advice. Also, the truth is when we look backwards at your career, it seems like a, more or less, unbroken string of successes, which is not true of everybody from your generation. You had, obviously, the early success in the Rock era, but late ’70s, still making hits into the ’80s, the New Wave era, into the ’90s. Is that how it felt at the time?
Rod Stewart: Yeah, it did. I think about it and I think I’m still here and hoping for a top-five album tomorrow. I was hoping it’s going to be number one, but I can’t compete with… Can’t talk about it in England, in Great Britain. I can’t compete with Adele and ABBA and, of course, the little ginger geezer.
Jake Longstreth: Ed Sheeran.
Rod Stewart: What’s his name?
Jake Longstreth: Ed Sheeran.
Rod Stewart: Ed Sheeran, the little ginger geezer. I can’t compete with them. ABBA hadn’t released an album for 40 years, but we’re hoping again. I would never have dreamt in a million years, I’d still be recording, and more importantly, enjoying it so much as I do. I love getting up on the stage. I’m a natural show-off. I always was before I was singing. I love expressing myself with clothes and humor, and now I can do it with my voice that the good Lord has given me.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About Looking After His Voice…
Like an athlete, as you get older, you’ve got to look out. There are only a couple of muscles bashing together in your throat. You’ve got to look after them. You’ve got to warm up for an hour, warm down for 15 minutes. Can’t stay out too late in noisy clubs anymore. It’s just because of being older. Really, it’s like being an athlete. Even when you do, we did 10 concerts in Las Vegas, it takes a lot of the building up to it. It’s like football. You can’t just go out and play. You’ve got all the training. You won, but you can’t just get on the field and start playing because you’re a whole different entity. Same with vocalizing.
Rod Stewart Tells Apple Music About Taking His Model Train Set On Tour…
Ezra Koenig: I have no idea if this is true, but I heard a rumor that you’re famously a model train enthusiast and there have been times where you’ve taken your set on tour. Is that true?
Rod Stewart: Yeah. Why wouldn’t it be?
Ezra Koenig: It’s just that you took it on tour.
Rod Stewart: It just goes around in the circle with that. It’s in a building here that’s I’d say 45 feet by 30 feet. And I moved it over from America. It took three months to get it, and it’s going to take seven months to get it up, working, and looking amazing. Look at it online. You won’t believe it. You think it was the real thing.
Ezra Koenig: Is the part that you’ve taken it on tour with you true?
Rod Stewart: Yes. It’s very true. Yeah.
Ezra Koenig: You have to set it up. Yeah, break it down for us.
Rod Stewart: I build a project. Say I’ve got, in my layout, there’s skyscrapers that are five foot tall in H0 scale. So I would pack all my cases, paints, carpentry, stall, everything that I need in big cases and take it on tour. And the hotels would set up a room separately with a dining table for me especially to continue with my hobby. It is wonderful. You know, live eyes on tour, stay in bed all day or masturbating or whatever, going out for pizza. Well, it’s nothing wrong with that either, but it’s such a wonderful, a wonderful hobby, three dimensional hobby. I love it. I work everyday on it…Build everything, yeah. The detail is ridiculous. I have a couple of girls who work for me who just put in blinds in windows in sky scrapers. And there’s thousands of them. And before that they have to put the windows in little tiny windows.