Love helps Rod Stewart overcome writer's block
In this Thursday, May 2, 2013 photo, singer Rod Stewart poses for a portrait in Los Angeles. His new album, "Time," is out on Tuesday, May 7. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Rod Stewart has never shied from the spotlight, but on this day, the famously cheeky rocker wants a softer glow.
He's waiting to be interviewed on camera about his first album of original music in almost 20 years, and the lighting inside the fitness center of his Beverly Hills compound isn't quite right. He calls for his No. 1 expert to check it out.
"My wife's on her way over," he says.
When Penny Lancaster arrives, legs all the way up to her tousled blonde ponytail, she looks through the camera and insists on softer lights. As they dim, the 42-year-old model/photographer dusts Stewart's face with powder, then leans in toward his trademark spiky 'do.
"Not the hair, not the hair, not the hair," he protests uselessly.
She tugs at two strands, the result imperceptible.
"You only thought you had it perfect," says Lancaster with a cover-girl smile.
There's a lot of love in Stewart's life now, and it's on full display on "Time," his new album out Tuesday. There are other signs, too, like how his youngest sons' weights are scrawled on a scale inside this apartment-sized gym, just above "mummy" and "daddy"; and how he pauses during an interview to shout, "See ya, Shawny," to his eldest son, Sean, as he grabs some water after playing basketball on the court outside.
After releasing eight cover albums — his five "Great American Songbook" volumes, a Christmas album, "Soulbook" and his classic rock collection — Stewart rediscovered his songwriting voice while reviewing his life for his 2012 autobiography, "Rod." That self-reflection, combined with the personal contentment he clearly feels, resulted in a deeply personal collection of songs: stories about his father, his early life, his eight children, his two divorces.
"It was probably the longest writer's block in history, you know, 20-odd years. But it wasn't self-imposed. It was maybe a lack of confidence," Stewart said. "I'd sort of given up, let's put it that way. But because of the autobiography, it inspired me. And I had a lot to write about... Probably I was in the right state of my life to start writing these very personal songs."
Not only did he find a wellspring of material, he found a delight in songwriting that had always been elusive.
"It always used to be like work for me. It was never a pleasure. It was never a joy. It was like being at school," he said. "But now, I finally enjoy it. My wife will tell you, I was getting up in the middle of the night and writing down lyrics, just inspired. I can't wait to start writing again. It's tremendous."
Even his longtime manager, Arnold Stiefel, was shocked at how prolific Stewart was without prodding.
"You'd have to lock him in a room to get him to write songs," he said. "Now, he's approaching it with a real joy. I was blown away."
The autobiography and the album are companions, Stewart said, though in some ways the album is more revealing. Where the book chronicles his evolution into a world-famous rock star (and the attendant pleasures of that lifestyle) along with the happiness of his present circumstances, only the latter comes through on "Time."
"I've got a feeling that this album is a watershed album for me because it is so personal," he said.
That means embracing an image far from the "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" swagger of his heyday. Here, the 68-year-old is a loving dad, grateful son and faithful partner.