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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Rod Stewart still finds joy performing in front of an audience

08/13/2014 7:00 AM

08/13/2014 8:29 PM

For his most recent album, “Time,” released in May 2013, Rod Stewart did something for the first time: With help from several co-writers, Stewart composed 11 of the album’s 12 songs.

“I’ve never really done that before,” Stewart told The Star recently. “My biggest output has been four or five songs for an album. But once I got a couple written, it gave me a lot of confidence, and I was off and ready and able to write others.”

The songwriting bug followed the release of “Rod: The Autobiography,” published in 2012.

“That really inspired the songwriting,” Stewart said. “When talking with friends and relatives, trying to remember everything, a lot of stories came up. And I wanted to put some of them into songs.”

“Time” received generally favorable reviews. It entered the U.K. charts at No. 1, setting a record for the longest distance between No. 1 albums: 37 years. Stewart’s previous No. 1 album was “A Night on the Town,” released in 1976.

The songwriting process wasn’t exactly fast and easy, Stewart said, but he dismissed the notion expressed by some critics that someone his age (69) and with his jet-setting lifestyle had little to write about.

“I’m not a natural songwriter,” he said. “It’s not like I say, ‘I’m gonna get up and write some songs.’ So it took some time. But there is plenty to write about. I’ve already written seven or eight songs for the next album. One of them is about putting my 3-year-old son to bed. There’s loads to write about.”

“Time” followed the fifth installment of Stewart’s successful “Great American Songbook” series and “Merry Christmas, Baby,” his first holiday album. Stewart took some flak for delving into the sacred songbook, but he said he hasn’t the slightest regret.

“Yeah, there was a lot of criticism for that,” he said. “And I don’t quite understand it. Those songs are good enough for some of the greatest singers in the world: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra. But they’re too good for a humble singer from North London to do? Those songs are stellar, and you can’t take anything away from them.

“It’s a pleasure to sing them, and they’re easy to sing. What surprised me is the amount of people who know all those songs and who can sing along to all of them, even though they weren’t around when they were written.”

On his current tour with Carlos Santana, which stops at the Sprint Center on Thursday night, Stewart doesn’t pull out any of his “Songbook” covers, though he does include “I’d Rather Go Blind,” made famous by Etta James. And he includes some of his most famous covers: Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” He also performs “Stay With Me,” which he recorded when he was a member of Faces.

There’s still talk of a Faces reunion, Stewart said, but no firm plans yet.

“Ronnie (Wood) and I keep trying to get together,” he said. “He emailed me the other day and said: ‘I’ve got a few nights off. Let’s get dinner.’ I said, ‘I’m on holiday in the south of France.’ He said, ‘OK, let’s wait until we’re 78.’

“It will happen. But the ball is in Ronnie’s court, because when (the Rolling Stones) stop touring, they stop for a long time. So whenever he’s finished, I’ll be available. I know Kenney (Jones) wants to do it. And if we could just keep (Ian) McLagan quiet for a bit, we could get on with it. But he seems to come out and say the most negative things about me. But Ronnie and me want to do it.”

In the meantime, Stewart will continue to tour. He’s been performing only one song from “Time,” giving the rest of the show up to the songs for which he is most famous — something he never tires of.

“People ask me if I get tired of singing those songs. Never. I can’t think of one song I’m tired of doing. ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’: Every night it’s so joyous. It was a bit of a scoundrel record when it came out in 1979. For a few years I didn’t want to do it, there was so much criticism over it. Now it’s a novelty song, and it really makes people smile.

“Touring is what I do. Nothing compares to it. Songwriting: You write a song, record it and put it out to the public, not knowing whether they’ll accept it or not. I prefer getting on stage. It’s an immediate satisfaction, sending an audience home happy. I want to make the most of it. Nothing lasts forever. I still have the energy to do it, and I look forward to at least three or four more years of it.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

THURSDAY

Rod Stewart and Santana perform Thursday night at the Sprint Center. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $47.50 to $97.50.

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