By Ian Blair
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British musician Dave Stewart, a co-founder with singer Annie Lennox of the iconic ‘80s pop duo Eurythmics, is releasing his latest solo album, "The Ringmaster General," this week.
After he and Lennox split in 1990, Stewart pursued a solo career, although the duo occasionally reunited over the years to record and tour together.
Stewart spoke to Reuters about his new album, which he recorded in Nashville, the tour and his Super Heavy side project with Mick Jagger.
Q: This is your second Nashville album, following last year's "The Blackbird Diaries." Why Nashville?
A: "Although I'm from the north of England, I really feel at home in Nashville. It's got the same kind of singer-songwriter, club scene which I grew up with. The whole Nashville thing began a few years ago when I was flying home to LA, and got re-routed through Nashville because of that Icelandic volcano. I ended up meeting Martina and John McBride and becoming friends, and they have this great studio full of all this vintage gear ... Nashville has all these great players, and, even though I'm not a country artist, it all felt very natural to me to record there."
Q: Were you always a big country fan?
A: "Not really. But like everyone, once you delve into all the history and go through Stax and Motown and so on, you get to the great classic country music and writers. So I began to understand all those roots -- country blues and bluegrass and so on -- and how they relate to rock and all the contemporary country music."
Q: What sort of album did you set out to make?
A: "It's a continuation of the first album, with this mix of rock, R&B, blues and country, and then I added some ‘60s psychedelia on a couple of tracks. I intentionally arrive in the studio with nothing really written, maybe just a sketch or two, and then I make it up as I go and different people drop by and I end up singing a duet with them or they play on a track. It's how it used to be ... I have people like Bobby Keys, who was on all the classic Stones' albums, playing sax, and Martina."
Q: You have some great guest singers including Stevie Nicks, Joss Stone, Alison Krauss and Diane Birch. Are they all pals you just call up?
A: "Yeah, I'm really good friends with them. Stevie was on my last album, and I produced her last album. Same with Joss who I've known since she was 16, and she's in Super Heavy with me and Mick Jagger, and I also co-wrote and produced her last album."
Q: Whatever happened to Super Heavy?
A: "It's still going. It's more of a loose collaborative thing than an actual band, and an experiment in merging different types of music -- Jamaican, Asian and so on. Mick's still very much involved and we just have fun together."
Q: How's the new tour going so far?
A: "Great. We've been opening for Sugarland in the States and in September we're doing a UK tour. The funny thing is, I've been living in America for the past seven years, and I didn't play live or do an album for 14 years before last year. So ironically I'm now better known and more established here than back in Britain."
Q: You have a new documentary, also titled "The Ringmaster General." How did that come about?
A: "I have a company, Weapons of Mass Entertainment, and we make films all the time, and I thought it'd be fun to shoot this documentary about my whole Nashville experience. So it covers the recording of the two albums, and Diane Birch plays my psychiatrist and Joss plays a psychic. It's very tongue-in-cheek, and my company is also working on this really crazy movie called "Zombie Broadway."
Q: Fans still talk about another Eurythmics reunion. Any chance?
A: "We're not talking about one right now, but never say never. Annie and I wrote so many songs together, and they keep popping up in different places, and I have this idea of putting them all together in a theatrical piece in the not too distant future."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney)