Joel still in composing state of mind

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DETROIT -- Despite the recent appearance of "All My Life," his first new pop song in 14 years, Billy Joel says he doesn't foresee a re-opening of the creative floodgates that led to 33 Top 40 hits.

"I'm not ruling out the possibility of writing songs again," Joel tells Billboard.com. "I suppose if I had the motivation to write a song, I'm not gonna stop myself from doing it. I just haven't felt the compulsion to write songs in pop form. I guess these days I just think of myself as a composer."

Joel -- whose last album of original material, "River of Dreams," came out in 1993 and concluded with, appropriately, a track called "Famous Last Words" -- says that he currently has "lots of thematic pieces" that he's composed in the Long Island home he shares with his third wife, culinary journalist Katie Lee Joel.

"Some of them are fragments," he notes, "some of them are halfway (finished). There's so many different ways to go with that music. I don't even want to call them classical pieces," adds Joel, who released a classical album, "Fantasies & Delusions," in 2001. "It's piano music. It's pieces that can be used for orchestra. Some of these things might be used for a movie soundtrack. I'm not even all that anxious to have them performed. Right now all I'm interested in is just composing and writing music. If something happens with it, great. If something doesn't happen, that's fine."

"All My Life," meanwhile, was something of a surprise. Joel composed the American Songbook-flavored track in 2005 as a first anniversary gift for his wife, with hopes that Tony Bennett would record it. He decided to make his own version for their second anniversary -- "Call me a cheapskate," he cracks -- and was surprised when Columbia Records executives campaigned to release it as a digital single.

And if nothing else, he notes, it's given him at least one new song to perform at his shows, although he wraps up his current road trek May 9 in St. Paul, Minn., and has no definite plans ahead of him.

"Look," Joel says, "I still love rock'n'roll. I still love pop music. I haven't divorced myself from the material I wrote before. That's why I'm out here on the road playing this stuff. I still believe in it."
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