Singer Yusuf to visit U.S. with new album

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British singer Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, is set to visit the United States later this year to promote his new album after being denied entry in 2004 when his name appeared on a watch list.

Yusuf, 58, who converted to Islam in 1977 after such hits as "Moonshadow" and "Peace Train", is back with his first mainstream pop album in almost 30 years, "An Other Cup."

The singer, who is now only using his first name, spoke to Reuters about his new album and planned U.S. trip:

Q: How much of this album was recorded in London, Los Angeles, Istanbul and Johannesburg?

A: "Mostly my contribution happened in London and it was (co-producer) Rick (Nowels) who kind of developed it and took things further in his studio in Los Angeles. And then we kind of met in the studio back in London to mix it."

Q: In 2004 you were on your way to Nashville when you were stopped. Would this record have had more of a country feel if not for that?

A: "That's one of those unanswerable questions because yes, I was on the way to Nashville and it was my intention to get in the studio and we had sessions already booked with musicians, through contacts I had at Vanguard Records there. It's interesting to think what would have happened had I got off the plane, just done what I was planning to do. It's an intriguing question. But it was never meant to be, obviously."

Q: Will you be able to promote this album in person in the United States?

A: "Yes. I don't think we'll have a problem there, God willing. In fact, I had a visa earlier on this year -- everything was cleared with Homeland Security, everything. That kind of problem seems to have been resolved and I just never got the opportunity to be able to use that visa because I was so busy making the record. But now it's been renewed and we're planning to be there sometime in December."

Q: What will you be doing? Playing?

A: "No, simply breaking the ice. Do a few interviews perhaps. A couple of radio, special spots. Meeting people and old friends that I would love to see again, to be honest, and make contact with. One of those will be, of course, will be my producer in L.A.."

Q: Will there be a different configuration for fans in Muslim countries?

A: "No, exactly the same worldwide. The only thing is there's one less track in the States to the one that's in the U.K. for some kind of reason unknown to me. That's what they do because of pricing issues."

Q: Are you one of these perfectionists who sweats over a certain lyric for years or do you tend to work more quickly?

A: "These days it's much faster. The whole process is incredibly fast. I write songs within the space of a few days, If it gets recorded, of course, that's another issue that sometimes takes time."

Q: The album seems very mellow and measured for a man who must have a lot of get off his chest. Did you have to restrain yourself at times not to get too political or belligerent?

A: "Well, I took it out on a song called "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." I had my moment of expressing my frustration. In a way it's not my song so I can't be blamed for it!"

Q: There must be a lot of pressure as pop culture's best known Muslim with people waiting for you to trip up. Do you feel you're being watched a bit more closely?

A: "For sure. I'm walking a tightrope in some sense. And that's why balance is extremely important. I think that's also why it's very important that I started to sing again. It is that balance which I'm trying to recreate in my life. To be honest, it's a very interesting point. I've been a Muslim now as long as I was a non-Muslim, 29 years. So there's a kind of a meeting point, perhaps, here where I'm now able to balance all my lifelong experience and sing in harmony again, yet with the knowledge that I've acquired and perhaps -- I hope -- a few good deeds. I haven't been sitting around idle. I've been working in charity and education for many years, and so I've got a little bit more to talk about as well."
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