Rock legend Rod Stewart on recording some oldies-but-goodies

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when two passions, shared by two people, come together so happily, and when the results produce two kinds of fun. Take Rod Stewart, rock star legend and model train enthusiast; and Jools Holland, big-band leader and model train enthusiast. It turns out Stewart called Holland a while back to talk trains, and maybe arrange a playdate.

“We were very aware of each other’s love of model railroads,” said Stewart. When we meet up with each other to talk about music, it’s always, trains first. So, what’s happening with your layout? I’m building this… And then we get down to the music.

“Will I see you tonight on a downtown train?” Rod Stewart shows off his model train set. 

CBS News

It also turned out that when they finally got to the music, they were, yes, on the same track.  

The two decided to get together to make an album of old swing-era jazz classics from the 1930s and ’40s: The old rocker meets the oldies-but-goodies. And they shot this little teaser video at a London train station (naturally): 

Rod Stewart and Jools Holland perform “Almost Like Being in Love”:

“The connection between ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and swing is very, very close; they merge into each other,” Stewart said. “There’s a couple of tracks on the album – tracks! – very close to rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, they are rock ‘n’ roll.”

And he should know.  Since his breakthrough hit, “Maggie May,” in 1971, Rod Stewart has sold more than 120 million records, in a career that has spanned six decades and is still going. He’s not only a survivor from the age of rock, he’s a knight of the realm – Sir Rod.

That distinctive look and sound somehow hasn’t grown old, or too old.  The spiky hair, the raspy “I’ve been out all night” voice, they were choices he made, choices he worked on: “I wanted to sound like Sam Cooke and all the great, great R&B singers, and this is how it came out,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Sam Cooke, there wouldn’t be a Rod Stewart, maybe.”

So, he worked on that raspy, hoarse voice? “I didn’t try to make it really raspy – that’s just the way it came out. It’s something to do with my nose and my throat, and it’s just a big accident. In fact, you know, I’ve got a broken nose here that I did when I was 19, when I was playing football. And recently a doctor said, ‘If we straighten this out, let me give you a nice straight nose, you know, you may lose your voice.’ ‘Leave that alone, mate! I’ll do with a bent nose.'”

The point was to not look and sound like everybody else.

Rod Stewart sings “Sailing,” from 1975:

Yet the Rod Stewart act that now seems so iconic was not, in the beginning, an easy sell: “Oh, blimey, yeah, yeah. The first time I went to a record company it was Decca Records way back, and I was 19. And they said you’re far too rough, and you look really odd – I had the hair and the nose. They were all after pretty boys.”

But he was the antithesis of “pretty boy rockers.” “Yeah, well, look at his face. What else could I have been but a rock singer?”

A rock singer who, for decades, led a legendary rock ‘n’ roll life.  It may be eight children from five different mothers later, and he may be 79 years old, but don’t ask him if he’s slowing down. “No, I’m not winding down!” he said.

Is he speeding up? “No, I’m not speeding up. I mean, I’ve got 60-odd concerts this year. It’s not time for the pipe and slipper club yet, you know?”

Phillips said, “Everybody seems to hit a point where they say, ‘All right, enough’s enough, it’s been fun.'”

“No. Not at all,” Stewart replied. “It’s a drug. It’s addictive in a way to get up and sing in front of, you know, 5, 10, 20 thousand people every night, send them all home happy, smiling. It’s wonderful. What a job! I don’t want to give it up!”

Not give it up, but mellow out, maybe – swinging with the times.

Rod Stewart and Jools Holland perform “Pennies From Heaven”:

Asked how life has changed for him, he replied, “Well, I’ve been happily married now for… how many years? Since 2007. I got married, I’ve been happily married, I’ve got a wonderful woman, wonderful children. So, I’ve slowed down in that respect, if you know what I mean!”

Stewart now lives on his English country estate with his family, his Ferrari and his Lamborghini (not exactly slowing down).

He showed off his Ferrari, which he said he paid £4.5 million for: “People might think it’s mad spending that kind of money on a car, but it’s a great investment,” he said. “They’re actually going now for seven or eight million. … It’s like buying a house that moves!”

Rod Stewart with his house that moves. 

CBS News

“When you buy a car, it’s like buying a house,” Phillips said. “When the rest of us buy a car, it’s like buying a car.”

“I’ve been very lucky,” Stewart replied. “But then, I’ve got an amazing talent and you haven’t!” Touché.

An amazing talent that’s still rolling along – like his trains.

You can stream the album “Swing Fever” by Rod Stewart with Jools Holland by clicking on the embed below (Free Spotify registration required to hear the tracks in full):

For more info:

Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Steven Tyler.

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