da INTERVIEW maggio 2007
intervista di Ingrid Sischy
Elton's tip sheet: the British are coming! The British are coming!
INGRID SISCHY: So, Elton, spring has sprung. What's in heavy rotation
on your stereo right now?
ELTON JOHN: Well, the person who is on fire at the moment is Amy
Winehouse. I don't know if she's influenced by old Motown groups and
the Shangrilas or people like that, but her second album, Back to
Black [Universal Republic], sounds like a great '60s record--it's
brilliantly written and very soulful. It's quite extraordinary,
because even though it sounds so of a time in the past, it also
sounds so much like the present as well, which is an extremely
difficult thing to do. She's got an incredible earthiness to her.
She's got a voice like a Nina Simone or a Mary J. Bilge or a Dusty
Springfield, and she's steeped in history--this girl has old bones in
her. Her lyrics are also extremely frank, which was actually the
title of her first album [Frank, 2003]. She has a remarkable look, a
remarkable attitude, and is everything a rock 'n' roll star should
be. Her second album is only recently out in America, but it has
already been to No. 1 in Britain, so the English have taken her to
INGRID SISCHY: Why does England always seem to get there first with so much new
music? There seems to be real divergence between what Britain loves
and what America loves.
ELTON JOHN: Well, there's a diversity on the music charts in Britain that you
really don't find as much in America. Just looking at female
vocalists, for example, in the last few years Britain has produced
Joss Stone, Corinne Bailey Rae, Lily Allen, Lady Sovereign, now Amy
Winehouse--all very different artists musically, and all very good at
what they do. It's the same way on the boys' side too. Right now
we've got guys like Mika and Just Jack and James Morrison and Paolo
Nutini. Then we've got bands like Klaxons, the View, the Kooks, and
the Fratellis. There's a movement in Britain back to songwriting and
melody, and it's producing so much innovative stuff.
INGRID SISCHY: Why do you think the States isn't there?
ELTON JOHN: Record-making in America is still very much under the influence
of hip-hop, which has gotten itself in a lot of trouble by becoming
very formulaic. But as with any genre of music, the real talent will,
of course, survive because they've got more to offer than mumbling
and grumbling on a record: They know how to write songs. For example,
Akon's album, Konvicted [SRC/Universal Motown], is very soulful, but
it's also a very strong pop record. Why do you think Mary J. Bilge
had the biggest hit of her career with The Breakthrough [Geffen]?
Because it's an album full of great songs. What's the biggest hit
that Beyonce ever had? "Irreplaceable." Why? Because it's a song. A
producer who really understands the power of the song right now is
Timbaland. He works with all different kinds of music, but there's
always a tune or a melody involved. That's why Justin Timberlake's
album [FutureSex/LoveSounds, Jive], which Timbaland produced, was so
good--Timbaland knows that, at the end of the day, people will want a
song in their lives to remember. The lack of memorable songs has
meant the death knell for pop music being played on the radio in
INGRID SISCHY: What about the so-called savior--satellite radio?
ELTON JOHN: Satellite radio is helping. People are turning to it as an
alternative. But it still has a long way to go.
INGRID SISCHY: The Internet?
ELTON JOHN: The Internet gives talent an opportunity to come forward.
Everybody has a MySpace page now. But it's still not the same as
being played on the radio nationwide, where you're exposed to
millions of people at once. The state of the radio in America is one
of the reasons why there's been so much more talent coming through in
Britain than in America in recent years. I think there's going to be
another British invasion. You've got singers like Paolo Nutini and
James Morrison coming through who have already had big hits. You've
got Lily Allen. You've got Amy Winehouse. These people are genuinely
talented, and the exposure they've had in Britain is a direct result
of their music being heard on the radio.
INGRID SISCHY: The sheer size of the United States also makes it a massive
country to conquer. It's almost like a bunch of little countries: the
East Coast, the West Coast, the Southeast, the Midwest.
ELTON JOHN: True. You can be big in Detroit and not big anywhere else. You
have to work for two or three years to really make it and cement
yourself in the States. U2, the Police, myself--we all had to do that
to establish ourselves in America in the first place. Artists like
John Mayer who've already had huge hit records still play across the
country to cover every little crack. It's great training, because you
don't just have a hit record and then suddenly sell out everywhere--
you have to earn your corn.
INGRID SISCHY: So what else should people keep an ear out for? Pardon the pun.
ELTON JOHN: [ride] Well, first let me mention two albums that've been out
for a while that people may have missed. Ron Sexsmith, who has been
around for a long time, released an album a few months ago called
Time Being [Ironworks]. It's out of Kiefer Sutherland's record label.
Mitchell Froom produced it, and it's one of the best albums I've
heard in a while. Sexsmith has always been a great songwriter, but
this is probably his finest work yet. It's like a great album by
Jackson Browne or Nell Young or Joni Mitchell. The Shins' latest
record, Wincing the Night Away [Sub Pop], is another one I've been
playing a lot. They were kind of an underground band until they had
two songs on the soundtrack to the Zach Braff movie Garden State
 a few years ago, which brought them to greater prominence.
Wincing the Night Away is just a great pop record. Sophie Ellis-
Bextor, another British singer, is another one to listen out for. She
had a dance hit several years ago called "Murder on the Dancefloor"
[from her 2001 album Read My Lips]. She has an album coming out [Trip
the Light Fantastic, Fascination] around now--the single "Me and My
Imagination" is already doing well in England and should do well in
America too. I'm very proud of the music charts in England at the
moment, because there are newcomers on there all the time and the
oldies also get a look in as well. I just think it's a particularly
creative and exciting period. It's happening: Britain is the place
for new music once again.