Interview with Leo Sayer

Interview by Stuart Blythe
Photo Credit Maria de Vera

Leo Sayer @ Beats 4 Breast Cancer

Firstly, congratulations on the release of your new album – Restless Years.
This is your first album in six years. How was the recording process, the people involved and seeing the release of the album?

Oh, well I met Mitch Cairns, Danny Spencer and Johnny Salerno on the Good Times tour last year. They were the backing band and I loved their feel so I asked them to be my studio band. Bill Risby already was my keyboard player, and was on the tour as well, so together they became the recording band. I already had demos I’d made of all the songs so we got together at Mitch’s studio in Melbourne after the tour last winter and put the basic album together. Then we did overdubs there and vocals and backing vocals at my own studio in Sydney. It was a pretty painless operation really (one of the easiest albums I’ve ever recorded) thanks to the talent of all the great singers and musicians I was working with. Now these guys are my live band too.

Restless Years was mixed by the John Hudson. Can you tell us a little bit about working with John?

Yes he’s my right hand man, and so important to my ‘sound’. He has many years of record making experience and a few Grammy awards to boot. We worked together in the 80’s in the UK and had a few hits, so I was thrilled to find a few years ago that he’d moved down under. Now we work together all the time.

Are you happy with the response the album has received?

Yes, couldn’t be better. Now I’m taking it to the UK and the world. The response has been great all over.

You’re currently touring Australia, performing regional shows along with capital cities… Do the regional shows differ much from the city shows?

I think so. We made it a policy to take this tour to the people rather than make people just come to the big cities. They really appreciate this and the response has been awesome. We’ve had some real fun audiences and standing ovations in places you’d least expect to see that reaction.

Your shows have been receiving rave reviews, do you see this as confirmation of a career that has been a soundtrack to so many people’s lives?

Well, I don’t know about that really, but it’s quite moving to see for oneself that this is often the case. I meet so many grateful people, but when I think that I was only trying to satisfy myself and describe my upbringing, it amazes and humbles me to see this reaction. In a way, their applause has been the soundtrack of my life.

We’ve noted many younger people at the shows… does it feel very rewarding having a new generation enjoying your work?

Yes. I think kids these days are really into our era. Same in all genres. Look at how young rock musicians idolise Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Toto, Black Sabbath etc; And in soul and disco the same for Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Chic, and KC and The Sunshine Band. It’s because it’s still all good music, still competes with anything made today.

There has also been the announcement of an upcoming UK tour. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Can’t wait! My UK band are with me on that one, and it’s another long tour.

On a different note, the music industry has changed dramatically over recent years, what are your thoughts on the ways bands/artists are using television shows with the talent quest format to get their name out there?

I’m not the best person to ask, cos I don’t watch much TV. These shows don’t provide long careers, that’s been proved for sure. All bands use YouTube – you have to, to promote your stuff visually now, but isn’t it strange that MTV doesn’t show videos anymore? It’s all changing very fast. I could give you my opinions but they’ll be out of date by the time anyone reads this. Safe to say TV needs music more than music needs TV, in my humble opinion…

If you were starting out as a young musician today, what advice would you give your younger self?

Listen to yourself. You’ll get loads of advice, most of it designed to service those giving it, so you have to be aware that a lot of folks will say anything to make you value them. Listening to those who knew you before you started wanting to make music your business is the best advice I can give.

Thanks very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Quick Questions:

:: What track changed your life ::
Jerry Lee Lewis ‘Great Balls Of Fire’

:: Biggest influence ::
Bob Dylan

:: Favourite Quote ::
‘Have a good time, all the time’ (Spinal Tap)

:: Three words to describe the last few years ::
Still unfinished business

:: Three words to describe the year ahead ::
Yet unfinished business


More photos of Leo Sayer live on stage here!
Leo Sayer @ Beats 4 Breast Cancer