Source : The Metro
‘I’ve always had a lot of ideas inside me,’ says Dave Stewart. ‘Ghost The Musical has been five years’ work; the SuperHeavy band began two years ago; I did my own album, The Blackbird Diaries, in five days, in Nashville…’
It’s often the quiet ones you have to watch. Stewart may be best known as the non-vocal half of British electro-pop pioneers Eurythmics (with Annie Lennox) but he’s also an exceptionally prolific artist and producer (working with acts including Tom Petty, Sinead O’Connor, Joss Stone and Stevie Nicks’s recent album, In Your Dreams), and now musical theatre composer. He talks in low, deliberate tones, seated in the balcony of the West End theatre where Ghost, based on the 1990 hit film, is due to open; below us, rehearsal scenery unfurls and spotlights glare.
‘I know musicals can get a bit fraught,’ says Stewart. This seems an understatement in the wake of Bono and The Edge’s Spider-Man musical bomb on Broadway. ‘The Edge did ask me about Spider-Man when they started that, because I’d done another musical before, in Vienna [a 2004 German-language version of B-movie Barbarella]. That was my learning curve: watching these epic sets come together.’
It was the involvement of Ghost screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (who also scripted Stewart’s favourite film, Vietnam horror Jacob’s Ladder) that persuaded Stewart to tackle this theatre venture; he also formed a dream team including Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Glen Ballard (with whom he owns a Hollywood studio). His Ghost score incorporates ballads, pulsing electro instrumentals and even jazzy music hall.
‘What I find really rewarding about musicals is this whole mystical thing can happen in three minutes: the set can change numerous times during a song, various characters come in and, by the end, the lead is alone again,’ says Stewart.
‘Musicals also connect to really deep memories and with Ghost, you’re dealing with death as well as love. It’s been selling out a lot of Kleenex,’ he adds, approvingly.
Stewart’s major projects generally seem to begin on a whim. The inspiration for his album, The Blackbird Diaries, struck when he bought a vintage guitar in London’s Denmark Street. ‘The case contained the previous owner’s name, an eccentric country singer called Red River Dave – so that took me on a journey to Nashville,’ he says.
That’s a simple trip compared to SuperHeavy: the international, multi-genre, multigenerational supergroup Stewart has instigated with Mick Jagger, Damian Marley, Joss Stone and Bollywood composer AR Rahman. The idea for the band came during a stay in Jamaica.
‘At night, you’d hear all these competing noises drifting together on the wind,’ says Stewart. ‘You’d get these shimmering nature sounds. Nearby, a village would start up this bass-heavy sound system; another party had an MC that sounded like the call to prayer. That might have been because I was very stoned. But for some reason, it all fitted together.’
He duly assembled a line-up of friends. ‘I told Mick: “We could bring Asian and Jamaican styles together with deep blues,”’ he says. ‘When we played slide guitar to AR, it reminded him of Indian instruments. I called Joss and Damian, and set up this studio with all kinds of instruments. We got there and Mick said: “F***ing hell, we haven’t written anything – what are we gonna play?” It was like jamming in the garage with your mates.’
Stewart seems typically unfazed by the challenge. ‘I always saw myself as a collaborator rather than a producer,’ he says. ‘I’ve co-written most of the records I’ve produced – it’s more about getting tangled in the other artist’s world and coming out the other side as a record.’
He’s somehow both unaffected and starry, and has always hosted music hotspots. ‘When I first bought a studio in America, around 1986, George Harrison lived there for a while; I introduced Bob Dylan to Tom Petty and they formed the Traveling Wilburys; Prince and Madonna recorded there,’ says Stewart. ‘It wasn’t much more than a shed at the back of the garden – but amazing things happened there. And it feels the same at my place now. It’s all just going on.’
Ghost The Musical opens tonight at London’s Piccadilly Theatre. Dave Stewart’s album, The Blackbird Diaries, (Proper Records) and SuperHeavy’s single, Miracle Worker, are out now.