Source: Sydney Morning Herald
With a CV stretching from The Eurythmics to the musical adaptation of Ghost, Dave Stewart’s latest project is a more personal affair.
What is the funniest thing Dave Stewart knows in German?
”Spiegeleier. It means fried eggs,” says Stewart, still best known as the non-androgynous one in mega-selling pop band the Eurythmics.
”Or schmetterling. I once had to try and make that work in a song and it’s difficult because butterfly sounds wispy and sweet but in German, butterfly is schmetterling.”
Goodness knows how he managed to get both words into his score for the German musical of Barbarella, based on the 1968 schlock sci-fi film featuring Jane Fonda.
The Englishman, who first appeared on Australian TV as part of DayGlo pop band the Tourists in 1979, says he did it partly by forgetting about rhymes and working on it ”like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle”.
Writing his first musical in German was just the kind of on-the-job experience Stewart needed before taking on what might have seemed an unlikely subject for a West End musical, the 1990 sob-story film Ghost, which opened in London earlier this year.
”I did [Barbarella] in Vienna and worked a bit tongue-in-cheek because I wanted to dip my toe into the idea of music theatre,” Stewart says. ”It was an amazing training ground. I was taking in everything like a sponge.”
What did he learn that he applied to Ghost, or even to his new, heavily autobiographical solo album, The Blackbird Diaries?
”One of the biggest lessons is that the most important thing is the story and the emotion,” he says. ”Everything else takes second place. You can’t just string songs together like a jukebox.”
One thing Stewart didn’t have to learn was the art of collaboration. Musicians often comment the first time they write for the stage or film that they must learn to sublimate their ego and their ideas into a group mentality. Stewart, however, almost feverishly seeks out partnerships.
His CV as a producer, songwriter and musician boasts work with Paul McCartney, Bono, Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and Joss Stone, to name but barely a handful, without touching his film scores, book and comic strip work or multi-media efforts.
”I do love being part of a team,” he says. ”And also I’ve worked and put myself behind lots of great singers and artists over the years. What was great fun about making my own album in Nashville was for once I didn’t have to feel that huge weight of responsibility [I had] before where I had to deliver ‘the baby’ for Stevie Nicks, or whoever I was working with.”
The Blackbird Diaries is a very personal record, each song taken from ”a frozen moment in time from my life, like a diary entry” and made in a city where he hardly knew anyone and could write and record it all in five days.
The time frame was partly for effect and partly because Stewart had been living in the middle of what would for most musicians be a ridiculously busy year but for him was pretty normal. He not only co-wrote and produced albums with Nicks and Stone and saw Ghost premiere in London but began a project that would be preposterous if it weren’t true.
It is a supergroup called SuperHeavy with Stone, reggae singer and son-of-Bob, Damian Marley, Academy Award-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman and the aforementioned Jagger, on sabbatical from the Rolling Stones.
”It was total chaos, yes,” he says casually.
Yet Stewart insists that not only does the musical fusion work but balancing egos was never necessary. ”We started off just jamming and all of the music was done with all of us together in big rooms, not via email, and when you do it like that, it sorts itself out,” he says.
”I think Damian’s dad said it, jamming is a remarkable thing that you can do with people from all over the world without explaining anything in language.”
The Blackbird Diaries is out on August 24. SuperHeavy’s album is out on September 23.