Dave Stewart admits to feeling a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of projects he has on the go. “It’s become a bit of an avalanche at the moment,” grumbles the musical journeyman. “It’s been a mad, mad two years and, of course, everything I’ve been working on is coming out all at once.”
The 58-year-old singer/writer/producer, best known as the frontman of electro-pop duo Eurythmics, founded with Annie Lennox in 1980, is holed up in a studio in Los Angeles juggling interviews for his November tour of Australian as special guest of Fleetwood Mac siren Stevie Nicks.
He co-wrote and co-produced In Your Dreams – her first studio album in a decade – and his own new solo album, The Blackbird Diaries.
He’s also talking up his intriguing new star-studded outfit SuperHeavy, which comprises the multicultural line up of Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger, reggae superstar Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, UK soul singer Joss Stone and A. R. Rahman, the composer behind the film Slumdog Millionaire.
The group’s first single, Miracle Worker, has just been released in Europe, with a debut album to follow next month.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Grammy Award-winning musician explains that he has just finished editing an impressionistic film based on his new album, as well as co-writing and producing Joss Stone’s recently released album LP1.
If that weren’t enough, he’s penned a musical adaptation of the lachrymose 1990 Patrick Swayze movie Ghost with American songwriter Glen Ballard which opened in London’s West End in June.
Mind you, the north of England-born musical powerhouse has never been one to let the proverbial grass grow under his feet.
Over the past three decades he has written a string of enduring hits (Here Comes the Rain Again, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This) for Eurythmics, issued six solo albums and collaborated with numerous top-shelf artists including Bob Dylan, Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Gwen Stefani, Bono and Aretha Franklin.
In total, he’s notched up sales of more than a 100 million albums.
His long-time friend Dylan describes him as “an enabler” because of the way he can bring famous people together and make things happen. “I suppose SuperHeavy is the living proof of that,” he says.
Stewart is looking forward to accompanying Nicks on her In Your Dreams Tour at nib Stadium in November.
He first met her backstage at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles in the 80s and their friendship was rekindled five years ago when he interviewed her for an HBO TV music series.
Nicks asked him to produce the next Fleetwood Mac album and he sent her the chords of the song Everybody Loves You. “She liked it and wrote the verses and sent it back with her singing on it. She also sent me this thick book with a collection of her poems and lyrics in it. That was the start of Stevie’s new album. We wrote eight or nine songs, seven of which ultimately ended up on the album.”
Top of the musician’s agenda is his coming solo album The Blackbird Diaries, which features 13 new songs, including a mid-80s co-write with Dylan and duets with Nicks, Martina McBride, Colbie Caillat and The Secret Sisters. The songs were written and recorded at John and Martina McBride’s Blackbird Studio in Nashville in one session lasting five days and nights.
The new material is more rooted in rock, country and blues than his better-known 80s pop songs.
“It’s a culmination of experience, looking at other amazing songwriters’ work over the years, everything I’ve been through in my childhood, having huge success with Annie and then the blues from Mississippi,” he said.
“All of this stuff just came pouring out. I just got caught up in a whirlwind in the town. We were peeling people off the walls afterwards. Once people heard what was going on, we had all these country songwriters and musicians dropping by.”
Shifting gears to talk about SuperHeavy, Stewart explains that his relationship with Jagger goes back to the singer’s 1987 solo album Primitive Cool and the 1966 Alfie soundtrack.
The new supergroup got its start two years ago.
“It was something that I had an idea to do,” Stewart said. “I rang Mick from my home in St Anne’s Bay, Jamaica, and told him about this sound I had imagined that was kind of a fusion of Jamaican beats, rock’n’blues and Indian orchestras.”
Jagger loved the idea and after lots of brainstorming and phone calls they settled on a line up which reflected their different styles.
“We’ve recorded 30 songs over two years and whittled it down to 16,” he said.
“I’m doing remixes at the moment but basically it’s all done except for the finishing touches,” he said.
The Blackbird Diaries is on sale now. Dave Stewart plays with Stevie Nicks at nib Stadium on November 26. Tickets from Ticketmaster outlets.