Billy Joel Opens Up About How Songwriting Being A “Torment”
Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Joel live in 2020 - JOELFN / Youtube
The Piano Man returns, but not without a story to tell. Billy Joel, a name synonymous with catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics, is finally gracing the music scene with a new song after a near two-decade hiatus.
Yet, beneath the excitement of his artistic comeback lies a tale of creative struggle. In a recent interview with WBLM-FM, Joel peeled back the curtain on his songwriting process, revealing a journey far from glamorous.
Gone are the days of River of Dreams, Joel’s last non-classical album released in 1993. Instead, the iconic musician confessed to the long shadows cast by a once-beloved craft. What was once a wellspring of inspiration slowly transformed into a tormenting pursuit, leaving him questioning his own voice and yearning for a way out.
But Joel’s story isn’t one of surrender. Despite the challenges, he’s found his way back to the piano, ready to share a new chapter with the world. This comeback doesn’t just mark the return of a musical legend; it signifies a personal triumph, a testament to the resilience of the creative spirit.
“The job started to become torment”
The legendary singer-songwriter unveiled “Turn the Lights Back On” on February 1st, his latest song after nearly two decades of silence. Yet, beneath the triumphant return lies a story of internal struggle.
In the revealing interview, Joel peeled back the curtain on his songwriting process, exposing a journey far from glamorous. “I had not wanted to do it. Because it was all my life,” the Piano Man shared.
But something shifted in this process. The solitary nature of creation, once a muse, became a burden to the iconic singer. “It’s a very lonely job,” Joel confessed. “And the job started to become torment.”
Driven by a relentless pursuit of perfection, Joel found himself trapped in a cycle of self-criticism. “If it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, I would tear myself to shreds,” he added.
“Various people have attempted to convince me”
This creative inertia that the legend faced was probably the reason for his lengthy hiatus. And it seems the call of the studio wasn’t strong enough on its own. Joel went on, “I was really resistant to the idea of going back in and recording again.”
But Joel’s friends and colleagues wouldn’t take no for an answer. He revealed, “Various people have attempted to convince me.” And these weren’t just any acquaintances. Music titans like Rick Rubin and Clive Davis joined the chorus, urging him to return to his musical roots.
Even fellow piano-wielding legend Elton John chimed in, playfully suggesting more albums. Joel, ever the witty contrarian, responded with, “Why not produce fewer new albums?”
So, what finally made Joel change his tune? Did internal inspiration rekindle, or did the persistent encouragement play a role? We might not have the full answer, but one thing’s for sure: the music world is richer for his return, a testament to the power of both personal drive and gentle prodding from friends.
“I was hellbent and determined not to”
While Billy Joel’s latest song marks a triumphant return after 17 years, there was almost a twist: he wasn’t planning on performing it himself. In a surprising interview revelation, the Piano Man admitted, “We should send it to Adele.” He initially resisted singing it, insisting, “I was hellbent and determined not to.”
Could it be a nod to Adele’s powerhouse vocals, perfectly attuned to the song’s potential? Joel admires her talent, even jokingly saying, “My whole agenda was I don’t care what you do, I’m not doing this.” Perhaps he envisions her soaring voice breathing life into the melody, taking it to new heights.
Thankfully, Joel went on and recorded the song, and we were once reminded of the Piano Man’s greatness.
With him performing a historic Grammy Awards slot on February 4th, Joel was indeed back. And hopefully, he will release a few more and make another great album.