How Billy Joel Returned to Touring After Hiatus and Why He Stopped Recording Albums
The 70-year-old musician opened up about his career, and how he has nothing left to prove
Billy Joel’s musical output may have slowed down in recent years, but he’s confident about his place in life.
The 70-year-old musician, who plays a monthly show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden as well as several stadium shows every summer, described himself as being in “semiretirement” in Billboard’s July 20 cover story.
“It’s a pussycat tour,” he explained, adding that over time, playing so many shows took a toll on him — and his personal life.
“We used to do five, six gigs a week. When you’re first starting out and you’re with your buddies going around the world, you’re like a teenage gang. Very exciting. After a couple of years, you’re Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman,” he shared.
Referencing his relationship with wife Alexis Roderick, the musician remarked that “this is my fourth marriage now.”
“It’s not good for a relationship to be gone for that long,” he added. “So I became a homey.”
While taking a hiatus from touring earlier in the decade, Joel reached out to some of his friends who continued to hit the road year after year, including Bruce Springsteen.
“I was questioning a lot of things: ‘Why are you guys still doing this?’ And they would say, ‘This is what we do.’ And I said, ‘You know what? They’re right,'” he explained. “I know how to do this. This is what I do. It takes a while to realize this.”
That year, Joel agreed to return to the stage to take part in a concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy — playing a well-received set between two very different artists: rapper Kanye West and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
Although Joel has since resumed a regular, if relaxed, touring schedule, he hasn’t been taking the stage with new music to play.
Since releasing River of Dreams in 1993, his twelfth and final studio album, he has only come out with a handful of new material, including 2001’s Fantasies and Delusions, a classical album.
It “sold about five copies,” he quipped to Billboard.
Admitting that he still thinks up new songs in his head, the musician shared that he doesn’t feel the need to come up with lyrics for the tunes — or to record them.
“I don’t feel the need to validate it with the public, or even to record it,” he shared. “It’s all in here and I hear it and go, ‘Ok, that’s not bad. Next!'”
“I know some artists struggle with the idea of being relevant: ‘I have to come up with new stuff and have hit singles,'” he shared, adding that he “stopped buying that a long time ago.”
Joel went on to share that with as much success as he’s achieved over the years, his body of work speaks for itself.
“I wrote some good stuff. I wrote some crap, too,” he added. “But some of the good stuff is pretty damn good.”