Fresh from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and a Vegas residency, Rod Stewart is returning to New Zealand. He talks to Russell Baillie about his hilarious autobiography and his best album of self-penned stories in ages.

Where are you? In Vegas?

I'm in ... . Florida. I'm out in Palm Beach, Florida.

It sounded that you had to check.

I'm actually having my hair cut. My hairdresser is just cutting my hair as I talk to you.

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Can I suggest a whole new style?

No, too late for that. It won't go anywhere else but what it does do, is it has to stand up.

You're coming back to New Zealand. Is that like coming to visit 10,000 ex-in-laws?

No, not at all. Mate, it's funny you should say that because my daughter Renee is leaving in a couple of days to come down there to shoot a commercial.

Compliments on last year's book - it was hilarious - and the album too. They were two out of the bag.

Thank you. The book was really funny, wasn't it?

It was terrific. What's brought on this purple patch?

It's like all careers. It has its ups and downs and no one's career, no matter what business you are in, is plain sailing all the way. I started putting the book together and that inspired me through people I was talking to, friends and family, and I realised I had quite a lot to write about.

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So the book the fed the album

Yes.


Rod: The Autobiography.
Some of the songs on Time, like It's Over, are brutally honest too.

I didn't set out to be as honest and as frank as I could. I firmly believe that is the way you should write songs. There is nothing there that has exposed me or that people didn't know about me. My life has been an open book. There is nothing in there I am embarrassed about. I wrote a song about divorce, one about my dad and one about my first love affair.

There's a fine line between sentimentality, nostalgia and insight and those songs tread that line quite well.

They do. There is nothing wrong with all of those three. If you can get them all in one song there is nothing wrong with that at all. If it gets to people's hearts, then you have done the job.

Which is what some of the standards you did on the four American Songbook albums have long done.

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Everybody knows those songs. They all grew up with them. I never dreamed in a million years they would sell. I think we're up to 26 million worldwide. It really is a phenomenon. I did it as a labour of love. But the outcome and success is baffling.

The show you are bring here this time isn't much to do with those songs right?

No, no American Songbook. There are seven girls in the band. All great musicians first but they all look great too. It's high energy, colourful, exciting and we play songs people want to hear for a couple of hours.


App users: Tap here to watch Rod Stewart perform > Can't Stop Me Now at The Troubadour.
Seven girls in the band. How did that come about?

I wonder. They are all pretty attractive too.

What's the audition process exactly?

You don't want to know ... I don't know how it came about. There are five or six guys as well. I think there is something very appealing especially when they can play. If they can't play it's a waste of time. My girls can play.

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So these the folks you have had with you playing the residency in Vegas? It's pure cheese playing there isn't it?

Nah, not at all. In the old days with Elvis and everybody having dinner, it would be cheesy and I would have never done it. But let me tell you, it's probably the finest venue in the world if you are fan of any particular artist. You do feel like you are going out to the same crowd every night but of course you are not. They reward me quite handsomely. I'm not going to complain about small details like that.

Maybe there's one thing you should complain about. You only got a CBE so you're not Sir Roderick are you?

No, no no. I'm just a CBE. I'm a Commander of the British Empire and that is as far as it goes. I'm more than happy. I didn't even think I would get that.

But we live in a period of Sir Mick and Sir Elton ...

And Sir Cliff and Sir Tom.

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Well, being part of the Commonwealth, we hold these things in high esteem, of course.

Absolutely. Did you see the Commonwealth Games? Did you see my opening parry?

Yes. I did worry that the Games were actually being held in Brigadoon though.

Ha ha ha ha ... You think we went a little over the top on the tartan? I don't think I have ever been so nervous in my life and I've sung for the royal family. I've sung for the Queen and she's been sitting six foot in front of me. I think it was probably because it was Celtic Park and it was Scotland and the event was going out all live. I could have sung the song better, but I got through it.


App users: Tap here to watch Brighton Beach by Rod Stewart
Where do you stand on Scottish independence?

I am not going to say, my friend and I tell you why -- I have my thoughts -- but I don't live there and I don't think I have the right to say either way. Let me say this: If it's good for Scotland, then I'm happy. Either way.

I guess you have one foot on either side of Hadrian's Wall don't you?

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You could say that. It does surprise me when people say to me "I thought you are Scottish". I have never ever said I was Scottish. All I am is very proud of my father who was Scottish and the wee bit of Scottish blood I have in me. It's a spiritual thing for me.

You have been God's gift to the tartan industry at times.

I did read something after we did the Games that said I was the adopted son. That warmed the cockles of my heart. I wish my dad could have seen that.

How's your team doing?

Don't ask. We just got knocked out of the the Champions League about an hour and half ago.

That's football for you.

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Aye that's football, big man, you could say that.

Are you still playing?

I gave up playing seven months ago and I tell you what, I was playing Sunday mornings and having to take Advil to get back on the stage. It was interfering with the shows. Me right knee's more or less had it now. I can still thump a ball out in the audience, though.

Your boy Liam is making his way in the pro ice hockey world isn't he?

Yeah he's played for the UK and he emailed me today to say he has got to go back to Spokane and there's a good chance he might be captain. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Does he get his sporting ability from you?

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I hope he did. All my boys are pretty good at football. Even the 3-year-old.

What many liked about your book was you writing about being a dad. What did your kids think about it?

To tell you the truth, I ran it past them before it was published and they were all fine with it.

Did you do the same with any of the exes?

No. But then again I don't think I said anything untoward about any of them anyway. I wouldn't do that. It was never going to be a tell-tale book or sordid sex and drugs. I never have been a real druggie-type person. Obviously there have been a lot of ships floating through in the night. But most of them I didn't mention.

That song, It's Over. Hate to say it, but that would have cut quite deep.

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It was about divorce. I suppose people thought it was about Rachel and me but I had been through a divorce before that and I saw what it did to the children. It was a song I felt I had to write and I am pleased how it turned out.


App users: Tap here to watch the music video for It's Over by Rod Stewart
You talk in the book about having a quiet patch on the songwriting front.

Yeah, I got my arse kicked by someone in the music business -- what I call a suit and I had my confidence destroyed. Then I went on to the American Songbook. But writing the book stirred me to thinking maybe you can write some songs and I did. I've written another eight or nine for an album to be released next year.

So how's the hair looking?

I don't know yet. She's stepped out of the room. I'm about to have my colour done and I don't have a mirror.

Who: Rod Stewart, 69
What: The Hits 2015 Tour
When and where: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, April 11; Vector Arena, Auckland, Monday, April 13
Tickets: General public sale: Tuesday, September 16, midday.

- TimeOut

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