Sir Rod Stewart, still damp from the shower, sits under a tree in the grounds of his Essex mansion, next to his floodlit five-a-side pitch and within cooing distance of his blood-red Ferrari. Life is good for the 73-year-old: a new album, another tour, an imminent trip to Glasgow for a night of football, food and fine wine.

As he sips his afternoon tea, our conversation naturally turns to sex. Despite not having played the field for a long time, Stewart will forever be known as one of rock's consummate ladies' men.

Stewart, who first found fame in the '70s with R&B group The Faces, is now a septuagenarian father of eight children by four women, including two sons aged 7 and 12 with his wife Penny Lancaster. In his heyday, he tells me, "It wasn't difficult for us in The Faces to have women about. But I can't remember ever pushing myself on someone. I used to enjoy the chase ... the hunt ... the romance of it all ... and then," he grins in his matey throaty rasp, "the shag."

We've been discussing the opening track on Blood Red Roses, Stewart's rollicking new album — his 30th. Called Look In Her Eyes, it sees this former "[expletive]" offering cautionary advice to men coming of age in the #MeToo era.

Does he think it's more difficult to be a young man today?


"Well, there are no written rules or regulations, it's just common decency," he says. "That's what Look In Her Eyes is all about. They have one bevy and try get it on straight away. It just doesn't work like that.

"Yeah, I imagine it may be difficult for guys now, but it's hard for me to comment on that. I know that my two sons, who are wonderfully heterosexual, do enjoy the company of women a little bit more than they do men now." (Presumably he's referring to eldest sons Sean, 38, and Liam, 24).

"And my daughters have male friends they don't have sex with," Stewart ploughs on, "and my sons have female friends they don't have sex with. Never happened in my day, oh-ho no!" He chuckles lasciviously. "Oh never, never, never ... If it was a girl, it was ... shaggable."

Here Stewart sounds like the love child of Harry H Corbett and/or Sid James. As such he can come across as a charming relic of a bygone era, unapologetic about enjoying the good times. He's upfront and up for it, too, ready to acknowledge past misdeeds (mainly a fondness for, shall we say, blonde-hopping) as readily as the triumphs. He's a cheerful open book, which is as infectious as it is disarming.

Team Rod are finessing this weekend's travel to Bucharest, for another long-range warm-up concert ahead of a typically busy 2019 of arena and stadium shows, not to mention his on/off Las Vegas residency.

Stewart has sold over 200 million records and is worth £160 million ($313m). His last tour was the second highest grossing of 2017, just after Bruce Springsteen's. Stephen Hawking named his version of Have I Told You Lately as his favourite song.

You could say he's earned the right to be difficult, or guarded. Yet he radiates a boyish enthusiasm, and is full of candour and bonhomie.

He recently cleared some of his antiques from one of his four houses (here, south of France, Beverly Hills and Florida). The auction raised £90,000 for charity and this self-diagnosed "hoarder" says none of it was hard to part with.

Stewart collects everything and once said he'd "give anything" to work at Sotheby's. His favourite way to unwind is to read auction catalogues in bed. And with that, Stewart shows me a video on his laptop of his hand-built model railway set, which he completed in his Beverly Hills home last year. It took him 23 years.

"That was a big part of my life. That's probably why I've returned to songwriting, the more I think of it," he says.