He may be synonymous with Seventies nostalgia, but Leo Sayer still feels like a ‘production machine.
“I’m enjoying the fact people want to talk to me,” says Leo Sayer. As you might expect from someone who’s had a 43-year-long career, he’s known ups and downs, huge waves of popularity, and times when he couldn’t even get arrested, as the old saying goes.
Now, he’s probably somewhere in between; far from cool (was he ever?), but around long enough to deserve some respect, with a good number of hits under his belt and fans all over the world.
His new album, Restless Years, is what’s got a few people interested again. It’s his first new material since 2008’s Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow, which was only released in Australia, the country he’s officially called home since becoming a citizen there in 2009.
As we talk, his Aussie accent becomes stronger and stronger, veering from a native Sussex twang at the beginning, to full-on, Home And Away extra by the end.
He’s excited about Restless Years, which came out in January but, he feels, wasn’t promoted anywhere near as well as it should have been, despite hitting the Top 40 during its first week of release.
Tickets for his forthcoming UK tour are also selling thick and fast, leaving Sayer happy that 2015 is going to see him do “some very good business”.
It’s a bit of a change in fortune since his last tour in these parts, which again, he feels, was under-promoted and led to him and organisers making a loss.
This time around, he’s a got “a terrific team” helping him, has booked some better, bigger venues and, of course, has new music to perform, which adds a new dynamic. His days of being seen as a relic of the Seventies, when he first appeared, decked out in Pierrot costume and make-up, singing The Show Must Go On, are behind him.
“On the last tour, I was trying to break away from tours I’d done previously with the likes of David Cassidy and The Osmonds. Those Seventies package tours,” he says. “I wanted to break that mould. I wanted to tell people, ‘Yeah, I’m still recording’, and that I can still sing as well as I could. I still view myself as a current artist. It’s an attitude thing.”
He says attendees on such package tours, unfortunately for him, only want to hear the Seventies h+its - You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, When I Need You, Moonlighting, Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance) and One Man Band. But it’s understandable; You Make Me Feel Like Dancing reached No 2 in the UK, and topped the chart in the US, while follow-up single, When I Need You, hit No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Without dissing it too much, those tours are for people who want to revel in nostalgia, and they’re not really fussed whether an artist has aged or can still sing well.
“I found those shows easy - I’m still in good voice,” he adds, “but it didn’t matter and it got rather depressing. They’d have accepted me if I’d gone up there and rolled through the motions.”
It does rather sound like biting the hand that feeds him, and while the idea of endlessly performing songs from the mid-Seventies pomp of your career is likely to grate after a while, surely signing up to tour after tour of nostalgia trips isn’t the way to get out of such obligations?
On the plus side, being stuck on the cabaret circuit made Sayer want to do something new and spurred him on. He’s very happy with the results, and hopes the album will reignite his career.