Motown legend Lionel Richie got candid with tabloid ahead of his concert at the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival.
The ‘Hello’ singer — who earlier this month returned to his seat on the ‘American Idol’ judges panel — told us he’s always listening to music.
But, who are the three contemporary artists who have caught his attention? Hint: they’re all male solo artists, like him, and they all have distinct hairstyles, like him...
Before his February 27 performance at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, we sat down with Richie to discuss what’s on his playlist, his advice for kids Nicole, Sofia and Miles, and his retirement plans.
Hello, Lionel! You’re performing on a bill with both Lauryn Hill and OneRepublic — are you a fan?
Yes, One Republic is an amazing band and Lauryn is also incredible. Great company to be performing with at Jazz Fest.
Your popularity in the Arab world has been so great that it’s been reported on in the West. What’s your take on it?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have my music so well received in so many countries. It’s an honour for my music to be embraced in the Arab world. I love coming here to perform for my fans.
‘All Night Long’ has been interpolated time and again — by Enrique Iglesias 10 years ago, and more recently by Camila Cabello. Have you listened to them? Do you enjoy hearing other people’s takes on your music?
Of course I’ve listened to them and I’m always surprised and excited when artists try and interpret my songs.
On a light-hearted note, your song ‘Hello’ is one of the most iconic, instantly recognisable tracks of all time! How did you feel when Adele released her own ‘Hello’ and creeped into the ‘Hello’ monopoly?
Adele and I have a running joke about it. Again, it’s flattering that she chose the word ‘hello’ for her song.
You have three children and several grandchildren. What pieces of life wisdom have you tried to impart onto them?
To have fun with whatever you decide to do in life. If you like what you do, you will never have a job.
You have such a rich and storied career. Is there ever a time when you feel like, maybe it’s time I hang up my boots and give myself time to relax?
Retire what from? I’ve never had a job. I get the privilege of travelling all over the world and performing my songs. I can’t think of anything better. I’ve been blessed.
How different was it for you to break into the industry in the late 60s, early 70s, compared to today’s world of social media and streaming? What’s something that you miss about the music scene and industry from when you were starting out?
I’m glad I made it when I did. The one thing I miss is how artists use to break out on radio and that doesn’t happen anymore.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given 18-year-old Lionel, if you were sitting in front of him today?
Own all of your publishing, your masters, your videos and everything else you create.
It’s been seven years since your last [studio] album. Looking forward, can you see yourself release another album? Any plans for that in the pipeline?
Actually, we just put out a live album last year that went to No 1 on a number of the charts in America. It was called ‘Hello from Las Vegas’.
Out of today’s music landscape, has there been any singers who have caught your attention?
Of course — The Weekend, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars are three of many.
Finally, could you tell us what the last song you listened to was?
I listen to music all day. Last song was ‘Your Song’ by Elton John.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to each night of the Dubai Jazz Festival 2020 are available in four price categories: Dh350 (Regular), Dh550 (Golden Circle), Dh750 (Lounge) and Dh1,250 (VIP).
YOUR GUIDE TO EMIRATES DUBAI JAZZ FESTIVAL 2020: WHO’S WHO
Opener: Bruno Major
One time jazz artist Bruno Major released his 12-track R‘n’B debut album, ‘A Song for Every Moon’, in 2017. NME called it ‘stunning’ and noted that, true to the album’s title, Major had recorded and released a track every full moon for a year.
The British singer-songwriter supported Sam Smith on a UK arena tour in 2018, before headlining his own tour in Europe and the United States. Major last year released the singles ‘Nothing’, ‘Old Fashioned’ and ‘Tapestry’.
Main act: Ms Lauryn Hill
After her former group, the Fugees, disbanded in 1997, Lauryn Hill began her solo career.
In 1998, she released her highly acclaimed debut album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, which explored a women’s view on faith, love and life. ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ became the first debut single in the history of the Billboard 100 chart to debut at No 1.
Despite more than two decades since its release, ‘The Miseducation…’ remains Hill’s only solo studio album to date. It earned her 10 Grammy Award nominations and five wins, making her the first woman to achieve those numbers.
Opener: Spyro Gyra
American jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra emerged out of New York in the 1970s, combining jazz, R’n’B, funk and pop.
Saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall decided to round up jazz and rock musicians who were performing around the Buffalo bar and club scene; in 1974, when a bar owner asked for the band’s name, Beckenstein went with the green algae ‘spirogyra’, but the bar-runner jotted it down incorrectly — and so Spyro Gyra was born.
The prolific band have released more than 25 studio albums together, including 2019’s ‘Vinyl Tap’.
Main act: Lionel Richie
Kicking off a solo career in the 80s after his time with soul band The Commodores, Lionel Richie continued his musical reign through to the 90s with hit tracks such as ‘Easy’, ‘Sail On’ and ‘Still’.
His 1983 album ‘Can’t Slow Down’ won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Two years later, Richie co-wrote ‘We Are the World’ with Michael Jackson, earning him another Grammy.
His track ‘Endless Love’ received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, while ‘Say You, Say Me’ from ‘White Nights’ won him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Richie’s three children are TV personality Nicole Richie and models Sofia Richie and Miles Brockman Richie.
Opener: Sammy Miller and the Congregation
The seven-piece collective is all about “frenetic energy” and “unflinchingly optimistic songwriting”, as evidenced by their 2020 debut album ‘Leaving Egypt’, a mix of tinkering instrumentals and full-bodied, tongue-in-cheek tracks.
“I love the idea of being unhinged, sincere, vulnerable, and breaking down walls through humour. Music is an uplifting gift, and I want to be generous in sharing it with people,” explained frontman Sammy Miller.
The group is all about improvisation, whether in the studio or on stage, with the lead melodies made up of either vocals or instruments.
Main act: OneRepublic
Six-member group OneRepublic released their debut album ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ and the single, ‘Apologise’, in 2007. ‘Apologise’ got a remix from producer Timabland, pushing it to No 1 in more than a dozen countries, and earning the band a Grammy nomination.
They’ve since released four more albums — ‘Native’, ‘Oh My My’ and this year’s ‘Human’ — with tracks like ‘Good Life’ and ‘Counting Stars’ keeping them in the Top 10.
Aside from focusing on their own pop-rock music, frontman Ryan Tedder has become one of the most recognised hit-makers in music, writing and producing songs for everyone from Adele and Ed Sheeran to Taylor Swift Beyonce.