This is an English translation of the George Michael interview conducted by A.J. Delafield for Universal International Division on March 13, 2014. You can read the original German interview here. The George Michael: Be Humble interview is a summary of the German interview.
George Michael (50) certainly cannot be accused of rushing things: The Brit has been in the spotlight for 32 years after all, and yet “Symphonica” is only his sixth solo album to be released this Friday (March 14Th, 2014). On the new live album, which was created in the context of the tour with the same name in 2011 – 2012, the 50-year-old superstar presents a series of reinterpretations of his own songs as well as cover versions of selected tracks by his favorite artists. A. J. Delafield has met George Michael to talk to him about his parents, the secrets of his success, working with Phil Ramone, the album`s meanwhile deceased producer, and upcoming releases.
AJD: Your most recent “Symphonica” tour was a tour with orchestral accompaniment. What did this feel like for you, especially when, according to you own statement, “your own voice” was supposed to be in the focus on this last tour?
GM: Doing a tour like this was a great experience and a very honest affair. I like new challenges, I like to work on my voice, and then, when you suddenly have to keep up with an entire orchestra, then you automatically learn to do so!
AJD: How did the selection of cover songs for the tour and the album, which will be released now, come about?
GM: Well, the album is composed as such that it contains on the one hand pieces of mine, that are simply suitable for such a recording with an orchestra, and the rest are personal
AJD: What was so special about these performances? Was it the way, audiences reacted to these versions?
GM: Oh yeah, I`m sure there were pieces that the audience had never heard before, but still, people were just ready to get into it and go on a musical journey of discovery with me. That`s also where you can see what wonderful fans I have.
AJD: But there was also a severe setback during this tour: acute pneumonia, which led to an excursion to an Austrian hospital, after all, it was all about life and death!
GM: That`s true, I almost died of it. What has happened in the subconscious can scare you, and I also believe that I will probably never feel as safe as I did before. But on the other hand: I was just so incredibly grateful to have survived and so happy when I was back in London.
AJD: The now released “Symphonica” album was a co-production with the legend Phil Ramone, who passed away pretty exactly a year ago, making this album his very last production.
GM: It`s an insane honour being the last artist Phil Ramone was operating the controllers for. He was so respectful to me, and I will forever be grateful for having had the opportunity to go to the studio with him.
AJD: Speaking of studio: Allegedly, you are already working on your next release, which may be due to be released as early as next year. Can you already reveal something about it?
GM: It`s true, I`m currently working on new material. And I can also reveal it will sound quite optimistic and boisterous. There are even a few dance tracks.
AJD: So how exactly will that sound, especially compared with older stuff?
GM: A lot of my hits – and even the dance songs – kind of pat you on the back and say “So, now listen to me a few times, and then the penny will eventually drop”. The songs I wrote for the upcoming album, on the other hand, are more like “Ok, here I am – Bang!” However, I am probably too close at the matter right now to draw an exact comparison between them and the previous songs, but I am already excited to see which songs people will identify as potential classics once the album is released. There is this one song, which I personally find more than extraordinary. The lyrics are just incredible, and the build-up of this song just gorgeous.
AJD: That all sounds fantastic. In general, you seem to be very optimistic right now, or is this just deceptive?
GM: No, it`s true, and it also has to do with the fact that I`m still very grateful for being allowed to play a small role in people`s lives as an artist. This is an absolute privilege, and this has always been my biggest dream.
AJD: But at the time, your father didn’t expect this dream to come true….
GM: I never told my parents that I wanted to be a pop star. However, they knew anyway that I was completely crazy about music. And it`s true, my father actually always said he wasn`t exactly convinced by my singing skills. On the contrary.
AJD: He was obviously wrong about that. What do you think: What else does it take to make music that stands out and still has relevance after years?
GM: I think the most important thing is to be on the matter with all your heart and soul. You have to have that desire to express yourself quite honestly in music rather than just having a desire to show off a little bit and make a bit of quick money. My goal has always been to be quite direct in my lyrics, to show real emotion, and nothing has ever changed. If music really comes from the heart, then it can be as haunting an artistic statement as a painting or a novel. Well, I`ve been successful for so long now, which is actually every artist`s dream, isn`t it? What exactly led to this, I can`t explain either, I really can`t. Maybe it`s because people can still recognize that energy, that desire to really get out the best of me for the music. But who knows?
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