On March 11, 2011, George Michael sat down for an interview with Mark Goodier for Smooth 102. Below is the transcript of the interview, originally posted on georgemichael.com website on March 15, 2011.
Q1: George Michael, it’s great to have you back.
A1: Thank you. It’s great to be back.
Q2: You’re looking well and you’ve lost a lot of weight.
A2: Yeah – which would suggest that I’m eating less, which is true. Which would suggest other things, which are also true, but what a lot of people don’t know is that I’ve been in on-going counselling about substance abuse for nearly ten months so – so things are going really well. Part of the advantage of that is that I’ve dropped about 14 or 15 pounds.
Q3: So do you like looking in the mirror now?
A3: I wouldn’t say liking looking in the mirror, but I would say definitely it’s one of the advantages of being cleaner.
Q4: The new song “True Faith”… this is definitely your unique take on the New Order song.
A4: It’s a totally different song. No – it’s not a totally different song, it’s a different record and I have actually heard from three of the members of New Order who have all been very complimentary about it – and I was a bit worried because I have changed it and I did have to remove a verse just to get it long enough for the radio length. And if I cover a song it’s really important to me that the artist whom I covered likes it – so I know I’ve worried about that all the way through the process; and because I had taken liberties with the melody I thought maybe they wouldn’t like it. But I got great feedback from them and now I’m getting great feedback from the public so I’m very, very happy.
Q5: You’ve just started Twitter. How’s that going?
A5: It’s a frightening phenomenon, don’t you think? I posted something yesterday and two minutes later it was being talked about on the television in front of me.
Q6: What do you think of the comments about “True Faith”?
A6: Most of them are great actually. They seem to like it more than the people on my fan site, which is strange.
Q7: And you’re not bothered by the less favourable tweets?
A7: No, and actually I think a lot of people might have been hoping for something more upbeat, but something a lot more upbeat is coming very soon anyway. I think people who were hoping for that will be pleased. I don’t think it’s a typical George Michael record. There’s obviously differences, but it still fits very nicely into the collection.
Q8: So you’re working on a new album?
A8: Well, I’m working on a live project, which will hopefully be an album before the end of the year and then there’s a studio album – which is going to take a little longer to make but there will hopefully be some other releases from it this year.
Q9: Given your new healthy state, is there a new found clarity when working?
A9: Just the speed of everything is much faster when you’re feeling more courageous and there’s a bit more joy in you or a bit of a spring in your step, as it were. Then the decisions on which sounds to use, what melody to use, which of those verses that you come up with, are better. All of those decisions become easier and faster. I found myself writing with an incredible clarity when I first left prison – which was not something I’d anticipated at all – but I wrote literally the bones of four or five songs within seven or eight days and that just doesn’t happen to me.
Q10: So how much more George Michael are the fans going to get now because of that?
A10: I really think they’re going to see a more prolific George Michael. I really hope so. I think that one of the things that most people in any kind of recovery have to do is reward themselves in new ways, and if you’re someone like me who has a fantastic job to go back to after any bad experience, the rewards are evident. If I set myself certain challenges, the rewards will be there as long as I work for them – and that’s a great way to fill the empty spaces that are left when you decide to party a little less.
Q11: Let’s talk about touring. The last tour was 100-plus dates and people loved it…
A11: I think it was the best tour I ever did and I think I played to more people than I’ve ever played to and I would honestly say I got the best reviews of my life. You know – and that was really why I hope that people realise that I wasn’t the kind of Keith Richards stumbling from venue to venue for three years. I hope that people realise that some kind of deeper problem going on than somebody who just didn’t care – because I was turning up for every show doing the best show I could – two and a half hour show – I was obviously not physically unfit, so there was something really odd about what was going on and unfortunately it was just as odd to me until I got proper therapy.
Q12: What’s the plan for the next tour?
A12: The next tour… I will just say is totally different; something I’ve talked about vaguely before, but it’s just been finalised and I think it will be probably – for me at least – it will be the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever done and I would love to get an album out of that before the end of the year.
Q13: Will you tour the world or just the UK?
A13: We’ll go all over I think and my dream is that we do the first part of the tour, release an album of that part. Then finish the studio album – release the studio album and then maybe tour on the back of both – to do a show that combines both. I’ve really piled the work up because that’s what I want to do. I feel like I’ve got so much time to make up for. Prolific George Michael? I don’t know if I could promise that – but I can say, if things go on as they are, you’ll get more music.
Q14: Although you tend to be someone who looks forward rather than back – do you ever feel in competition with yourself and your previous work?
A14: I don’t know one single true artist that doesn’t want that. I think very few of us get to achieve it and I’d love to think that I’d be bursting with ideas in the same way that some novelists and some painters are when they’re in their seventies and eighties. There’s no question that if you can survive fame – if you can survive the things that go with it – you can die with a lyric coming into your head at eighty five, or whatever. I want to be that! I want to be able to contribute as much as I can. I really believe that I have strong enough resolve against, you know, fame or celebrity or whatever it is. I think I’m developing a thick enough skin that I’ll be able to write and continue to hopefully improve my work. I think I would never have expected to be here, in this position, nearly thirty years after I started. Next June is thirty years since the release of “Wham Rap”.
Q15: If it wasn’t for that first record deal, would you always have done this?
A15: Do I believe that had we not bumped into that man and put that tape though that particular letter box just down the street from Andrew that I would still be here? Yes, I think I would. I’ve got to be honest. I think it might have been a very different career without Andrew. Because Andrew taught me how to behave like someone who thought they were it, you know, and you need that to be a pop star. So, it might be different. I might even come across a little more humbled. I think it all sat in very nicely, just by luck really. I’ve been a very lucky boy in many ways.
Q16: Back to the Tweeting. Are you enjoying it?
A16: It’s terrifying that there are that many people at any one time sending you a message. It’s terrifying that you can say something on Twitter and it will be on the television within minutes literately – which is something that happened to me this week. I had no idea of that kind of power and I almost dropped the phone. And it’s really in its infancy still – when you think of how many people will be accessing it within another year or whatever.
Q17: Will the novelty wear off for you?
A17: You know what? It will depend upon whether I keep getting too many messages from people who have been really offended that I haven’t spoken to them – then we’ll see. But I don’t think so. At the moment it’s a really good way, because when they put you inside they almost chuck nicotine at you – and I had given up regular cigarettes many years ago. The best bit is they give you Golden Virginia! So of course within a week – because there’s barely anything else to do in there – within a week I was back hooked on nicotine and what I found is now that I’m trying not to smoke cigarettes, what I found is the tweeting stops me from doing this, because I have something to do. I’m just tweeting to stop myself from smoking cigarettes.
Q18: There was an autobiography planned. Any sign of that?
A18: It’s on the shelf for the moment for two reasons. One, I started and it was way too painful; and two, now that I’ve got more of the courage to do it, I’ve got so much music to get on with. Much as I would like to know – because I wouldn’t do it with a ghost writer – as much as I would like to know if I could write a book – but that’s really my ego talking, whereas my job is to be a musician. So, I have to take my job more seriously first and I’ve always prided myself as someone who sells their music rather than their life
Q19: George Michael, thank you.
A19: Thank you very much.
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