Yusuf / Cat Stevens returns live: “A better world? It depends on all of us.” INTERVIEW

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I meet Yusuf / Cat Stevens on a Sunday in June, while he is in Berlin in view of the first date of his new tour, which will also take him to Italy. After a long period of absence from the scene, due to the pandemic, the British artist is ready to return to the stage: with him a band enriched by new musicians and a new album, King Of A Land, which he worked on for almost 12 years. The calm that she conveys through her smile, even if the computer screen divides us (and a few thousand kilometers, since I’m in Milan) is contagious. We say goodbye and, after a few moments, she begins to tell me about the rehearsals done in London, the city where she lives, and about the happiness of finally returning to the stages of all of Europe.

Yusuf / Cat Stevens is back on tour, with new music and classics from the past

How do you feel about – finally – taking your music on tour?

I think it’s nothing short of beautiful: there’s nothing more beautiful than playing live. You know, you can listen to a record many times, but a concert has something different and it’s always unique. We have prepared a great show, carefully chosen all the songs; with sounds we can go back in time to 1966. We increased the number of musicians and added brass, so we can play some songs from the past; it will be nice to relive those emotions, both for those who savored them in that period, and for those who weren’t there and can experience them now. For everyone there will be a taste of the sixties.

He talked about the “old songs” that he will bring to this new tour. I don’t think they are old, but eternal. Even if different versions have been made over time. I think about Father and Sonwhich also saw a cover by Boyzone, a boyband that marked the adolescence of many of us…

(laughs) Yes, they were extremely adorable, to be honest. I have worked with them and it was great! I think Ronan Keating sang that song beautifully.

Will he sing it on this tour too?

Sure, I always sing it, it’s part of my DNA. It can’t be missing from the songs of the concert!

The musical legacy and the first concert at Glastonbury

Father and Son, like so many other songs he has created in this long career, is part of his musical and cultural heritage. How do you feel about the idea of ​​her passing on her musical baggage to those who will come after her, musicians and music lovers?

For me this is a gift. You know, when you start an artistic journey in your life you never know where you’ll end up, if this journey can go on even without you, or if you’ll be able to influence people and their lives. I was lucky not to think about it because all I was doing was simply creating a path, living my journey. But as I was doing this, I knew that audiences would go through similar things and that we were sharing these kinds of experiences. I’ve written lyrics that a lot of people have reflected on, and it’s beautiful. I think it’s truly a gift that is given to you, which comes from a more spiritual dimension. And that has always been my style. At some point you realize that you’re not doing it because it’s a job, but because it’s your life. I feel lucky and grateful.

In a few days, on June 18, it will be in Rome, the following week in Glastonbury: it will go from an intimate place like the Cavea of ​​the Auditorium Parco della Musica to one of the most important Festivals. How do you feel about meeting so many different cultures?

It’s very nice, especially since the concert is different every night. But, above all, I too experience different reactions to my concert by hand. Or rather, it will be nice to see how people in Rome will respond to my songs, and surely there will be a different reaction at Glastonbury. It will be an experience for me and for those who come to the concert, without a doubt.

A new album, full of nuances

King Of A Land it is his latest album. But is it true that he has been working on it for ten years and only now, after completing it, is he completely satisfied with it?

I think that’s all part of the beauty of the album recording process. You can capture something particular one day, but maybe do nothing the next. This album, for me, is very beautiful because I have included all the nuances that I had imagined. Think musicality, but also the happiness you feel when you record a song. Everything gets complicated if you have to record an album every year, because everything becomes more repetitive. But this is not the case with King Of A Land. Let’s say I did like Michelangelo, when he didn’t allow anyone to see his works until they were complete and “perfect” for him.

Do you think this album is “perfect”?

I think it’s perfectly balanced, because it reflects my musical styles and my artistic path: from this point of view it’s perfect. I don’t think there is absolute perfection in music, I believe that every song is perfect for me because it describes exactly what I wanted to tell.

But is it true that he recorded it in George Harrison’s studio?

We recorded it between Berlin, France and other places, but in George’s studio we completed it. I don’t think many people have been there, and having my album mixed there was a mystical experience in a magical place.

Did you feel the figure of George Harrison hovering?

Yes definitely (smiles). The son was with us, but I felt closeness to George, his spirit kept us company

“A better world? It depends on each of us”

With his music he taught us that a better world is possible. Do you think it is, still today?

It depends on how you behave in this world. The world is something abstract. What you can do is work on yourself, it’s in your soul, not out there. In these concerts of mine I play some songs by George Harrison, because he represented the Beatle looking inside. John was always talking, he was more political. Paul was the musician who just wanted the music, but George looked deeper. And this is where we discover that the world exists for us. If we can find that peace within ourselves, the world can be a better place.

The dual role of the artist today

I read that you would like to collaborate with Green Day, is that true?

I leave it up to my manager to create a bond, but I think they are really fantastic. When I heard their song Know Your Enemy I immediately thought: “Wow, they are really cool. Rebellious and brave”. Yes, I like them very much, they are good.

Green Day, like other artists, have taken positions throughout their career that may have seemed awkward. Do you think that artists today should take a stand and raise their voices?

I think artists have a double opportunity: they can make people think twice. With their music, but also through their behaviors and thoughts. We live in a time where, through social media, everyone can express themselves however they want. But sometimes what we need is a little silence, which is now almost a luxury.