x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Mellowed fellow

Tom Jones is enjoying being back on stage. He speaks to Saeed Saeed about growing old, being a mentor on The Voice UK and returning to Abu Dhabi.

Tom Jones performed at ADNEC in 2010. Lauren Lancaster / The National
Tom Jones performed at ADNEC in 2010. Lauren Lancaster / The National

Tom Jones is back in his element. The 73-year-old Welsh legend is happy to be back on stage after completing his second season as a mentor on The Voice UK. He explains watching all these young things perform onstage during the show gave him the itch to get back on the road.

“I enjoy doing television work but there is not a lot of singing involved and instead I am listening to other people sing,” he says. “I enjoy that but I love being on stage and doing live shows. I just wanted to get back up there because the reaction you get – there is nothing like it.”

Jones still savours his previous show in the capital in 2010; a sold-out gig atAdnec. He returns Thursday to Yas Island’s du Forum.

“That was a great night and it was one those shows that reminded me that this is why I do it: to entertain people and make them have a good time,” he says. “I am very happy to come back and do it again. Also, the good weather is a plus.”

Jones is promoting his latest album Spirit In The Room. The elegiac new collection, his 40th, is a loose sequel to 2010’s rootsy Praise & Blame, where Jones covers tracks from artists including Paul McCartney (I Want to Come Home), Bob Dylan (When The Deal Goes Down) and Paul Simon (Love and Blessings).

Where Praise & Blame covered traditional gospel, Jones explains the goal with the new record is to pay tribute to songwriters he respects.

“We got songs that other songwriters have written that were not overdone and that have not gone bad,” he says. “Artists like Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Tom Waits; these are artists whose work I always liked and this was a great opportunity to work with some of their songs.”

Jones looked for songs that echo his present circumstances. The results shatter the iconic image of the young, virile Jones of five decades ago.

In the acoustic opener, Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, the first lines are: “Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey / I ache in the places where I used to play.”

It is what it is, Jones says. “I couldn’t sing that song 20 or 30 years ago because it wouldn’t be honest,” he says. “I am 73 years old now and my hair is grey and a lot of my friends are gone. It is definitely a time to reflect.”

Spirit in The Room is not a bunch of covers but evocative reinterpretations, a stellar example being his lush gospel take on The Low Anthem’s lo-fi gem Charlie Darwin.

Jones explains it’s a balance between channelling the song’s spirit and giving it your own spin.

“It’s about staying true to the distinctive tone of your voice,” he says. “You can be influenced by a song but you shouldn’t copy it. Like an actor, you really try to dig up some of those big emotions within you and bring them out and on to the song.”

Jones enjoys giving such advice to young contestants on The Voice UK.

He states that artists’ participation in talent shows is an opportunity to see the music world from a less ego-driven vantage point. “Most of us entertainers are preoccupied by our own careers. So to be given a chance to offer some of my knowledge to other people is a great opportunity, really.”

Tom Jones performs tomorrow night at the du Forum, Yas Island, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost from Dh300. For details, visit www.ticketmaster.com.ae

sasaeed@thenational.ae