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Billy Joel Explains Why Songwriting ‘Started to Become Torment’

todayFebruary 1, 2024 15

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Billy Joel’s new song “Turn the Lights Back On” is his first piece of original material in nearly two decades.
The track marks an exciting return for the acclaimed musician, and in a new interview with Herb Ivy at WBLM-FM, Joel, who hasn’t released a non-classical music album since 1993’s River of Dreams, opened up about why he stepped away from songwriting for so long.

“I had not wanted to do it. Because it was all my life,” the Piano Man explained. “When I was writing songs. I was doing this by myself. And it’s a very lonely job. And the job started to become torment. If it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, I would tear myself to shreds.”
Joel went on to explain that Freddy Wexler, who co-wrote and produced “Turn the Lights Back On,” was integral in getting him back to making music.
READ MORE: Top 20 Billy Joel Songs
“Freddy asked me, ‘Are you thinking of somebody else when you’re singing?’ And I said, ‘Always.’ I’m always trying to sound like not like Billy Joel, because I don’t like my own voice,” the singer explained. “I like other singers. I’m a songwriter, because I can think about other people singing this stuff, not me. I’m not limited by me. And once that was shared with each other, all of a sudden the simpatico kicked in.”
Others Had Tried — and Failed — to Get Joel Back in the Studio
Despite insisting that he wasn’t interested in making new songs, friends and colleagues regularly tried to get Joel back in the studio.
“I was so resistant to the idea of going back in and recording again,” the singer admitted. “Other people have tried to get me to do this. Rick Rubin has tried to do it. Clive Davis has tried to get me to do it.”
READ MORE: Why Billy Joel Stopped Making Albums
“Even Elton John would say, ‘Why don’t you make some more new albums?'” Joel continued. “And I would say, ‘Why don’t you make less new albums?’ You know, just to be contrary.”
With his comeback now underway, Joel is slated to perform “Turn the Lights Back On” on Feb. 4 at the Grammy Awards.

Billy Joel Albums Ranked

From ‘Cold Spring Harbor’ to ‘River of Dreams,’ we run through the Piano Man’s LPs from worst to best.

Gallery Credit: Matt Springer

Written by: badlandsclassicrock

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